The Massachusetts hockey team tied with Vermont 2-2 Friday night in a back and forth affair in Burlington.
Freshman winger John Leonard put UMass (9-9-1, 3-5-1 Hockey East Association) ahead 2-1 late in the third period with a dazzling top corner shot, but Vermont (4-13-4, 1-7-3 HEA) responded 23 seconds later with a goal of its own to knot it up 2-2.
The two teams headed to the five-minute overtime period but nothing budged for either side, resulting in the Minutemen’s first draw of the season.
In his first game back with UMass, freshman defenseman Cale Makar tallied a power play goal less than five minutes into game action, carrying over his strong play from the IIHF World Junior Championship with Team Canada to the Minutemen.
“I thought offensively he was a huge addition back in our lineup,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He did a lot good things with the puck. I think he also looked a little tired. He hasn’t really skated a lot in the past week so it was to be expected, but he did a lot of really good things with the puck tonight.”
“I was just trying to throw the puck on net and fortunately enough we had a great screen in front so it went in,” Makar said. “I think my main goal was to just get my legs moving again and I think I did that, after doing that throughout the game.”
Following a gold medal win with Team Canada, Makar said he was happy to return and see all his teammates after being gone for about a month.
Shots favored the Catamounts 33-29, including an 11-4 advantage in the second period for the home team.
“I thought Vermont played very well, they made the game hard for us, harder than I think we wanted it to be tonight, and we looked like the younger team,” said Carvel. “At the same time, we played well enough where I didn’t think we gave up a lot.”
Freshman Matt Murray earned the start in net for the Minutemen and made 31 saves in a solid outing for the UMass netminder.
A seeing-eye Makar point shot pushed the Minutemen ahead early in the first period. Taking a D-to-D pass from Mario Ferraro on the power play, Makar snapped the puck off from just inside the attacking blueline that eluded UVM goalie Stefanos Lekkas (27 saves) to give Makar his second goal of the year at 3:16.
Makar’s marker on the man-advantage continued the UMass’ streak of power play goals, as this was the fourth straight game the Minutemen scored while up a man.
UMass appeared to have doubled its lead midway through the second period, however Lekkas stoned Philip Lagunov with a tremendous glove save, going post-to-post, to keep the Minuteman lead at 1-0.
In the third period, UVM tied the game on Derek Lodermeier’s breakaway goal 3:14 into the final frame, following a neutral zone turnover from Lagunov.
Leonard scored his fifth of the year off the rush to give UMass its second lead of the contest at 15:22. Just 23 seconds later, UVM tied the game on a Matt O’Donnell goal to halt the Minutemen momentum almost instantly.
“Yeah, it felt good to get the second goal there,” Leonard said. “Unfortunately (Vermont) came right back down and tied it but I think we showed a lot of fight tonight.”
UMass killed off all five Catamount power plays and went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage to highlight an impressive special team’s performance.
The Minutemen finish off the series Saturday night at the Gutterson Fieldhouse.
“I think we’re going to have to compete. Vermont plays a game where you have to compete and execute to make plays. If you can do that, you’re going to create a lot of offense and tonight, I didn’t think we had a lot of poise and at times not enough compete (tonight),” Carvel said.
Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.