ORONO, Maine — Good teams find ways to win hockey games when they aren’t playing their best.
The University of Vermont’s nationally ranked Catamounts, well on their way to an NCAA Tournament berth, erased a pair of one-goal deficits, scored the game-winner early in the third period and relied on some clutch last-minute saves from freshman goalie Rob Madore to beat the University of Maine Black Bears 3-2 at Al-fond Arena Friday night.
Vermont improved to 18-8-5 overall, 13-7-4 in Hockey East, while Maine fell to 12-17-4 and 714-3, respectively.
Maine is now 2-11-2 in 2009 and had its winless streak extended to five games (0-4-1).
The two teams will meet again tonight at 7 on Seniors Night.
“We had trouble with Maine’s intensity over the first period and a half. But we played better as the game went along; we made some adjustments and we played real smart in the third period,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon.
Power-play goals by Robby Dee in the first period and Matt Duffy in the second period provided Maine with its one-goal leads, but the Catamounts answered swiftly as Josh Burrows scored 2:45 after Dee and Dean Strong tied it 2-2 on the power play 2:52 after Duffy’s score.
Sophomore defenseman Dan Lawson scored the game-winner on the power play 3:37 into the final period on a shot from the right point.
“Patrick Cullity passed it to me, but the puck was kind of wobbly because of the ice. I took a shot and it knuckled,” said Lawson.
Maine goalie Scott Darling concurred.
“It was going high glove side, but it was spinning end-over-end and then it dropped down at the last minute. It’s tough to bring your glove back down. It went under my glove and over my pad,” said Darling. “But I should have had it.”
The Catamounts did a thorough job protecting the lead for their 10th one-goal win. UVM is 10-5 in one-goal games while Maine is 6-9, including their last three setbacks.
However, freshman Madore was called upon to make some game-saving stops in the final minute after Maine pulled Darling in favor of an extra attacker.
“He’s a big-save goalie,” said Darling, who played against Madore in the United States Hockey League.
Brian Flynn cleverly maneuvered his way past a Vermont defenseman and broke free with 52 seconds left only to have Madore absorb his backhander with his stick.
“I was trying to go five-hole, but he played it well,” said Flynn.
Madore said even though Flynn got around his defenseman, the defenseman was able to angle Flynn so that Madore was able to come out and smother the shot.
With eight seconds left, Flynn threw the puck into the low slot where Tanner House corraled it and fired a quick wrist shot labeled for the far corner that Madore rejected.
“I came out and, luckily, it hit my chest,” said Madore.
“I couldn’t really settle the puck down. Those are the types of shots that tie games, but he made a good save,” said House.
“That was the defensive play of the game,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Dee opened the scoring at the 8:18 mark of the first period. Jeff Dimmen carried the puck down the left wing and fed it across to Flynn, whose redirection was stopped by the pads of Madore. But the puck squirted free and Dee jammed it home.
Flynn picked up an assist along with Dimmen to extend his points streak to five games (3 goals, 3 assists).
Burrows tied it with a screened slap shot from the right point just after a UVM power play had elapsed. Maine wasn’t able to clear the puck and his point shot slid through Darling’s pads.
Maine nearly took a deserved one-goal lead into the intermission, but Kevin Swallow’s wrister bounced off the far post with one second remaining.
Maine played the body effectively and won most of the puck battles in the first period, limiting Vermont to two Grade-A (high-percentage) scoring chances while generating five themselves.
In the second period, House set up Duffy’s go-ahead goal by hustling back to the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and feeding it across to Duffy, whose screened slap shot from the midpoint beat Madore to his stick side.
But Strong drew the Catamounts level as Justin Milo did some nice work behind the Maine net and centered it to Strong, who one-timed a 16-footer over Darling’s blocker after freeing himself.
Maine had eight Grade-A chances in the second period to UVM’s four.
Madore finished with 30 saves, including nine Grade-A’s, while Darling made 23, of which six were Grade-A’s.
“We played well. We played hard and, for the most part, we played pretty smart. We need to be stronger tomorrow night,” said Whitehead. “Faceoffs killed us.”
UVM had a 34-25 edge in winning faceoffs.