CANTON, N.Y. — A third-period power-play goal by freshman defenseman Ryan Gunderson lifted Vermont to a 3-1 victory over St. Lawrence at Appleton Arena Saturday.
The Catamounts completed a weekend sweep of the North Country after defeating Clarkson the night before. It was Vermont’s first road sweep since November of 2000.
Jeff Miles paced the Catamounts’ attack with a goal and an assist, and Travis Russell made 40 saves on 41 shots, including 18 in the third period to hold off a hard-charging Saints squad.
“He was outstanding,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said of the play of his goaltender. “I can’t say enough good things about him. Hopefully, he’ll receive some accolades for that kind of performance.”
In the first period, St. Lawrence had a sizable territorial advantage. The Saints used physical play and a relentless forecheck to set the tone.
St. Lawrence had the first quality chance of the game when T. J. Trevelyan rang the post to the left of Vermont goaltender Russell.
At 7:29 of the period, Gunderson went off the ice with a crosschecking minor. With the faceoff in the Saint offensive end, John Zeiler won the draw to Trevelyan, who wristed it in past Russell’s glove for his 20th goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.
Vermont erased the deficit at 15:47. Evan Stofflet ripped a wrister past the Saints’ Mike McKenna to the glove side. Brady Leisenring and Dan Owens assisted on Stoflet’s third of the season.
The Catamounts seemed fortunate to escape the first period with the game tied. St. Lawrence led in shots on goal after one, 16-4.
In the second period Vermont ratcheted up its offense. McKenna stood tall, making several saves with Vermont buzzing in the offensive zone.
The Catamounts had their best chance in the frame with less than seven minutes remaining. Owens steamed down the right wing and unloaded a heavy slapper. McKenna got enough of the shot on the glove side to direct it away.
St. Lawrence almost retook the lead, four minutes into the period. Josh Anderson stole the puck shorthanded on the forecheck. He whistled the puck high and wide of the net.
The stage was set for an entertaining final period.
Vermont opened the frame killing the remainder of a penalty. St. Lawrence put great pressure on the UVM end, but Russell continued to be very sharp and made some spectacular stops to keep the game tied.
Then came the winning goal, off the stick of Gunderson. Jaime Sifers made the play happen by skating the puck end-to-end down the right-wing side. He then cut in front of the net before dropping the puck back to Gunderson for a wicked slap shot past McKenna. Miles also assisted on the goal, which was the Bensalem, PA native’s first career goal at 4:50 of the third.
Vermont held onto the lead with the help of Russell who was forced to stand on his head to keep the puck out of the net.
“St. Lawrence put on a heck of a show, and in the third period we tightened up,” Sneddon said.
The Saints pulled McKenna for the extra man in the waning moments but Vermont was able to clear to zone and Miles deposited the puck into the empty net to account for the final margin.
“I thought we played pretty well,” said Saints coach Joe Marsh. “And they certainly kept us off guard. I thought after the first period, they made some good adjustments, and we didn’t counter quite as well. They took the energy out of us.”
Following the game, Marsh went to the Vermont locker room to congratulate the Cats on a job well done. He especially voiced his concern and support for the team and backup goaltender Matt Hanson, who was seriously injured in practice, Thursday.
“I think you have to give them a tremendous amount of credit,” he said. “We went through it last year … and we had to play the next night. You gotta give the coaches a tremendous amount of credit to keep the team focused. That can be something that will inspire that team.”
“It shows how classy the guy is,” said Russell of Marsh. “It shows there’s more to hockey than just the scoreboard.”
A statement from the University of Vermont athletic department physician earlier in the day said, “Matt Hanson sustained a fractured cervical vertebrae. He had surgery to stabilize the vertebrae. He is in stable condition following the surgery. He has normal neurological function.”
The Saints remain at home next weekend for Brown and Harvard, while Vermont returns home for a pair of crucial late-season games with Yale on Friday and Princeton on Saturday.
“Matty was on our minds in between each whistle, during each play,” Russell continued. “And when we called a timeout with thirteen seconds left, we just got together and said, ‘this one’s for Matty.’ The whole team can’t wait to get back to give him two game pucks.”