BURLINGTON, Vt. — In the University of Vermont hockey media guide, junior goalie Mike Spillane lists former University of Maine All-American goalie Jimmy Howard as his favorite athlete.
Spillane played like Howard on Saturday night, making several important saves in the second and third periods to enable his teammates to rally for a pair of third-period goals from Wahsontiio Stacey and Josh Burrows and beat the Black Bears 3-2 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The nation’s 13th-ranked Catamounts, now 9-3-2 overall and 6-3-1 in Hockey East, won their fifth straight and all have been by a goal. They also snapped Maine’s seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1). Maine, losing for the first time in four road games (3-1), fell to 7-4-1 and 4-3-1, respectively.
“I always enjoyed watching [Howard] play,” said Spillane. “Being from [Bow] New Hampshire, I’d watch the Maine-New Hampshire games. He was a great athlete and one of the best goalies Maine has ever had.”
Spillane made 21 saves, including nine Grade-A (high-percentage) stops, and was particularly sharp in the second and third periods.
“He played great,” said Maine freshman right winger Gustav Nyquist, who scored Maine’s first goal with a 15-foot wrister over Spillane’s blocker off a Brian Flynn pass.
Nyquist saw Spillane snare his slap shot from a difficult angle with a minute remaining.
Maine’s Scott Darling, who allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time in eight starts, finished with 20 saves, including 10 Grade-As, in another solid performance.
Nyquist tied it with 2:37 left in the first period after Vermont’s Brayden Irwin had opened the scoring with a one-timer into the short side off a deflected pass by Viktor Stalberg at the 7:51 mark.
The Catamounts completely outplayed Maine and outshot the Bears 12-6 but six Grade-A saves by Darling prevented them from taking a lead into the first intermission.
The Black Bears dominated play in the second period and Flynn scored when he mishit a David deKastrozza centering pass, but had the puck deflect in off Burrows’ skate.
Spillane made some critical saves later in the period to keep the deficit at one, including a point-blank save off Flynn’s one-timer from just beyond the crease. Nyquist passed it him.
“It was a bang-bang play. [Flynn] got off a really good shot but I was just fortunate to get down and close my legs up,” said Spillane.
“I tried to go five-hole. That would have been a big goal. It would have put us up 3-1. But he made a good stop,” said Flynn.
“[Spillane] was fantastic. He saved us big-time in the second period and made some big saves in the third period as well,”
said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon.
“After that second goal, I just wanted to clamp it down for us. The way we’ve been playing lately, I knew we’d have our own scoring chances and that’s the way it played out,” said Spillane.
Nyquist had a golden opportunity to extend the lead when Will O’Neill threaded a diagonal pass to him at the far post, but he fanned on it.
“It was a great pass. I should have buried it,” said Nyquist.
Stacey tied it 5:19 into the third period when Burrows intercepted an attempted Maine clear at the point and pushed it ahead to him.
Stacey pulled the puck to his left and his 16-foot backhander slipped under Darling.
“I thought he was going to one-time it so I slid out. But he had time and tried to go around me and when I shifted my weight back, I lifted up my pad a little bit and it snuck through,” said Darling.
Brian Roloff set up Burrows’ game winner 5:09 later when he won a battle for the puck, cycled out of the corner and slipped it across to the far point where Burrows snapped a screened wrister in off the far post.
“There were a bunch of bodies in front and I just threw it on net,” said Burrows.
Darling said he never saw it and didn’t realize Burrows had even taken a shot “until it hit the post.”
Maine had consecutive power play chances spanning the end of the second and start of the third periods but couldn’t convert and has now failed to convert on its last 21 chances.