BURLINGTON, Vt. - Connor Brickley finished a centering pass from senior linemate Anthony DeCenzo with just 1:07 remaining in regulation to lift No. 7 seed Vermont to a thrilling 2-1 victory over No. 10 seed UMass Amherst in the Hockey East First Round on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The Catamounts improve to 19-12-3 (10-10-0 HEA) and advance to the league quarterfinals next weekend against either No. 2 seed UMass Lowell or No. 3 seed Providence. The best-of-three series will begin on Friday, Mar. 14. The Minutemen close their season with an overall record of 8-22-4 (4-13-3 HEA).
Brody Hoffman (18 saves) kept the game scoreless in the first period with an acrobatic shorthanded save on Adam Phillips. Shortly after UVM's first power play began, Conor Sheary skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 and fed Phillips in the right circle. Phillips wristed a shot toward the open right side of the net, but Hoffman dove across the top of his crease and snared it with his glove.
The shots were even at seven after 20 minutes but the teams headed into the first intermission scoreless. Both schools went 0-for-1 with the man advantage.
Early in the second period, Massachusetts took the lead on a goalmouth scramble. Hoffman denied Steven Iacobellis at the left post, but Troy Power stuffed the loose puck into the back of the net to open the scoring. Sheary grabbed the second assist on the play at the 2:40 mark of the frame.
Vermont absorbed some UMass pressure before finding the answer with less than three minutes left in the second. Jake Fallon took a feed from Colin Markison and skated into the Minutemen zone down the right wing. Fallon dropped a pass to the right point, and Michael Paliotta stepped into a one-timer that beat Steve Mastalerz (24 saves) blocker side to knot the score at one.
The teams played to a stale mate for most of the third period as the game remained tied into the closing minutes. DeCenzo collected the puck behind the UMass net and fed a pass outside the left post for Brickley. The forward's one-timer beat Mastalerz short side and trickled over the goal line for the game-winner. Matt White collected the second assist on the late tally.
The Minutemen pulled Mastalerz with a minute left for an extra skater. Frank Vatrano had a quality chance from the right circle, but UVM deflected the puck away before he could get off a shot. Brendan Bradley cleared the puck along the left boards with just seconds on the clock and the Cats held on for the win.
The Catamounts return to action next weekend in the Hockey East Quarterfinals on the road. Depending on the result of Saturday night's game between No. 6 seed Maine and No. 11 seed Merrimack, Vermont will take on either UMass Lowell or Providence. The best-of-three series will begin on Friday at 7 p.m.
Pre-game radio coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com with Alastair Ingram on the call. Live video will be available on a pay-per-view basis via Pack Network through the Hockey East website (HockeyEastOnline.com).