Freshman forward Mario Puskarich scores game-winner for Catamounts

Freshman forward Mario Puskarich scored the game-winner for the Catamounts

DURHAM, N.H. - Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) stopped 28 shots, including the last 14 he faced, but the 20th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team was edged 2-1 by 19th-ranked University of Vermont in Saturday night's Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.

UNH is now 16-15-1 overall and 8-8-0 in Hockey East. UVM, which completed the weekend sweep of the "Battle of the 'Cats" following Friday night's 5-2 win, improved to 15-9-3, 7-7-0.

DeSmith made 12 saves in the scoreless first period and 11 in the second stanza. UVM counterpart Mike Santaguida was also credited with 28 saves, 14 of which came in the final frame.

UVM recorded a 12-8 shot advantage in the scoreless first period, but UNH generated the more notable scoring chances. In the third minute, Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) corralled a loose puck behind the net and snapped a pass to the low slot, where Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) one-timed a rising shot that Santaguida snared with his glove.

In the 12th minute, at the outset of a power play, the Wildcats controlled the faceoff and Willows fired a high wrister that Santaguida once again caught with his glove. With just over three minutes remaining in the first period, Willows moved the puck within the right circle to Speelman, who quickly made a centering pass to Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.). Goumas dangled from the low slot to the left post, but Santaguida slid across the crease to make the save.

Vermont outscored New Hampshire 2-1 in the second stanza and took that one-goal lead into the third period. UVM struck first at 3:45 when Yvan Pattyn's shot from the right point was redirected in front by Pete Massar. Jonathan Turk was also credited with an assist.

Moments later, DeSmith stoned Brady Shaw, who slipped in behind the defense down the slot and attempted to stuff a backhander at the left post.

The Catamounts extended the advantage to 2-0 at 6:27. On the left wing, Mario Puskarich found Brendan Bradley in the slot and his shot beat DeSmith. Chris McCarthy also assisted on the goal.

Midway through the second stanza, DeSmith kept the 'Cats close by chesting down Bradley's one-timer from the slot and then he made a lunging glove save on Tom Gorgione's shot from the inner-left circle.

The Wildcats capitalized on their fourth power play of the game to pull within 2-1 at 11:40. Brett Pesce (Tarrytown, N.Y) gained possession in front of the scorer's bench at mid-ice and advanced the puck to Goumas, who had to spin to avoid a defender before entering the offensive zone at the right point. Goumas slipped a pass to the slot for Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.), who fired a close-range shot into the cage.

UNH pressured in the closing minutes. Sorkin led a 2-on-1 rush down the left wing and saucered a pass across to Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.). Silengo's attempted return pass to the slot was out of Sorkin's reach and sailed to the left corner. With 40 seconds on the clock, Speelman gained possession on the left half-boards and quickly centered the puck to the slot, where Goumas' one-time was stopped by Santaguida.

The 'Cats began the third period on a power play and threatened in the opening 30 seconds. The barrage started with an Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.) slap shot from the left point. Santaguida stopped that shot and also denied Willows on the rebound at the right post. Play continued back to Pesce in the high slot and the UVM goalie also made that stop.

In the sixth minute, Justin Agosta (East Meadow, N.Y.) blasted a shot from the right point that ricocheted off a Catamount defender toward goal, and Santaguida blocked aside the puck. Off the rebound, Knodel fired a low shot from the left point through a screen, but the Catamount goalie preserved the 2-1 lead.

UVM called time out at 10:21 and the Wildcats were whistled for high sticking 10 seconds later. It was New Hampshire, however, which created dangerous scoring opportunities the next two minutes while shorthanded. Goumas led a rush down the right wing and, from the point, lofted a pass to the slot. Willows skated onto the puck and his shot from the left doorstep was stopped by Santaguida.

UNH called time out at 18:21 and DeSmith skated to the bench in favor of an extra skater 15 seconds later. He was forced to reenter the game with 1:09 on the clock, and then made his way back to the bench 10 seconds later. Dan Correale (Prince George, British Columbia) fired a shot from the slot wide left with 30 seconds to play. The Wildcats maintained possession and Goumas' pass from the right corner was redirected by Correale wide of the left post with 13 seconds remaining. UVM kept the home team at bay the rest of the way.

The Wildcats return to action on Friday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. for the first of a home-and-home series weekend with conference rival Boston University. The game is also Senior Night and will recognize the seven seniors on the squad. For ticket information, log on to or call (603) 862-4000.