AMHERST, Mass. - No. 9 University of Massachusetts hockey used a late goal from freshman Reed Lebster on his birthday to cap off the regular season with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Vermont on Thursday night at the Mullins Center. With the win, the Minutemen head into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Hockey East tournament with a record of 21-11-2 overall and 14-8-2 in league action, while the Catamounts end their year at 5-23-6 overall (2-18-4 HEA).
"It wasn't how we wanted it to go tonight," said UMass head coach Greg Carvel, but it's a big two points, it's a win. Kevin Sneddon is just a high-quality person and I wish him the best. His team played for him tonight and that was my concern, that they were going to play their hearts out for him and (Stefanos) Lekkas was unbelievable. There's some really good goalies in our league and he just owned the game tonight, big compliments to him."
UMass peppered UVM in the first, out-shooting the Catamounts 19-6 in the frame, but the teams went into the intermission scoreless with limited chances coming in the opening stanza.
At the 18:46 mark of the second, freshman Zac Jones was not only denied by Lekkas on a shorthanded breakaway, but was whistled for slashing to give Vermont a brief 5-on-3.
With 46 seconds of power play time carrying over into the third, UMass managed to escape the string of penalties unscathed only to see the Catamounts ring a shot off the crossbar about 90 seconds into the final period, a play that was reviewed, but saw the call on the ice of "no goal" stand.
Then, with the potential for overtime looming, Lebster found himself at the back post to collect the puck off Lekkas' pad and deposit the rebound of Jones' shot into the net at 17:38 for his ninth goal of the year. Junior Jake Gaudet earned an assist on the play, as well.
The Minutemen finished the evening with a 45-17 shot advantage and went 0-for-5 on the power play, while going a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Junior Matt Murray totaled 17 saves on the night for UMass to earn his eighth career shutout, while Vermont's Lekkas stopped 44 shots.
The Minutemen will now await their opponent for the Hockey East Quarterfinal round. UMass will host a best-of-three series at the Mullins Center beginning next Friday, March 13, at 7:15 p.m.