BOSTON -- The manicured lawn, the groomed base paths and the weather -- 58 degrees and clear skies at game time -- were better suited for an early spring Red Sox game. Instead, it was a midwinter college hockey game that got under way under fading light at Boston's historic Fenway Park between the UMass Minutemen and the Vermont Catamounts in the first match of Hockey East's Frozen Fenway doubleheader.
The weather was as incongruous as the records between the starting goalies, as UVM coach Kevin Sneddon went with stalwart senior Rob Madore, a four-year starter with two NCAA tournament appearances on his resume, while UMass coach Donald "Toot" Cahoon opted for sophomore Jeff Teglia, who was still looking for his first collegiate win.
By the final whistle, the night skies were dark, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees, and Teglia had his first win, as UMass (7-8-5; 3-6-4 Hockey East) outlasted the Catamounts (4-15-1; 1-11-1 HE) to take a thrilling 3-2 win on Michael Marcou's overtime strike with only 22 seconds left in the extra session.
"I couldn't have asked for anything else," said an elated Teglia. "I'll never forget it, and I'm sure everyone else that took part in it won't either."
The win was especially sweet for Cahoon's squad, which had to kill off a 5-minute Vermont power play deep into overtime.
"I can relate to Big Papi (Red Sox slugger David Ortiz) when he hits a walk-off home run in the 11th, because that's what it felt like given the nature of overtime," said Cahoon. "The emotion and intensity was everything that it was built to be."
For Vermont, sitting dead last in Hockey East, it was another crushing loss in a season full of disappointment.
"It comes down to a game of inches," said Sneddon. "We had some great looks to win it, both in regulation on that five-minute power play, and certainly in overtime."
The soft ice on the rink stretching from first base to third made for a nervous, erratic puck and uneven play, while two crews dutifully scraped the offensive zones during every TV timeout. "It was a little bouncy out there, I'm not going to lie," said Vermont's Sebastian Stalberg. "But it's the same for both teams."
The Green Mountain boys, perhaps drawing inspiration from Fenway's Green Monster, struck first. With UMass forward Eric Filiou serving two minutes for boarding, UVM's Stalberg snapped a shot from below the right face-off dot that bounced off Teglia's chest. Catamount Kyle Reynolds sliced between two UMass defenders to flick the rebound into the net at 9:38.
The lead didn't last long. Fifteen seconds, to be precise. At 9:53, Filiou made amends for his earlier penalty, when he corralled Patrick Kiley's slick centering pass from the left corner and fired a quick wrister over Madore's blocker to knot the game, 1-1.
UMass took its first lead just 1:10 into the second, as the crowds stated filling the Fenway stands. Senior co-captain Danny Hobbs picked Vermont defender Michael Paliotta's pocket along the left half wall, walked in, and fired a low, hard shot that beat Madore 5-hole for an unassisted tally and a 2-1 UMass lead.
A second power-play strike allowed the Catamounts to draw even. With Hobbs in the sin bin for tripping, Stalberg shed UMass defender Joel Hanley on a hard drive down the right side, and slipped the puck toward the low slot. UVM's Drew Mackenzie beat Colin Shea to the puck, and deflected it past Teglia at 7:35.
Madore (25 saves) kept the game deadlocked with a cat-quick sliding pad save on a one-timer by Minuteman T.J. Syner from the right faceoff dot at 14:25, and then with a dandy blocker stop on a quick wrist shot from Troy Power at the 16-minute mark.
Between periods, Syner told the television audience that the warm weather was taking a toll on the ice, and predicted it would take a greasy goal to take the win. The Minutemen started to attack in waves at the beginning of the third, hitting a post and forcing Madore into a few more top-notch stops. Power had a great chance seven minutes in, but rifled his shot over the UVM net.
A late hit-from-behind call on Kiley (five minutes, plus game misconduct) put the Minutemen on their heels for the last 2:43 of regulation, and the first 2:17 of overtime, which the teams needed after finishing 60 minutes deadlocked at 2-2. Teglia (24 saves) continued to stand tall, absolutely robbing Colin Markison on a point-blank bid just 59 seconds into overtime.
"It was sort of a bang-bang play, and I sort of gapped out a little bit and was able to catch it right between my chest and my arm and hold onto it," said Teglia.
With 3:41 gone in the extra session UVM's Paliotta got whistled for hitting from behind, and then got tossed with a 10-minute misconduct. During the ensuing power play, with only 22 ticks on the clock, No. 22 for UMass -- Marcou -- collected his own rebound from a scrum in front of Madore and popped it into the Vermont net for the sudden-death game-winner.
"Every time you play a big game like this outside in front of a lot of people, you always envision scoring the overtime winner," said Marcou. "It was my first one ever, so it's a pretty good experience to have here at Fenway."
"The puck bounced the wrong way off the rebound, and Marcou did a nice job of finding a little space there and getting it through. We had crashed down pretty hard and the puck had eyes. Certainly, credit to him for getting it there."
Cahoon said he hopes to build on the momentum of his team's big win at Fenway. "The guys on both teams obviously wanted to make a credible showing, making sure they left it all on the ice," said the UMass bench boss. "It was a playoff type of environment, and that brings out a lot in teams and will hopefully help us down the stretch."