Men’s hockey sweeps Maine in first round

How sweep it is.

Men’s ice hockey earned a spot in the Hockey East quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season after sweeping University of Maine in two games.

The Catamounts started quickly on the weekend, scoring within the first four minutes of the first period March 3.

Sophomore forward Liam Coughlin tipped a shot by senior defenseman Ori Abramson past Maine goaltender Rob McGovern to put UVM up 1-0.

Coughlin would add a second about six minutes later; Maine defender Greg Cochrane lost a pass in his skates, allowing Coughlin to break in alone and beat McGovern to double the Vermont lead.

UVM added a third goal before the period ended, as sophomore forward Craig Puffer beat McGovern with a high wrist shot to extend the lead to 3-0.

The Cats would strike again midway through the second.

First-year defender Jake Massie’s initial shot was stopped by McGovern, but senior forward Brendan Bradley scored on the rebound for a 4-0 Catamount lead.

The final goal of the game came early in the third, as senior forward Mario Puskarich took advantage of another McGovern rebound to put UVM up 5-0.

First-year goaltender Stefanos Lekkas stopped all 31 shots he faced, becoming the first goaltender ever to shut out Maine in the Hockey East Tournament.

Lekkas was later named the Hockey East Defenseman of the Week, his seventh weekly award of the season, according to UVM athletics.

“I thought we played great,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said.“But I don’t think the score was indicative of how the game really played out.”

It didn’t get much better for the visiting Black Bears on Saturday.

The Catamounts scored less than seven minutes after tipoff, as Bradley took advantage of a Maine defensive zone turnover to beat Maine goaltender Matt Morris and open the scoring.

Bradley was later named the TD Bank Student-Athlete of the week, according to UVM athletics.

A similar turnover would lead to UVM’s second goal eleven minutes later, as senior defender Rob Hamilton beat Morris from close range to double the lead to 2-0.

Maine would get their first goal of the series early in the second, as defenseman Rob Michel’s one-timer beat Lekkas high to cut the lead in half.

Vermont would respond about two minutes later, as Puskarich and Puffer scored just twelve seconds apart to extend the lead to 3-1 and then 4-1.

First-year forward Matt Alvaro would grab an empty-net goal with 22 seconds to go to seal UVM’s 5-1 victory and a series sweep.

This was the 18th win of the season for Lekkas, the most by a Catamount goalie since Tim Thomas 20 years ago, according to UVM athletics.

“After they scored we didn’t get too flustered and focused on getting the next one,” Puskarich said. “Any time you score on back-to-back shifts, it takes quite a bit of momentum from the other team and we took it to them at that point.”

Vermont now travels to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on Boston College in the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

The two teams battled in the quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons. The best-of-three series begins March 10.