Thomas’ star shines brightest in UVM reunion

It may not have taken place in the cozy confines of the Gutterson Fieldhouse, but Thursday night’s NHL matchup between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Banknorth Garden held a nostalgic air of homecoming for a few former Catamounts.With serious bragging rights on the line, Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas bested his former UVM teammates Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin by leading the Black and Gold to a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory. In a game that featured some of hockey’s greatest talents – Bruins’ mammoth defenseman Zdeno Chara, 21 year old phenom Patrice Bergeron and the Bolts’ Canadian dynamo Vincent Lecavalier – it was a trio of ’97 Catamount graduates that stole the show. Displaying the same finishing touch that made him the Cats’ all time leading goal scorer (107), Perrin took advantage of an odd man break and unleashed a rocket past his former teammate Thomas at 17:08 of the first period. Perrin’s strike was his sixth goal of the year and knotted the score at one.The Cats connection continued into the second period as St. Louis lit the lamp shorthanded at 4:44 to give the Lightning a 2-1 advantage. The lone assist on St. Louis’ 16th tally of the season went to none other than Perrin. The combination still holds the UVM record for most points in a season with 85 each in the 95-96 campaign. Still, the UVM spotlight shined brightest on Thomas early in the third. Capitalizing on a Boston defensive miscue, Lightning center Brad Richards feathered a cross ice feed to an uncovered St. Louis. However, Thomas – the all time Catamount wins leader at 81 – sprawled full extension to his right and devoured St. Louis’ attempt at the wide open net. Thomas, epitomizing a true team player, modestly downplayed his spectacular highlight reel save. He was simply happy to help out the team, “Everything was happening so fast,” said the Bruins’ netminder. “I had more saves to come.”However, for St. Louis, such an incredible individual effort from Thomas was nothing out of the ordinary. “He made a good play,” said the Cats’ all-time points leader (276). “He’s that type of goalie. He doesn’t give up. Praise to him.”After an exchange of goals between Lecavalier and Glen Murray, the game entered overtime then the shootout tied at three. Still, it was thanks to Thomas – who finished with 31 saves – that the contest even lasted that long.”He’s the reason why we were still in the game,” Bruins Head coach Dave Lewis said. “He made some fabulous saves.” The shootout pitted Thomas against old mates St. Louis and Perrin one last time. Although the dynamic duo was able to beat him in regulation, Thomas got the best of the UVM family affair by stoning both when it mattered most.The shootout went to an astounding seven rounds, with Thomas blanking every Bolt attempt he faced. Finally, 19 year old Bruins’ rookie Phil Kessel – the contest’s 12 participant – was successful, ripping a wrister past a helpless Marc Denis.The fantastic finish gave the Bruins a much needed two points and also their third win on the year against St. Louis, Perrin and the Bolts, and – more importantly – gave Thomas some serious bragging rights. “I think they’re going to be mad at me,” said a grinning Thomas.