BURLINGTON, Vt. - Mario Puskarich scored his first career goal with 1:44 remaining in the third period on the power play to lift Vermont past second-ranked Notre Dame in the Hockey East opener on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts capture their second straight win and improve to 2-1-1 (1-0-0 HEA) to open up their 50th anniversary weekend, while the Fighting Irish falls to 5-2-0 (0-1-0 HEA).
"It was a playoff style hockey game. I asked my team to treat it like it was the playoffs and they certainly did," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "For the first game in Hockey East play it was a well-played game. There wasn't a lot of room out there either way. It was a great college hockey game."
Late in the first period, Vermont scored off of an offensive zone faceoff to take the lead. Connor Brickley tapped Jake Fallon's faceoff win to Chris McCarthy inside the right circle, and the senior co-captain rifled a wrist shot over the blocker of Steven Summerhays into the upper left corner. It marked the 30th career goal and 75th career point for McCarthy.
Notre Dame equalized early in the middle frame with UVM on the power play. Bryan Rust took a feed from Jeff Costello and deked his way through center ice into the Catamount zone. Rust curled wide left before stuffing a doorstep shot that trickled through Mike Santaguida's pads. The shorthanded goal came at 1:52 of the second and tied it 1-1.
It would stay a deadlock until the closing minutes of the contest as Vermont earned its fourth power play of the night. Fallon slid a pass to McCarthy in the high slot, and the senior fired the puck to the right goal line for Puskarich. The rookie delayed before turning a shot off Summerhays' back and the puck snuck inside the right post at the 18:16 mark of the third.
"McCarthy really made it happen with the pass," said Puskarich. "He found me. I saw the goalie cheat out a bit. I just tried to bank it off him and it was a good bounce that went in for me. For the win, it's huge, especially knowing their rank in the country. We've been playing good hockey but not a full 60 minutes. Tonight as a team, top to bottom, everyone played for a full 60 minutes."
Both teams called their timeouts down the stretch and Notre Dame pulled Summerhays for an extra skater with under a minute left. UVM took a penalty with eight seconds remaining to create a 6-on-4 situation for UND, but Robbie Russo's wrist shot from the low slot sailed wide left and Vermont held on for the win.
Santaguida finished the night with 20 saves for his second straight win, while Summerhays was credited with 17 stops for the Fighting Irish. Puskarich's power play tally gave UVM a 1-4 showing with the man advantage, while the Catamount penalty kill was a perfect 6-6.
The Catamounts and Fighting Irish square off again on Saturday (Nov. 2) at 4:30 p.m. to conclude their weekend series. Pre-game coverage begins at 4 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and online at SportsJuice.com with Alastair Ingram and Jerry Tarrant '89 on the call. All the action will be streamed live for free in high definition at CatamounTV.com.