BURLINGTON, Vt. — Niagara got a 34-save performance from junior goalie Jeff Van Nynatten and a third-goal from Ryan Gale to leave Gutterson Fieldhouse with a rare weekend sweep on the road, 3-2, over Vermont Saturday.
“Our goaltender really stole it for us,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “We’re just fortunate to come out of here with an unbelievable sweep. It doesn’t happen a lot in college hockey — sweeping on the road.”
Vermont lost after squandering a two-goal cushion it had built in the opening period.
Vermont came out of the gates well in the first period, scoring two power-play goals in the first 11 minutes.
Mike Arcieri scored his first goal as a Catamount at 2:10. Arcieri finished a play stuffing the puck past Van Nynatten with assists from Scott Mifsud and Torrey Mitchell.
Jeff Corey tallied the second power-play goal on a one-timer off of a diagonal pass from Jaime Sifers on the left point to Corey positioned in the right circle at 11:02. Corey’s first of the year was also assisted by Derek Wagar.
Art Femenella took an obstruction-hooking penalty at 11:16 which let the Niagara power play go to work, and like Friday night the Purple Eagles’ special teams produced.
A little over a minute after Vermont made it 2-0, Aaron Clarke caught the Vermont defense napping with a long pass through the neutral zone directly onto the stick of Sean Bentivoglio.
The Purple Eagles’ sophomore went in alone on Vermont goalie Travis Russell (15 saves) and roofed the puck over Russell’s glove hand with a perfectly placed backhander. Andrew Lackner (two assists), who started the play, got the second assist on Bentivoglio’s first of the season.
Mitchell took an undisciplined roughing penalty late in the period. With time winding down in the period, Niagara continued its impressive work on the power play. Pat Oliveto ripped a shot from between the circles that came out of the net as fast as it had gone in, ricocheting off the post on the goalie’s stick side. Lackner and Kris Wiebe assisted on the goal at 19:42.
The Purple Eagles went 2-7 with the extra man for the game, and a combined 6-17 on the weekend, a dazzling 39.3 percent clip. Coming into the weekend, Burkholder’s team had only converted on 13 percent of its power plays.
“The numbers didn’t show it coming in to the weekend,” he said. “But, we got great puck movement. … We were pretty creative once we got in the zone.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said his team must learn to play better with the lead. “The lesson tonight was you get up 2-0, and you’ve got great jump in your legs, and again we take undisciplined penalties and we get them back in the [game].”
Vermont carried play in the second period, and if it wasn’t for Van Nynatten and cat-like glove hand, the outcome could have been much different. The goalie made several saves relying on his reflexes to keep his team in the game. One such stop came on Vermont winger Dan Owens.
Off a faceoff, Owens gathered the puck on the left side and snapped a shot. Van Nynatten snatched it out of the air, into a full split, to make the save with seven minutes left in the period.
Vermont led in shots on goal after two periods, 27-16 and in the final statistics, 36-18.
Gale netted the game-winner early in the third on a nifty redirection. He won the faceoff back to Ryan Carrigan, who shot it as Gale got position in front of Russell and just got enough on the puck to put it in the net. Gale’s winner, the only goal scored even strength, was his third of the weekend at 1:51.
Vermont was unable to get substantial pressure on Van Nynatten until it pulled Russell for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds. Van Nynatten made a few nice saves, including a terrific one on Corey with six seconds remaining to ensure the win.
While he didn’t get the win, Sneddon was much happier with the play of his team Saturday and hopes it can use the weekend as a learning experience.
“The effort was there, no question about it,” Sneddon said. “I thought our guys were much more mentally prepared. I felt last night we were like the bulldog that wasn’t trained. We were running all over the place. Tonight, I thought we did a much better job of executing our forecheck and our play in our own zone, and our neutral zone was pretty good.
“If we take the lesson from the weekend and really learn from it, we could be a pretty good hockey club,” he continued. “If we are going to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, it is going to be another tough first half of the year.”
Niagara (2-3-0) continues to a third stop on its season-opening four-week road trip next Friday at Clarkson. Vermont (1-4-0) has a tough test ahead of it next week, traveling to Duluth, Minn., to take on the No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.