BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Gutterson Fieldhouse faithful are checking their pacemakers, because the Cardiac Cats have done it again.
Scott Mifsud scored a dramatic game-winner with one tick left on the clock to power the Catamounts past Brown, 2-1, Friday. On the winning play, Mifsud charged into the Brown zone on a three-on-two. He, Jeff Corey, and Torrey Mitchell played catch with the puck until Corey found Mifsud to the right of the net. Mifsud put the puck over Bears’ netminder Adam D’Alba (29 saves) to send the Gut into delirium.
“I think we made about 20 passes at the end there and they were all tape-to-tape,” joked UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon. “It was like, Jeez, put the thing in the net. … It’s a great play by three great players at a critical time. You look to those guys to make those kinds of plays at that time of the game.
“It was great college hockey game. [Brown] played a fantastic game and we’re pretty lucky to come away with a win.
It was the Cats’ second heart-stopping, no-time-left win of the year. The first came in late November as UVM toppled then-No. 6 New Hampshire finishing an incredible comeback in literally the last second as well, 5-4.
With the win and Dartmouth’s defeat of Harvard in overtime 2-1, Vermont (19-11-3, 13-6-2 ECACHL) will have to wait another day to get a chance to clinch fourth place in the standings and the final first-round playoff bye.
In a game billed as a showdown between two of the top young goalies in the nation, neither disappointed. D’Alba and Joe Fallon (18 saves) were spectacular throughout, and wowed the sellout crowd with fabulous play.
“It was a gritty performance and we knew it was gonna be that kind of game. Sneddon said. “It’s gonna be a one-goal, two-goal game with Brown. They’ve got a great goaltender; he played fantastic tonight; and they are strong defensively.”
Brown (14-11-3, 9-10-2) got on the board first with a rebound goal from Gerry Burke. Brian McNary took the initial shot after coming into the zone on a two-on-one with Sean Dersh. Fallon made a stellar pad stop sliding across the crease, but Burke was there to clean it up for the 1-0 lead at 11:52.
D’Alba was on his game early, looking very sharp and stopping everything that came his way for the period, he was perfect in 12 chances including nice saves on both Mike Arcieri and Tim Plant, twice each.
When Les Haggett was whistled for contact to the head 7:41 into the second and Pete LeCain already in the box for holding, the Cats had 1:13 of a five-on-three advantage. Vermont wasted less than a minute with the power play before red-hot Chris Myers finally stuffed the puck past D’Alba on his own rebound, near post.
The goal was assisted by ECACHL leading scorer Mifsud (43 points) and Kenny Macaulay. Myers’ 11th of the year was his third tally in as many games.
After the equalizer, the goalies matched each other save-for-save through the end of the period.
Myers nearly added his second of the game midway though the period snapping a shot that D’Alba had to be quick on, as he made the pad save.
Then, with less than eight minutes left in the period, Fallon made two tough, nearly back-to-back saves on two separate Brown rushes. First, he came across to rob Mike Meech in close, and then he made a nice stick stop on Chris Swon in alone with a UVM skater chasing.
In the third, the tension was palpable. Brown had two chances with the man advantage to retake the lead, but Vermont killed them both, forcing the Bears to keep the puck on the perimeter and only allowing two shots through to Fallon, who made both saves through traffic.
“I thought we didn’t play very well in the third,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo, “I thought we had some opportunities, especially on the power play, and just didn’t get anything going.”
Vermont was one-for-six on the power play, while Brown went scoreless in six chances of its own.
On the first kill of the period, Mifsud pickpocketed a Brown skater at the blue line and raced up the far side. He unleashed a hard slapper that D’Alba kicked out.
That would not be last heard from the senior assistant captain. Late in the game, Mifsud had a golden chance, but “The puck kind of squeezed through my feet,” he said. “Jeff Corey threw a hard pass, and I kind of whiffed on it. Strike one.
“But at least I got the second one,” he said of the game winner. “I don’t know if we could have drawn that up any better.”
Brown goes to Dartmouth and Vermont hosts Harvard for their final regular-season games Saturday.