BURLINGTON, Vt. — In a game between the two bottom-dwelling teams in the ECAC, Vermont defeated Union, 3-1, in front of a sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Senior Jeff Miles paced Vermont, scoring a goal and adding an assist, and goaltender Travis Russell posted a 21-save performance as the Catamounts split the season series with the Dutchmen and snapped a six-game losing streak in the process. Union has not won a conference game since it captured a 5-1 decision against Vermont in Schenectady in November.
Vermont (4-17-3, 2-11-0 ECAC) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in the first period. 31 seconds into the period, Union’s Bryan Campbell was sent to the box on a tripping call. The Cats’ power play, which came into the weekend as the eleventh-ranked man-up unit in the nation clicking at 20.5 percent, went to work.
After passing the puck around the perimeter nicely, captain Jaime Sifers sent a pass down low to Jeff Miles below the left face-off circle. Miles whipped the puck to Scott Mifsud, who beat Union goaltender Kris Mayotte (13 saves) low for his eighth goal of the year.
Union (8-13-4, 2-9-2 ECAC) got a power play of its own when Vermont Joey Gasparini clotheslined a Union player in the corner. The advantage grew to two men a little over a minute later. Travis Russell stood tall making some key stops and the UVM defense blocked numerous attempts in that 1:18 sequence to keep the Dutchmen scoreless.
Then UVM’s Chris Mounsey sent a long home run pass to Ben Driver through the neutral zone. Driver caught it, made a great move around the last Union defender on the play and slipped the puck under Mayotte for what everyone in the building thought made for a two-goal Vermont lead. But referee John Murphy lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead before the puck had crossed the goal line. Amidst a chorus of boos, the goal was disallowed with 9:57 remaining in the period.
Both teams came out of the period break looking flat. Neither had the jump that they had in the first period, having chances in the second but being unable to convert. With 8:00 remaining in the second, a blind pass by the Cats out of the right wing corner landed directly onto the stick of Scott Seney. Seney wheeled around and on his backhand put a low shot on Russell that the goalie stacked away.
Later in the period, Vermont’s Brady Leisenring took an indirect pass off the left wing boards and drove to the net. He had two whacks at the puck but couldn’t stuff it past Mayotte.
Vermont kept its 1-0 lead until Union finally broke through on Russell. Union’s first line of Jordan Webb, Joel Beal and Ben McNamara hooked up with Beal scoring from the low slot to knot the game at one at 13:40.
“We missed a backchecking play and the guys knew they made a mistake,” said Sneddon. “What I really focused on was the response.”
But the tie was short-lived. Just after the ensuing face-off, Jeff Corey intercepted a Union breakout pass and fed the puck to Mifsud at the top of the right circle. Mifsud then fed it to Tim Plant in front for a shot past Mayotte just under the crossbar to the glove side, only 12 seconds after Seney’s equalizer. The goal was Plant’s sixth of the year and proved to be the difference.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot together since the Clarkson game (a 3-2 loss in overtime),” Plant said. “Everyone knew it was going to take 60 minutes to get this victory.”
Miles added his eighth of the year into the Dutchmen’s empty net to tie him for the team lead with Mifsud.
Vermont went one-for-five with the man advantage, while Union did not cash in on any its four chances on the power play.
“It was a good college hockey game. The bottom line is we only gave up 16 shots and we couldn’t score,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “It’s tough right now because we’re having to play perfect games.”
Vermont looks to complete the weekend sweep Saturday when Rensselaer comes to Burlington. Union hopes to right the ship when it travels to Dartmouth for a matchup with the Big Green.