BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont used a three-goal third period, and another stellar effort between the pipes from goaltender Travis Russell to pull away from Yale, 4-2, at sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse Friday.
Jeff Miles recorded a goal and an assist, and Brady Leisenring added a goal while Russell, last week’s ECAC Goaltender of the Week, made 27 saves to backstop the Catamounts to their third consecutive win.
Christian Jensen totaled a goal and an assist in a losing cause.
With the game tied at one, going into the third period, Vermont reeled off two unanswered goals from Leisenring and Miles to take the lead it would not relinquish.
“I’m just really happy for the guys,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “It’s nice to be able to walk in the locker room after a game and see a lot of smiles. The guys are felling pretty good about the way they played, and I think when you have a team that has some confidence, they can accomplish some great things.”
In the first period, Yale (12-14-0,10-9-0 ECAC) controlled play. Russell stood tall keeping the puck out of the net, and the Catamounts in the game as the Bulldogs had several quality chances.
First, with about five minutes gone, Nick Shalek snapped a shot from point-blank range. Russell kicked the puck out.
Then, Jeff Dwyer came through the neutral zone with speed down the right wing. He made a move around a Vermont defender, but Russell stopped a wrist shot from close range. Yale continued when centerman Nate Jackson, who was set up behind the Vermont net, fed the puck to Mike Grobe, who one-timed the pass. Russell picked it out of the air with the glove.
Yale had its best offensive flurry of the period when Jensen put a shot on Russell. The goalie slid across to stack his pads to make the save. Yale gathered the rebound and worked the puck around the ice before Russell was on his skates. He dove across the crease and took that one off his head.
“I think when a goalie has confidence,” Sneddon said, “He can make saves look easy, even the difficult ones. And I think tonight, [Russell] did that. He was reading the play almost two steps ahead of the actual play.”
After one period, Yale held a 13-7 advantage in shots on goal.
Vermont (7-19-4, 5-13-1 ECAC) gained its legs in the second period. Early in the frame, the puck bounced off the glass and settled at center ice. Vermont’s Jeff Miles collected it and went in on Josh Gartner (25 saves) with Leisenring on his right side. Miles elected to dish to Leisenring but the pass just hopped over the stick of the team’s leading goal scorer and into the corner.
Then, with 13:04 remaining in the period, Chris Myers took a pass at the blue line, made a nifty move to get by a Yale defender and Gartner made the save on a low shot.
Shalek made another attempt to solve Russell after a giveaway in the Vermont end. The junior right wing shot the puck into the midsection of Russell.
The Bulldogs broke onto the scoreboard at 15:46 of the period. Freshman Brad Mills scored his fourth goal from Jensen and Robert Burns, after a scramble in front of the net. The goal snapped Russell scoreless streak at 87:51.
Scot Mifsud tallied the tying goal with only: 28 remaining in the period. He stole the puck from Joe Zappala in the in the Yale defensive zone, spun away from him and slipped a shot along the ice between the legs of Gartner. An unassisted goal, it was Mifsud’s 10th of the season.
We talked about it as a team that we never want to give up a goal in the first two minutes or last two minute [of a period] because it can deflate you. … When you can do it to another team, that’s a huge momentum swinger,” Sneddon said. “So, that was a big goal by Scotty, he stepped up and made a great play.”
That goal did give the Catamounts the momentum heading into the third period.
After killing off a Yale power play, Leisenring scored on a Vermont extra man chance. He banked the puck off the crossbar and off the back of Gartner for his 12th of the season just as the power play came to a close at 5:03 of the third.
Miles then scored what would turn out to be the game-winner on a beautiful diagonal, set up by Ryan Gunderson, and put past Gartner for his 11th of the year. Jaime Sifers also assisted on the goal at 11:56.
“Ryan Gunderson made a helluva pass,” Miles said. “I found a wide-open net and just finished it off.”
Yale called its timeout to attempt to shift the momentum back in its favor. It did just that.
Jensen finally cashed in on one of his many quality scoring chances to draw the Elis to within one goal. He took the puck from the right point all the way to the left faceoff circle, skating through three defenders. Then he cut in front of Russell and slid it into the net, Grobe and Joe Callahan assisted on Jensen’s ninth goal at 14:10.
But Russell made some key saves in the closing minutes to keep the Cats on top.
Myers added an empty-netter from Joey Gasparini, in the waning seconds for the final margin.
Vermont went one-for-seven on the man advantage.
“I thought it was a real close hockey game, and it boiled down to special teams execution,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “Their power-play goal, obviously, sunk us. Their penalty kill was very strong, and I thought our inability to produce on the power-play opportunities (0-5 on the night), hurt us.”
Vermont plays host to Princeton Saturday. The Tigers, by virtue of their tie against Dartmouth Friday, now have 12 points in the standings while Vermont is a single point behind.
With the loss, Yale sits in sixth place with 20 points and travels to Dartmouth on Saturday.