BURLINGTON, Vt. — Vermont exploded for three goals in the second period, and got another sterling performance from freshman goaltender Joe Fallon in a 3-1 victory over Colgate at Gutterson Fieldhouse Saturday.
Fallon stopped 20 shots as the Cats have only allowed eight goals in the last six games, helping explain the team’s NCAA-leading unbeaten streak, which now stands at eight games (5-0-3).
The other big ingredient in Vermont’s longest string without losing since 1995-96 has been scoring from a balanced offense. The Cats got all three tallies in a span of 5:17 in the middle frame.
“I thought we took some really undisciplined penalties tonight which we had kind of gotten away from,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “But, when your goaltender is playing really well, and your penalty-kill is buying into everything you are teaching, you’re going to have success.
“And that spurt of goals in the second period, it’s nice to find a little bit of offense and give us a three-goal cushion, and then at the end I felt we obviously played real, real well. We won every race to every loose puck, we played and beat a very good team. That’s a big two points.”
The two teams played a scoreless first period. Vermont nearly got on the board just two minutes in with a shot of the stick of Mike Arcieri, but Colgate goaltender Steve Silverthorn (17 saves) somehow was able to keep the puck out even while losing his stick on the play.
In another opportunity, Vermont had a 4-on-3 advantage with 8:18 gone in the period. Silverthorn stopped a shot from the right point. The rebound came to Scott Mifsud in the slot, but he fired it wide of the net.
Colgate had a chance to break on top late in the first period, when Ryan Gunderson went off for a trip, giving the Raiders 1:40 of two-man advantage time. Vermont did a tremendous job on the kill, blocking several shots, and clogging shooting lanes much like it did stopping a Cornell five-minute power play, Friday.
Colgate attempted 20 shots in the period — half of which were blocked by the defense. As a result Vermont held a 7-4 edge on shots on goal after one.
Vermont (6-4-3, 4-0-2 ECACHL) got its offense rolling in the second as the first goal of the game came from one of the most unlikely of sources, junior Ben Driver. The Georgia, Vt., native scored only his fourth goal in 62 career games, as he beat Silverthorn cleanly with a perfectly placed shot to the glove side.
The play began innocently enough with Kenny Macaulay finding Driver above the right circle for the shot that surprised the goalie for a 1-0 lead at 1:19.
“I was screaming from the bench, ‘Shoot it, Benny, shoot it,’” Sneddon said with a laugh. “Picked the corner beautifully, it was a great shot. [I am] real happy for him, to see him put that one in”
Mifsud scored 2:31 later on a breakaway, while the teams were skating 4-on-4. He broke the puck loose on the left-wing boards and headed for the net. With a Colgate defender chasing, he slipped the puck to his backhand and then through the legs of Silverthorn, unassisted, for a 2-0 lead. The goal was Mifsud’s team-leading ninth of the year.
Colgate’s Jon Smyth took a hitting from behind penalty at 6:17 and Vermont wasted little time on scoring on the power play just 18 seconds later on the power play. Jeff Corey tallied his third goal of the year from Torrey Mitchell and Gunderson at 6:35.
Colgate captain Dave Thomas broke up Fallon’s shutout bid 5:47 in the third when he got a pass from Marc Fulton and poked repeatedly at the puck nudging it across the line. It appeared as if referee Matthew Smith’s whistle may have blown before it went in to make it 3-1, and the Catamounts complained, but to no avail.
But that was as close as Colgate would get. The Raiders forced Vermont to kill two penalties in the last six minutes, which the Cats did, as they had all night.
The Colgate power play was its undoing as the Raiders weren’t able to convert on nine opportunities, Vermont ended up 1-9 for the game.
“I thought our power play really let us down tonight,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “They did a great job of keeping us outside and blocking shots. But, I think even if we get one on the power play, it gives us a little momentum, and we may have turned things around. They played a very good game tonight. They outworked us for most of the night, but the special teams were the difference in my opinion.”
Asked about the difference in Vermont from last year, Vaughan said, “Unbelievable. What a turnaround. They skate well. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. You can just see it in the way they’re playing … They are a very, very good hockey club.”
Vermont has little rest before a game with Massachusetts on Tuesday. Colgate (8-4-0, 3-1-0) will return home for a pair with Mercyhurst starting Friday.