POTSDAM, N.Y. — Since it was built in 1991, Clarkson has lost two playoff games at Cheel Arena, both coming at the hands of the Vermont Catamounts. Make it three.
Vermont defeated Clarkson for the third time in four ECAC playoff matches Friday night, 3-2. The win puts Vermont in good position to upset Clarkson in the first round of the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Vermont netminder Shawn Conschafter made 27 saves and continued his mastery over the Golden Knights.
“It feels good to get the win here but we have to keep an even keel,” said Conschafter. “Tomorrow is going to be a battle and we need to be ready. Tonight was big and we set ourselves up well for the weekend.”
The two teams skated to an even first period with neither team registering a goal. Clarkson managed 10 shots, with Vermont answering with six. Clarkson had quality scoring chances in the period but was the victim of misfortune.
Just 52 seconds into the game, Clarkson’s Trevor Edwards had a point-blank chance in front of Conschafter but pulled the puck wide of the net. Two minutes later, Jean Desrochers had a wide open net off of a rebound but was unable to convert, hitting the post.
Vermont weathered the first-period storm and struck with the initial goal in the second, as Phil Youngclaus scored the first of his career at 7:03. Youngclaus took a Jeff Miles pass and slapped a shot from the top of the right circle. The shot weaved through traffic and beat Clarkson goaltender Mike Walsh to the high glove side.
Vermont then shut down the Knights, only allowing six shots for the period.
“Our freshmen played real well tonight,” said Vermont coach Mike Gilligan. “Our ‘D’ played well too, [Conschafter] wasn’t forced to make as many tough saves as he did [in the playoff series] two years ago. I felt as this could have been a one-goal game. Friday is important, tonight was a good win.”
The game appeared as if one goal would have won it, as Clarkson came out lackluster in the third. Vermont capitalized and scored its second goal of the night, on the power play, at 3:15 of the third. Jeff Corey followed his own shot and beat Walsh top glove-side corner for his seventh goal of the season.
Clarkson continued its sloppy play but managed to make the game interesting in the waning moments. Kevin O’Flaherty scored his 13th of the season, blasting a slapshot past Conschafter with 1:47 left.
A UVM penalty 37 later seconds gave Clarkson life, but this was quickly erased, as Chris Bahen tripped, losing the puck to Vermont’s Jaime Sifers. Sifers lofted a shot from his own blueline which landed in the vacated Clarkson goal, restoring the Cats’ two goal lead with 58 seconds to play.
Clarkson answered with a goal 28 seconds later, as Randy Jones took an O’Flaherty pass and beat Conschafter to the glove side. But it was too late for the Knights, who could not muster another goal in the last 30 seconds.
“They’re a good team,” said Conschafter, “and I expected that last-minute barrage. Our ‘D’ played well tonight and hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow night.”