Friday, March 3rd
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Liam Coughlin scored twice in the first 10 minutes and Stefanos Lekkas posted a 31-save shutout on Friday night as 6-seed Vermont blanked 11-seed Maine 5-0 to open the best-of-three Hockey East First Round at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
UVM improves to 19-11-5 (10-8-4 HEA) and is one victory away from its third 20-win season in the last four years. The Black Bears dropped to 11-20-4 (5-15-2 HEA) and will try to save their season tomorrow night in Game 2.
The line of Coughlin, Brendan Bradley, and Travis Blanleil combined for six points on three goals and three assists along with a combined plus-9 rating. 12 different players tallied points for the Catamounts, who blocked 18 Maine shots and went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill to preserve Lekkas' second career shutout.
"We played great but I don't think the score was necessarily indicative of how the game really played out," head coach Kevin Sneddon said. "They had some tremendous chances in the first period and other chances certainly in the second. Stef was sensational tonight, he was probably the big difference in the hockey game. We finished our chances. We executed our game plan to a 'T', probably the best we've played from that standpoint in quite some time."
The Cats opened the scoring just three and a half minutes into the contest as the puck kicked out to Chris Muscoby at the left point. Muscoby fed a pass across the blue line to his defensive partner Ori Abramson, who wristed a shot toward the right post and Coughlin deflected it high blocker side to beat Rob McGovern (30 saves).
Coughlin added a second at 9:15 as Blanleil chopped a puck past both Black Bears defenders to spring Coughlin on a partial breakaway. Coughlin faked right and flipped a forehand shot over McGovern's blocker inside the left post for a 2-0 advantage. Bradley earned the secondary assist on the play.
UVM went into the first intermission leading by three, tacking on another tally with 49 seconds left on the clock. Brady Shaw entered the Maine zone down the left wing and dropped a pass to Craig Puffer, who fired a wrist shot through traffic to beat McGovern short side.
Lekkas made 13 key saves in the first period and his teammates blocked 10 Black Bear shots.
Bradley continued the scoring for the Catamounts at 12:40 of the second period. The senior broke into the Black Bears zone and found Jake Massie pinching into the zone. Massie collected the pass and ripped a shot on net, and Bradley was there to clean up the rebound at the back door for a 4-0 cushion.
Vermont's other co-captain Mario Puskarich capped off the scoring at 2:29 of the third, finishing a rebound at the left doorstep after a centering effort from Brian Bowen.
Coughlin's multi-goal game was the first of his career, giving the Catamounts 14 as a team this year to rank ninth in the country. Bradley's goal in the second period was the 30th of his career. Puskarich and Drew Best were tied for the team-lead with five shots apiece.
UVM and Maine face off in Game 2 of the series on Saturday night (March 4) at 7:05 p.m. at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
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