SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Vermont goalie Shawn Conschafter nearly eliminated Union from first-round bye consideration with his 24-save effort through two periods Friday as he protected a two-goal lead.
But in the third period, the Dutchmen finally wore down Conschafter. The Dutchmen scored four times in the third, two by defenseman Matt Vagvolgyi, and kept their bye hopes alive with a come-from-behind 5-3 ECAC victory over the Catamounts at Achilles Rink.
Sixth-place Union (10-9-2 ECAC, 14-15-4 overall), which limited Vermont (8-13, 11-17-3) to 14 shots, is two points behind fourth-place Dartmouth, which defeated Rensselaer. The Dutchmen and Big Green meet at Achilles in the regular-season finale.
Throwing a wrench into the Dutchmen’s bye hopes is Brown. The Bears are in fifth place, one point ahead of the Dutchmen, after their tie against St. Lawrence. If Union, Brown and Dartmouth end up in a three-way tie for fourth, the Dutchmen win the tiebreaker and get the bye.
Conschafter nearly upset Union’s plans with his play. He allowed a second-period short-handed goal to Nathan Gillies, then watched his teammates scored three goals on four shots against goalie Tim Roth. The Dutchmen had a 24-9 shot advantage through two periods.
“Through the first two, we were dominating them,” Vagvolgyi said. “We knew we controlled the play. We knew we weren’t two goals worse than these guys.”
So, the Dutchmen kept firing away until they penetrated Conschafter. Kris Goodjohn ignited the rally at 7:16 with a power-play goal. Just under five minutes later, defenseman Chris DiStefano took a pass from Randy Dagenais and fired a wrist shot from the top of the slot between Conschafter’s pads to tie it at 3-3.
“Randy made a nice pump fake on the blue line, and got the [defenseman] to drop,” DiStefano said. “A lane opened up. I threw it on net and hoped for the best.”
The tie didn’t last long. Vagvolgyi fired a wrister between Conschafter’s pads 19 seconds later.
“It’s what [assistant coach] Andrew Will works on with the d-men two to three times a week, just getting that simple shot to the net when there’s traffic there,” said Union coach Kevin Sneddon, who earned his 50th career win. “It doesn’t have to be a slap shot. Both goals were quick snap shots.”
Vagvolgyi sealed the win with 5:05 left during a four-on-four situation. He drove down the left wing, cut to the net and put the puck past Conschafter’s left pad.
“To be honest, I don’t know how it went in,” Vagvolgyi said. “I threw it at the net. The next thing I know, the red light went on. I’m glad it went in, and it gave us a cushion with the last few minutes left.”
Even though a bye is still within reach, the Dutchmen aren’t worried about it.
“We’ve just got to play a great game, a good 60 minutes,” Gillies said. “Hopefully, we’ll come out with a victory and see what happens as far as the bye situation.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.