NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Catamount Country has seen some standout goaltenders in the past, from two-time All-Americans Tim Thomas and Dave Reece to stingy netminders such as Steve Eckerson and Christian Soucy.
But freshman Joe Fallon upstaged them Friday, blanking the Yale Bulldogs at Ingalls Rink to set a new single-season Vermont record for shutouts with his fifth of the year.
Fallon’s feat broke a four-way tie at four, which he shared with Thomas, Eckerson, and Reece, as the Catamounts (17-11-3) defeated Yale (4-20-2) by a 5-0 score at a sold-out Ingalls Rink.
“It’s tremendous for him,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “There’s been a lot of great goaltenders in Vermont history, and for him to hold a record as a freshman is outstanding. But I think he’d be the first to tell you that shutouts are a reflection of team defense.”
Indeed, Vermont’s defense was stingy Friday evening, and the Catamounts’ aggressive forechecking and focused special-teams play, combined with Yale’s lack of production throughout the game, resulted in the Bulldogs getting only 11 shots on goal.
It can be hard for a goaltender to remain focused when challenged only sporadically during a game, but Fallon stayed on top of his game throughout, feeding off a pair of important stops in the first period that enabled Vermont to go into the locker room with the 2-0 lead.
“When the puck is in our zone I just try to stay relaxed,” the rookie said.
The Catamount offense, for its part, was equally dominant, with Chris Myers scoring twice and Andy Corran (1-1-2) and Matt Syroczynski (0-2-2) also earning multiple points. In addition, junior Jeff Corey’s second-period goal was his 16th of the season and marked the sixth consecutive game in which he has netted the puck.
Both teams had oh-fers when it came to the power play, with Vermont unable to score in its seven attempts and the Bulldogs blanked on four tries. The Catamounts’ penalty kill was strong, stifling the Elis and precluding them from getting their power-play unit into any sort of flow on most of their opportunities.
“We worked all week long on our special teams,” Corey said. “On our penalty kill we were just trying to do the little things right, and use our speed and confuse them. It’s coming to the end of the season and we know we have got to do the little things right if we want to be a successful playoff team.”
One of Yale’s lone bright spots in a game that was otherwise a picture of disorganization and frustration was its penalty kill, which survived a five-on-three that was 1:31 long and killed off five other penalties. It was on the man down that the Bulldogs got one of their breakaways, an attempt by Christian Jensen with 11:10 remaining in the first that was stopped by Fallon.
Another major Yale chance in the first period came with 8:38 to play, when Shawn Mole’s huge wrister from the point clanged squarely off the post to the chagrin of the home crowd.
At that point, the score was already 1-0 after Slavomir Tomko, assisted by Syroczynski and Corran, scored early in the first. Vermont’s second goal by Corran came with less than a minute to play in the first, giving the Catamounts the 2-0 lead going into the locker room.
“The difference was that we were able to capitalize on our chances, while they really weren’t, in the first period,” Sneddon said. “So we were up 2-0 instead of tied 2-2 after the first.”
Myers scored his first of two goals off an assist by Jaime Sifers 6:41 into the third, and Corey added his score five minutes later before Yale goaltender Matt Modelski, who finished with 15 saves, was replaced by Josh Gartner.
Gartner gave up one goal, an unassisted score by Myers after he stole the puck and skated past a tripped-up Rob Page for the breakaway. The junior goaltender stopped 20 shots in 28 minutes.
On the other end, Fallon only needed to stop 11 of 11 to earn the record-setting shutout.
“He’s unbelievable,” Corey said. “He’s always there for us whenever we make mistakes. It’s easy to play good hockey when he’s back there.”
For Vermont, which came into the game already guaranteed a winning season and home ice in the playoffs, the win was made sweeter by the fact that travel partner Dartmouth was upended by Princeton on the road. The game put the Cats in sole possession of the final first-round bye for the ECACHL playoffs with three games remaining.
“We just have to come out and play good defensive hockey the same way we’ve been doing,” Fallon said of the team’s remaining three games. “We’ve been consistent lately, and we feel pretty good.”
The Catamounts travel to Princeton at 7 p.m. Saturday while Yale, in search of its elusive fifth win, takes on Dartmouth at 7:30.