AMHERST, Mass. 8-seed UMass received five goals from freshmen in the decisive Game 3 of the Hockey East First Round on Sunday afternoon, beating the ninth-seeded Catamounts 5-1 to clinch the series at the Mullins Center.
Stefanos Lekkas registered 25 saves in the loss that ends UVM's 2017-18 campaign with a 10-20-7 record. Ryan Wischow stopped 30 shots for the Minutemen (17-18-2), who advance to the Hockey East Quarterfinals to face 2-seed Northeastern next weekend.
UMass jumped out to an early lead when rookie defenseman Mario Ferraro buried a wraparound at 2:40 of the first period. Jake Gaudet doubled the lead before the midway point of the opening frame, cutting around a Catamounts' defender down the right wing before beating Lekkas low.
Vermont fought back in the second period, generating numerous chances in the opening minutes and pinning the Minutemen in their own zone. Jarrid Privitera neared the UMass goal on a 2-on-1 with Max Kaufman and elected to shoot, but the puck was swallowed up by Wischow.
Minutes later, Matt O'Donnell found the back of the net for his eighth marker of the season. Travis Blanleil's centering pass to Craig Puffer deflected into the high slot for O'Donnell, who chopped the puck past Wischow through traffic to put Vermont on the board.
The Catamounts continued to apply pressure, but UMass answered on Austin Albrecht's fifth tally of the season. Albrecht received a pass from Ivan Chukarov at the top of the circle and stepped into the slot before wristing a low shot that squirted through Lekkas with 10:22 left in the middle frame.
Oliver Chau chipped in a goal three minutes later when he cleaned up a third-chance rebound to put the Minutemen up 4-1 heading into second intermission.
UVM came out aggressive in the third period, outshooting the Minutemen 14-5 in the final frame. The Catamounts tested Wischow when Rob Darrar tried to bat a rebound into the back of the net and Anthony Petruzzelli attempted to stretch the puck around the UMass goalie.
John Leonard ended the Catamounts' comeback hopes with 6:51 remaining in regulation when he stripped the puck from a Vermont skater in the neutral zone. The Amherst native toe-dragged around a defender and tucked a backhand past Lekkas' left pad to cap the scoring.
Courtesy: UVM Athletics/CatamounTV