POTSDAM, N.Y. — There’s something about Cheel Arena that brings out the best in Vermont.
The Catamounts continued their mastery of Clarkson with a 2-0 blanking of the Golden Knights Saturday. Junior Brady Leisenring scored the only two goals of the game — one in the first period and one in the third — and Travis Russell recorded 24 saves for Vermont’s first shutout since it did it by the same score against the Knights at Gutterson Fieldhouse in January of 2002.
In a game which looked eerily similar to January (a 3-2 Clarkson win in overtime), Vermont took a 1-0 lead before having the Knights battle back. On this night, Vermont withstood a charge by Clarkson in the closing minutes to get the win.
Vermont (5-19-4, 3-13-1 ECAC) has now beaten Clarkson in four of the last five games, and five of the last eight contests. Furthermore, Vermont has won more games at Cheel than any other opponent in the 12-year history of the building, and improves to 8-11-0 in the Arena which is known as one of the toughest places to play in the ECAC.
“I thought our guys had a lot of emotions going into the game,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “I thought they did what they needed to do, they stuck together as a family and came away with a great road win. It’s a tough place to come in to play, obviously a great Clarkson team. Anytime you can leave Cheel with a couple of points in your back pocket, it’s a good thing.”
The first period was an up and down affair, with Vermont getting the only goal late in the period on the power play. Brady Leisenring scored the first of his team-leading 11 goals on the power play. Leisenring skated in from the left-wing corner and beat Clarkson goaltender Dustin Traylen (22 saves) low on the far side with a sharp-angle shot. Jeff Miles and Jaime Sifers assisted on the goal at 18:17 of the first period for the 1-0 lead.
Miles drew one of their penalty killers up high, and he just threw it down low,” said Leisenring explaining the play. “I was just taking it to the net in hopes that it would sneak its way in there, and somehow it found a way to the net.”
The goal was the Catamounts’ first, in 125:39 of play after being held scoreless through the final two periods of the game versus Colgate last Friday and a 1-0 shutout against Cornell Saturday.
Clarkson (11-13-5, 6-9-2 ECAC) didn’t go without scoring chances of its own in the period. First with a little over one minute gone, Max Kolu found himself alone in the slot. Kolu put a low shot from point-blank range on Vermont’s Travis Russell. Russell made the save.
Then, Mac Faulkner collected the puck in close after a shot from the point. He pushed the puck wide of the net on the backhand.
With five minutes to go in the period, John Sullivan came in on a two-on-one with Jay Latulippe. Latulippe elected to take the shot and Russell made the pad save to keep the Golden Knights off the board.
Clarkson had a number of chances to break through on Russell. Sophomore defenseman Chris Brekelmans had a shot in front at 1:12 which Russell stopped.
Then on a Clarkson power play, on a slow developing play in the neutral zone, Matt Nickerson skated in on Russell down the slot untouched. Russell negated a low shot with his pad three minutes into the second.
Midway through the period, Jeff Corey sped into the zone on the right with Tim Plant on his left side. Plant fanned on the puck and it bounced harmlessly away to the corner.
Faulkner had a sparkling chance seconds into the third period to get on the board. On the power play, He fired a wicked shot from above the right face-off circle. Russell flashed his glove on what seemed to be a sure goal ticketed for the right corner of the net.
Clarkson continued to push for a game-tying goal and with 7:27 left, came close. Trevor Edwards hit a blast, which Russell thwarted with the stick.
“I though he played very well,” Clarkson coach George Roll said of the play of the sophomore goalie. “And I also thought we had some chances where we shot the puck wide … But, we just gotta try to finish a little better around the net.”
Vermont almost put the game away, when Chris Myers stole the puck in the Clarkson zone and put a shot on Traylen. The Knights’ netminder got enough of the puck with his glove to end it to the corner.
Clarkson had its best chance of the game with 3:14 remaining. Nickerson put a shot on net which popped up into the air just over the crossbar and fell straight down behind Russell. After a scramble in the goalmouth the whistle was blown , the puck never crossed the goal-line.
The Knights pulled Traylen for an extra skater in the final minute and Miles whistled a shot that clanged off the post but Leisenring was there to clean up the rebound for the insurance goal at 19:45. Russell started the play up ice and collected an assist for his first career point.
Vermont went one-for-six on the power play, and Clarkson came up empty on five tries with the man advantage.
Vermont picks up its first win on the road this season after previously dropping 11 of 12 games away from home.
The Cats were playing Friday’s game with backup goalie Matt Hanson on their minds. Hanson fractured the fourth vertebrae in his spine in practice Thursday. He was in surgery during the day, and his status is still undetermined.
Vermont looks to complete the sweep on the road Saturday as it heads to St. Lawrence, while Clarkson hosts Dartmouth.