BURLINGTON, Vt. - Team USA's Stefan Matteau netted what proved to be the game-winning goal late in the second period and Vermont fell 2-1 against the U.S. National Under-18 Team in exhibition action on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. It was UVM's first game of the 2011-12 season.
Throughout the night, the teams engaged in a defensive, physical battle which featured 55 minutes of total penalty time. The Catamounts out-shot U.S. National 21-19 but had 15 shots blocked by their opponent, eight of which came in the first period.
"I told the team at the end, I don't think we shot very well and we didn't have a lot of sustained pressure on the cycle," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "It was like our offense was one and done, we rushed a lot of things tonight. I loved the fact that we played very physical, I think our structure was great tonight."
UVM earned three power plays in the opening eight minutes of the game but was unable to capitalize. The Catamounts then handed the Under-18 team three consecutive man advantages in the final five minutes of the opening frame. The second of the three penalties was a Nick Luukko cross checking minor which gave Team USA a 5-on-3 advantage.
A few seconds after the faceoff in the Vermont zone, Jacob Trouba drifted into the high slot against a sagging UVM defense and fired a shot through traffic to beat Rob Madore low to the blocker side. Seth Jones and Miles Koules were credited with assists on the play.
The Catamounts answered early in the second period after a Nikolas Olsson slashing minor gave UVM a fourth chance on the man-up. Drew MacKenzie took a feed from Nick Bruneteau and skated near the left point. The senior unleashed a wrist shot which took a deflection and snuck past U.S. goalie Collin Olson. Sebastian Stalberg earned the second assist.
The Catamounts came up empty on a five-minute major halfway through the second period. MacKenzie hit the post and thought he had scored 29 seconds into the major, but the play was reviewed and the ruling was confirmed. Vermont finished 1-8 on the power play, but went 6-7 on the penalty kill and only surrendered three shots on Team USA's opportunities.
"The one area we need to improve on and improve on early is special teams, we got a lot of reps on both sides," said Sneddon. "Even though we scored the one power play goal, I thought we did a lot of nice things. I was really impressed with our kill. We didn't give up a lot of shots and it's a new structure with a lot of new faces."
The game stayed 1-1 game until late in the second period, when U.S. National's Riley Barber won a faceoff in the left circle cleanly to Matteau at the inside hash mark. The forward quickly snuck a low one-timer through the five-hole of sophomore Alex Vazzano to give Team USA the lead for good. Barber picked up his first assist on the season, while Matteau registered his second goal.
UVM managed just three shots on goal in the third period but nearly equalized late in the final stanza after a scramble in front of Olson. The Catamounts pulled goalie John Vazzano in the final minute for an extra attacker but were unable to grab the tying tally in the closing seconds.
Vermont hits the road next weekend as it begins the 2011-12 regular season with a two-game series at No. 14 Minnesota on Friday (Oct. 21) at 7 p.m. EST and Sunday (Oct. 23) at 2 p.m. EST. It will mark the first-ever meetings between the Catamounts and Golden Gophers in men's hockey.
Both games will be televised on NESN through Fox Sports North, and all the action can be heard live on WVMT 620-AM with Alastair Ingram calling the action. Former Catamounts Jason Williams '95 (Friday) and Matt Stelljes '97 (Sunday) will provide color commentary for the weekend.
NOTES: Tonight marked the unofficial debut for eight members of Vermont's recruiting class... All three Catamount goalies saw time in the game, as each played a full period ... UVM falls to 3-2 all-time against the U.S. Under-18's ... 37 total goals were scored in the previous four meetings ... Junior forward Chris McCarthy and freshman defenseman Michael Paliotta are both products of the U.S. National Team Development Program ... The Catamounts begin the season 13 days later than last year, when they opened against New Brunswick on October 3.