The 30th Hockey East Tournament started with a bang on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Vermont senior Connor Brickley (Everett, Mass.) scored the winning goal with 1:07 remaining in a single-elimination contest to lift the Catamounts (19-12-3) into next weekend’s quarterfinals with a 2-1 win over UMass (8-22-4).
After sitting out the regular season due to a NCAA transfer issue, Frank Vatrano (East Longmeadow, Mass.) aided the Minutemen with a bit of an offensive spark on the second line early in the game, but neither team found the scoreboard in the first period.
Late in the first period, UVM sophomore Brody Hoffman made a ten-bell save to keep the game scoreless. UMass senior co-captain Conor Sheary (Melrose, Mass.) led an odd-man rush up ice, but Hoffman dove across the crease to deny the redirect attempt of his cross-ice feed.
The teams traded goals in the middle period. UMass, which entered the postseason on a five-game losing streak, had the opening goal of the game just 2:40 in as Troy Power found the back of the net off some nice faceoff work from Sheary and freshman Steven Iacobellis.
UVM took the momentum before heading to the intermission, tying the game at 17:18. Junior Jake Fallon won a battle in the Catamounts’ defensive zone, stopped on a dime and laid the puck for classmate Michael Paliotta (Westport, Conn.) for a heavy shot at the point, beating UMass junior goalie Steve Mastalerz (North Andover, Mass.) through traffic.
Senior Anthony DeCenzo was credited with the primary assist on Brickley’s winning goal – a weak shot that bounced off the pipe, Mastalerz and back into the net.
The season-ending loss was UMass’ fifth in a row by a one-goal margin. The Minutemen continue a long playoff losing streak as they have not won a postseason game since opening their 2009 Hockey East quarterfinal series at Northeastern as the No. 7 seed.
Vermont, which was facing UMass in the playoffs for the first time and hosting its first conference playoff game at home since 2009, heads to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year with the win.
St. Lawrence 3, Brown 2 (2OT)
Rookie Eric Sweetman’s goal at 1:27 of double overtime propelled the eighth-seeded Saints (10-14-3) to victory over the pesky Bears (9-10-3) at Appleton Arena. Despite the loss, senior Garnet Hathaway (Kennebunkport, Maine) dished out two assists for Bruno and freshman Tyler Steel was excellent in goal with 43 stops in a tick over 81 minutes of play. The contest was Brown’s first to reach a second extra session since 2002, when it lost 2-1 at Harvard in the first round of the ECAC playoffs.
Yale 4, Harvard 0
Freshman Alex Lyon made 24 saves in his second consecutive shutout and sophomore Cody Learned (Amherst, N.H.) scored a goal and an assist as the No. 16 Bulldogs (16-9-5) downed the rival Crimson (10-16-4) in the best-of-three first-round series opener at Ingalls Rink. Senior captain Jesse Root scored the only goal the defending national champ Bulldogs needed 7:47 into the opening period.
Rensselaer 4, Dartmouth 1
Two goals from junior Ryan Haggerty (Stamford, Conn.) proved to be all the Engineers (15-14-6) needed as they struck for the first three markers of the game and held on for a playoff-opening win over the visiting Big Green (8-18-4) at RPI’s Houston Field House. Jesse Beamish scored a man-up goal at 8:53 of the second period for Dartmouth, but his effort was not nearly enough. The Big Green will look to stave off elimination on Saturday night.
RIT 3, Holy Cross 2 (2OT)
Junior Brad McGowan scored with 6:37 remaining in the first overtime to lift the ninth-seeded Tigers (12-18-5) to a road win and a 1-0 series edge over the Crusaders (12-20-3) at Hart Center in Worcester, Mass. Senior Shayne Stockton and sophomore Brett Lubanski each scored for Holy Cross, but it fell for the third time in four games over the last two AHA postseason tournaments and just the fourth time ever in a home playoff game.
Niagara 1, American International 0 (2OT)
It took nearly 85 minutes, but the host Purple Eagles (12-18-5) opened their Atlantic Hockey playoff series with an exciting double-overtime win over the visiting Yellow Jackets (10-24-1). NU sophomore Dan Kolenda sent the Dwyer Arena faithful home with a smile, scoring 4:43 into the second overtime. AIC rookie Hunter Leisner made 29 saves combined in the second and third periods and hit 48 by game’s end, and still suffered the tough-luck loss. The Jackets will look to end a five-game losing streak, even their season series with the hosts, and extend their season on Saturday night at Niagara.
Canisius 3, Sacred Heart 0
Sophomore Alex Vazzano (Trumbull, Conn.) made 25 saves, but the Pioneers (12-23-0) were shut down offensively by Tony Capobianco and the Golden Griffins (13-19-3) in the opening game of their Atlantic Hockey playoff series at the Buffalo State Ice Arena. SHU will look to win its second game of the year against Canisius and extend the series to a deciding third game on Sunday.