BURLINGTON, Vt. — Rensselaer’s Vic Pereira scored with 2:15 remaining in overtime to give the Engineers a hard-fought road victory over Vermont at sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse Saturday.
The Catamounts, who were playing for the win in the overtime period, took a chance to seize victory. Their aggressive play triggered a three-on-two odd-man rush to the opposite end of the ice. Pereira took the puck from Kevin Broad and Blake Pickett and deposited it past Travis Russell’s right shoulder for the game-winner.
“We’re a team that plays to win,” said Jaime Sifers. “We take those chances and sometimes they backfire.”
“I just went to find some open space,” said Pereira. “It was a great pass and I just shot it and got the puck past the goaltender.”
The win moves the Engineers to 14-10-2, 8-5-1 in ECAC play. Vermont’s second overtime loss in the last three home games drops it to 4-18-3, 2-12-0 in the conference.
Down 2-0 with less than five minutes to go in the game, the Catamounts scored two quick goals, within a 1:51 span, to force overtime. First, at 17:01, senior captain Oriel McHugh tallied his fourth of the season from Jeff Corey and Derek Wagar with just four seconds left in a power play. Then, with Vermont goaltender Travis Russell trying to get off the ice for the extra skater, Brady Leisenring scored the equalizer, his team-leading ninth of the season, which brought the boisterous Gutterson faithful to their feet.
“For 57 minutes I thought we played real well,” said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. “I thought we were in control of the game. But they feed off their crowd. Their crowd did a great job of giving them some energy, which they generated into two quick goals.”
“As a whole we played a great game tonight,” Sifers continued. “This is definitely a team that’s on the rise right now.”
The first period, both teams played a defensive brand of hockey. Vermont held the territorial advantage in the period, despite trailing in shots on goal 7-4. UVM got the first quality chance of the game on an abbreviated power play. Ryan Gunderson had his shot blocked from the point. He regained the puck and sent it down low to Sifers who fed Scott Mifsud across the slot. RPI goaltender Nathan Marsters (19 saves) went left-to-right to make a pad save.
Russell was very solid in the period. He made the saves he had to, while Vermont’s defense cleared rebounds very well.
The second period was a different story. Rensselaer’s Kevin Croxton capitalized on two consecutive power plays. Croxton scored his first of the night and 11th of the season on passes from Kirk MacDonald and Nick Economakos At 6:02. The goal was scored on a delayed penalty to Sifers in the corner.
The Engineers went to work on another power play and made it 2-0 just over a minute later. Croxton added his second from Brad Farynuk and MacDonald.
RPI went two-for-five with the power play while the Cats’ ninth-ranked unit nationally scored on one opportunity in six chances.
The Cats come out for the third period flying, and put good pressure on the RPI end. It seemed it was only a matter of time until Vermont would breakthrough on Marsters. Midway through the period Corey pushed the puck wide of a wide-open net. Moments before McHugh scored the goal to send the game to overtime, Leisenring and Mifsud work a nifty give-and-go play with Leisenring speeding into the zone and dishing to Mifsud at the right circle before getting the return feed, Marsters negated the opportunity making the save.
The Engineers’ victory was marred when they celebrated the win in front of Vermont’s bench creating a ruckus, and then both teams left the ice without shaking hands after referee Dan Murphy ordered both teams off the ice.
“That’s something that coach Fridgen and I will deal with,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said of conclusion to the game. “I know Dan, he’s a class-act, I know he doesn’t want to represent Rensselaer in that fashion.”