BURLINGTON, Vt. - Senior Wahsontiio Stacey (Kahnawake, Que.) recorded a hat trick but Drew Shore and Matt Donovan both scored a pair of goals to lead No. 9 Denver to a 5-3 come-from-behind victory at a sold out Gutterson Fieldhouse on Friday night. Vermont had a 2-0 lead midway through the game but the Pioneers responded with four unanswered goals to beat the Catamounts in the season opener for the second straight year.
"They are obviously a great team," Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said. "They like to play in transition and we fed their transition. The difference in the first half of the game was we weren't turning the puck over, we weren't staying out too late, we kept the game real simple and we moved the puck real well. Then we just got careless with the puck a little bit and stayed on the ice a little bit longer and they fed off that."
The Catamounts took a 1-0 lead at 6:15 of the first period when they capitalized on their first power-play chance of the season. Senior Josh Burrows (Prairie Grove, Ill.) dumped the puck off the boards with a man advantage and Stacey grabbed the puck off the bounce and put it up high past Adam Murray (26 saves), with a quick snapshot from inside the left circle. Freshman Nick Bruneteau (Omaha, Neb.) was credited with the second assist.
Vermont extended the lead to 2-0 on Stacey's second goal of the contest at 6:08 of the second. Stacey blasted a shot from the point that went five-hole on Murray. Sophomore Sebastian Stalberg (Gothenburg, Sweden) set up the play with a screen in front. Bruneteau picked up his second assist of the game on the play.
Stacey appeared to give the Catamounts a three-goal lead midway through the period when he beat Murray at the right post after a DU turnover in its own zone. But senior assistant captain Jack Downing (New Canaan, Conn.) who set up the play from behind the net was whistled for a trip, nullifying the goal.
"That was a pretty big momentum swing," Sneddon said. "We thought we had the goal and instead it resulted in a penalty."
Just over a minute later Denver cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal by Drew Shore at 10:43.
Then the Pioneers tied the game at 2 with just 1:13 remaining in the second on a short-handed tally by Donovan on a 2-on-1.
Denver took its first lead at 6:31 of the third period on Donovan's second goal of the game. He beat Rob Madore (15 saves) to the upper right corner with a laser from between the circles.
Less than a minute later the Catamounts had a chance to tie the game with on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. But the Pioneers, who ranked sixth in the nation on the penalty kill last season, stifled the chance to maintain the lead.
Riding the momentum from their penalty kill, the Pioneers opened up a 4-2 lead on a goal by Jesse Martin at 9:38 of the third. Captain Kyle Ostrow fed Martin at the right circle for a one timer that beat Madore.
Down a pair of goals the Catamounts pulled Madore for an extra skater with just over two minutes remaining. Vermont cashed in when Stacey put home a rebound in front to shave the deficit to 4-3.
Then with 46 seconds left and an extra skater still on the ice, Downing had a chance to tie the game from the left circle. But Murray turned away his blast with a glove save to preserve the lead.
"I still can't believe he made that save," Sneddon said. "It was a beautiful feed by (Drew) MacKenzie and Jack got everything on that shot, I don't think there was anything left in his stick to hit it any harder. I don't know if he (Murray) knew it was coming there or not, but he put his glove up as any goalie should in that situation and came up with a game-saving stop."
Drew Shore added an empty netter for DU with 32 seconds left to seal the win.
"We're making steps, we're definitely making progress," Stacey said. "This weekend was 10 times better, we're doing a lot of great things. Things are going to come as we go. We've got a young club here and it's going to take time, that's the reality of things; we know this and tomorrow night is another night, the loss is already out of my mind."
Vermont meets Denver again on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Gutterson Fieldhouse. A limited number of tickets remain and can be purchased online at www.UVMathletics.com.
NOTES: Check back to www.UVMathletics.com for game highlights and postgame comments from Kevin Sneddon, Kevan Miller and Wahsontiio Stacey ... Denver leads the all-time series against Vermont 5-1 ... Tonight was just the second ever game for DU at the Gut ... Stacey had a team-high six shots for the Catamounts ... Vermont dropped to 13-5-1 in its last 19 games against opponents outside of Hockey East.