Inopportune turnovers plagued UConn as they spotted No. 12 Vermont a three-goal lead Friday night in a loss at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, 5-4.
Karl El-Mir and Maxim Letunov each added a goal and an assist while Evan Richardson had two assists.
It appeared as though UConn had a goal inside the first five minutes of the game but it was waved off due to a hand pass. Vermont took advantage of its good fortune and got on the board 7:49 into the game off of a Johnny Austin mistake.
Austin coughed up the puck just inside the UConn blue line to Ross Colton, who got the puck over to Mario Puskarich. He took a backhanded shot just inside the right face-off dot, which Adam Huska got a piece of but not enough as the puck found the back of the net.
About ten minutes later, Puskarich sent the puck from the right side to the left side and found Ross Colton to make it 2-0.
“When I looked at the first period, they scored on two turnovers but they only had seven shots on net,” Cavanaugh said. “They capitalized on their opportunities.”
The Catamounts continued to play well, making it 3-0 just 2:28 into the second period. Jarrid Privitera took a pass from Liam Coughlin after a failed clearing of the zone and his one-timer from the right face-off dot put the Catamounts ahead comfortably.
Cavanaugh then decided to pull Adam Huska for senior Rob Nichols.
“I was trying to jumpstart our team,” Cavanaugh said.
It worked. The Huskies began the turnaround less than two minutes later thanks to Thompson. He redirected a pass from Miles Gendron for his 15th of the year and the Huskies had some offensive life.
Just 12 seconds later, Matt Alvaro went to the penalty box for interference and UConn continued to chip away at the lead.
El-Mir took a nice pass rink-wide from Richardson, who was just outside of the right side of the crease and sent the puck past Stefanos Lekkas to make it 3-2 4:48 into the second period.
The Huskies lost their progress, however, after David Drake took a penalty in the middle of the second period. Brian Bowen redirected a shot from Brady Shaw at the center point and Gutterson Field House was rocking. Vermont held a 4-2 lead going into the second intermission.
But just 2:39 into the final period, Thompson scored once again to make it a one-goal game.
He took a pass from Schwartz after a quick zone entry and took a shot from just inside the right circle which found the back of the net to make it 4-3.
“[Thompson] was great, I thought he was really good tonight,” Mike Cavanaugh said after the game. “He was moving his feet, he was physical and on the puck.”
For most of the first half of the third period, Vermont was hemmed into its own zone, but the Huskies could not find a tying goal and with just over five minutes remaining, the Catamounts found some breathing room.
Alvaro found some room on the right side of the zone and used his speed to his advantage, beating his defender and then beating Nichols with just 5:05 to go, giving Vermont a 5-3 lead.
With about 90 seconds to go, Nichols skated off to give UConn an extra skater. Vermont sent the puck around the boards in an attempt to clear, but the Huskies intercepted it. El-Mir sent the puck at the net and Letunov finished it.
The Huskies found themselves within a goal with 1:17 to play.
“We learned to never quit,” El-Mir said. “We held our heads up high. We wanted to win that game.”
Despite the wild finish and valiant effort, the Huskies failed to notch an equalizer as time ran out.
UConn (9-9-6, 5-5-2) will get back at it on Tuesday against No. 10 Boston College. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Conte Forum.