MINNEAPOLIS - Connor Brickley and Sebastian Stalberg each scored twice and Vermont responded to a 6-0 loss on Friday night to upset eighth-ranked Minnesota 5-4 in come-from-behind fashion on Sunday afternoon at Mariucci Arena. The victory marked the 700th win in the history of the UVM men's hockey program.
Trailing 3-1 to the Golden Gophers with less than six minutes remaining in the second period, the Catamounts scored four unanswered goals to fuel the comeback. Vermont improved to 1-1-0 (0-0-0 HEA) with the win, while previously unbeaten Minnesota (5-1-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) dropped its first decision of the season.
"It was a big win for the program, this was a big night for us," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "You're going to have setbacks, it's a long season and we had to turn the page quickly. You can't sit there and lick your wounds. We came together and got the job done, and we became a team going through that adversity."
Vermont trailed early as Minnesota opened the scoring for the second straight game at 12:18 of the first period. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Sam Warning fed open defenseman Justin Holl in the center of the high slot. He wristed a low shot through a screen from teammate Zach Budish to beat Rob Madore in the bottom left corner. Nate Schmidt picked up the second assist on the play.
The Catamounts thought they had answered with roughly a minute left in the opening frame but had the tying goal disallowed. Chris McCarthy won a faceoff to himself and played the puck toward the top of the crease. It hit Brickley's skate and trickled through the five-hole of Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson, but the referees waved the goal off and the ruling was upheld after video review.
Brickley wouldn't be denied again four minutes into the second period as Vermont finally equalized. McCarthy found Matt White on the right goal line to give the Catamounts a 2-on-1 down low. White fed a wide open Brickley in front and the sophomore quickly beat Patterson with a one-timer to the blocker side for UVM's first goal of the new season.
The 1-1 tie was short-lived though, as the Golden Gophers reclaimed the lead just 12 seconds after the Brickley tally. Erik Haula centered a puck to a charging Jake Hansen, who redirected it high over Madore's glove side off the underside of the crossbar. Minnesota then took a two-goal lead 1:13 later on a Schmidt power play goal that took an unfortunate deflection off Drew MacKenzie's stick.
It remained a 3-1 Gopher advantage until the latter stages of the second period when the fierce Catamount comeback began. With Vermont on the power play, freshman Michael Paliotta rifled a pass from the right point to Anthony DeCenzo in the left circle. DeCenzo then quickly sent the puck back to the bottom of the right circle for Brickley, who buried a one-timer past Patterson for his second goal of the game at 15:02.
The Cats struck again 37 seconds later on a similar play at even strength, as Nick Bruneteau found freshman Blake Doerring with a feed at the top of the left circle. Doerring faked a drive and shot a hard pass to the right side of the crease for McCarthy, who tipped the puck into the open net and tied the game at three. Paliotta and Doerring picked up their first career points with assists on UVM's second and third goals.
"Coach really fired us up and gave us a rude awakening," Brickley said. "We're a good team, you've got to give credit to our guys that showed the character and resilience that we have. We never stopped believing in each other and I really think that helped us to keep moving forward in the game."
Vermont took its first lead of the weekend with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, and it was the team's top returning scorer doing the honors. Freshman Kyle Reynolds drove hard down the left side and was stripped of the puck, but Stalberg was waiting in the slot and pounced to put a backhand past Patterson's glove side. Reynolds collected his first career point with an assist, while Paliotta added his second helper on the goal at 18:07.
The Catamounts took a 4-3 advantage into the third period, and Stalberg netted his second straight tally at 7:07 to give Vermont its first two-goal lead. Reynolds skated down the right wing into the Gopher zone and paused to let the play develop. The rookie then spotted Stalberg unmarked in the slot and the junior fired a wrist shot glove side on Patterson for the insurance goal. Reynolds and McCarthy picked up their second assists of the contest on the play.
Minnesota grabbed a goal back on a Kyle Rau power play tally three minutes later, but the Gophers were unable to grab the equalizer after pulling Patterson with a minute left in regulation. Madore made 12 key stops in the third period to preserve the win and finished with 32 saves on the afternoon. Patterson completed the contest with 20 saves in net for Minnesota.
"They answered, that's what we're looking for is the character in the locker room and we knew it was there we just had to get it out," said Sneddon. "That was a total team effort tonight, everybody played extremely well and was a part of the win. As a coach, when you get beat up one night and you can respond the next night I think that's a good sign for your hockey team."
McCarthy (1 G, 2 A) collected a team-high three points for Vermont, which had five players record multi-point games. UVM returns home next weekend as it begins the Hockey East schedule with a two-game series against No. 13 Merrimack. Both games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 28) and Saturday (Oct. 29) at Gutterson Fieldhouse, and the Friday night game is the home opener. Both nights of the series will be streamed live for free on CatamounTV at UVMathletics.com, and the games can be heard on WVMT 620-AM with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. each night. Merrimack (4-0-0) is undefeated this year, as the Warriors have a road victory at Maine and three straight home wins over Army, Northeastern and UConn.
NOTES: Check back to UVMathletics.com for CatamounTV highlights, postgame reaction, and photos from Sunday's game ... For the second straight year, Vermont defeated a top-10 team for its first win of the season ... UVM upset No. 6 Boston College last season on November 13, 2010 at Gutterson Fieldhouse ... Coming into Sunday, Minnesota had not allowed a goal in three home games this year ... The four-goal second period marked the highest scoring frame for the Catamounts since January 16, 2010, when they posted five goals in the second period of a 9-2 win over Northeastern ... Kevin Sneddon is now 6-2-1 against teams from Minnesota in his tenure at Vermont.