CANTON This wasnt the way St. Lawrence Universitys hockey team wanted to hit the holiday break and the midway mark of its season.
The University of Vermont scored the first three goals en route to defeating the Saints, 5-2 on Saturday night in a nonconference meeting at Appleton Arena.
St. Lawrence (7-8-2), which was without team captain Kyle Flanagan because of injury, suffered its fourth consecutive loss and slipped below the .500 mark for the first time during its campaign.
Yet the Saints, particularly coach Greg Carvel, were encouraged by their overall effort, especially their energy and in creating scoring chances.
I told the team Ive rarely been this happy after losing a game, Carvel said. I thought we played very, very well. Without Kyle, we had a very distinct game plan to get the puck in deep and keep working. I think their goaltender was obviously the difference in the game, but Im very happy with the effort and with the execution, we just werent rewarded.
With Flanagan sidelined for precautionary reasons with a knee injury which isnt believed to be serious, St. Lawrence came out and played aggressively through much of the game, outshooting Vermont, 15-4 in the first period and finishing with a 41-19 advantage in shots.
Kyle is a really big part of our team, but the guys were fine out there, said Greg Carey, whose tip-in bid was denied by Catamounts goaltender Brody Hoffman on the Saints second power play of the game. A lot of guys who arent really physical are stepping up and playing more physical. I think we out chanced them, 4-1, and I think its a real confidence boost to see so many guys on the same page going into the new year.
But the Catamounts (4-8-3), who recorded the second road victory of their season, weathered the storm early on and led 1-0 on Chris McCarthys goal from outside the left faceoff circle 9:27 into the game.
This one wasnt pretty, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. But Im pleased that we found a way to win. We responded after we got a little rattled later in the game and I think (goalie) Brody Hoffman played real well for us, especially when they were putting a ton of pressure on us.
Vermont then struck for two goals within the first eight minutes of the second period as Kyle Reynolds knocked in a rebound at 3:52 and defenseman Nick Luukko one-timed a feed past Matt Weninger at 7:42 for a power-play goal to chase the junior goaltender.
They scored goals on a couple lapses we had and they were very opportunistic, Carvel said. Their goalie played well, but there were times that we were right there and I dont know how some of those stayed out of the net tonight.
We started the game hot on our power play I have no idea how we didnt score, said junior right wing Jeremy Wick, who played on the Saints starting line along with Carey and sophomore Patrick Doherty at center. We got down those two goals, but the guys stuck with it and we kept plugging away.
St. Lawrence drew within 3-1 as Carey took a quick pass from George Hughes and swept the puck past Hoffman at 15:00 of the second period, but Jacob Fallon scored a back-breaking goal for Vermont just 2:14 later by beating freshman goalie Kyle MacDonald from just beyond the slot.
Still, Carvel was encouraged by the Saints overall effort.
I told them that they have to understand that the way we played tonight is how we have to play every night, Carvel said. If we play like that, well win a lot more than we lose. I think they feel better about themselves.
Kyle Essery, who centered a line with wings Gunnar Hughes and Chris Martin, scored 9:29 into the third period to pull the Saints within 4-2, but White followed with a goal at 18:44 for another three-goal Catamounts advantage.
Following the holiday break, St. Lawrence hosts Rochester Institute of Technology Jan. 4-5 before resuming ECAC Hockey play with home games against Yale and Brown Jan. 11-12.
You never want to talk about moral victories, Carey said. But tonight with the number of guys we had working hard and playing well, I think were going to come back into the new year with a renewed vigor and a little more life.
NOTES n Flanagan, who sat out eight games because of injury last season, suffered the latest injury in a 3-1 loss to Clarkson last Saturday. ... The Saints were again denied earning the programs 1,000th win, ... Wick joined George Hughes as an assistant captain with Flanagan sidelined. ... Vermonts power-play goal snapped St. Lawrences penalty-killing streak at 12. ... MacDonald made his first appearance for St. Lawrence, who stopped nine of 11 shots faced. ... Former Clarkson player Pete Massar recorded an assist for the Catamounts.