BURLINGTON, Vt. — The final score doesn’t always tell the whole story. In fact, if it weren’t for goaltender Andrew Martin of Rensselaer, the Engineers could have gone down by a much bigger margin than 3-2 against Vermont Friday.
Martin finished with 34 saves to keep his team in a game in which RPI was utterly dominated. The team was able to hang around and nearly sent the game to overtime in the closing seconds. RPI was coming off of a sweep of the North Country, something the Engineers had not done since their national championship season of 1985.
“It was a tense, emotional game,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “I think their goaltender played spectacular. I think we threw everything we had at the net, and he kept them in the game. I thought we had great jump tonight. We were back to being first to loose pucks, and we cycled the puck well tonight. We had a little trouble finding the back of the net, but we scored when we needed to.”
Torrey Mitchell, Vermont’s second-leading scorer, tallied a goal and added an assist to help the Catamounts break a three-game losing slide during which they had only scored four goals.
Just how much of a confidence boost was the win for the Cats?
“It was huge,” Mitchell said. We hate losing in our own barn and, tonight, to win … we didn’t care who it was. It’s a great feeling, great for this hockey team right now.”
The Cats came out flying in the first and dominated territorially and on the shot clock but came out of the opening 20 with a lone goal.
From the opening faceoff, Vermont was on a mission, and it showed. The Cats used its overwhelming speed beating the Engineers to loose pucks and pinning the visitors in their own zone with a stifling forecheck for the majority of the period. RPI only managed three shot attempts, while UVM took 26 — 12 of which went on goal.
Mitchell opened the scoring on the power play. He wound up and one-timed a Scott Mifsud pass past the glove of Martin for the lead at 14:27. Mifsud worked his way around a defender before finding Mitchell for the howitzer from above the left circle. It was his ninth of a stellar freshman campaign.
The second saw much of the same thing from Vermont, but RPI made it a game knotting the score at two, before a final-minute power-play goal wrested the lead back for the Cats going into the third.
Jeff Corey lengthened the lead 3:46 in the frame, getting behind the Engineers defense, potting his 11th of the year along the ice. The play was started by Fallon (13 saves), who got it up swiftly to Ryan Gunderson in the neutral zone. Gunderson hit Corey in stride for the 2-0 lead.
That’s the way it stayed until, on a power play, Brad Farynuk blasted a shot from the left point past Fallon. Farynuk got the puck from defense partner Jake Luthi off the faceoff at 9:25.
Kirk MacDonald tied it up, for the time being, at 17:19, when Scott Romfo’s point shot deflected in off of MacDonald and past a surprised Fallon. With :18 left in the period, Matt Syroczynski tipped in a high shot from Mitchell, for the eventual game-winner. Three of Syroczynski’s four goals this season have come against RPI.
Rensselaer skated with the Cats in the third but wasn’t able to complete a second comeback despite a couple solid scoring chances in the final minutes. Fallon put the game on ice with :04 remaining with an eyebrow-raising highlight-reel stop, sliding across the crease, getting his right pad on a shot from Oren Eizenmen.
“Routine,” Sneddon quipped about Fallon’s stop at the end of the game. “You know I was almost rolling my eyes back in my head thinking, ‘Uh oh, we may be going to overtime here.’ … That’s Joe being Joe.”
“We gutted it out tonight. It was kind of a scramble there in the last minute, but the guys paid the price and got the job done,” said Sneddon.
“Coach [Damian] DiGiulian made a great point,” Sneddon said of his assistant. ” This was a mature win. When you throw everything at the net and can’t score it ‘s really easy to get out of your system, but we stuck with it and did what we needed to do to win.”
Vermont went two-for-seven on the power play with 11 shots, while Rensselaer was one-for-four scoring on its only shot.
“For a road game, I thought we could have played a little bit smarter,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. “We took some penalties [and] almost played that first period short handed for half the period. They came out in the first and really had their feet moving, had their fore-check going, and we didn’t execute the way we wanted to … ”
Vermont (14-9-3, 8-4-2 ECACHL) looks to make it two in a row Saturday against Union, while RPI (11-15-2, 4-10-1) hoping to return to the same form of last weekend, is at Dartmouth.