BURLINGTON, Vt. — Sophomore Torrey Mitchell’s and Senior Brady Leisenring’s seven combined points paced the Vermont offense to a 5-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth, completing a weekend sweep of the Bulldogs at Gutterson Fieldhouse Friday.
The No. 15 Catamounts overcame a sluggish start in the first ten minutes to improve their record to 4-0-0. It is the first time since 1996-97, when Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin were seniors, that a Vermont team has begun a season in such a fashion.
“I’m just so happy for the guys,” said Catamounts coach Kevin Sneddon. “They put in so much work over the summer and it’s nice to see them achieving some success for all that hard work they put in.
“It’s a great start,” he said. “We certainly want to build on it. There’s lots to build from. We still have to correct some things. But for the most part our effort and execution were very, very good this weekend.”
Minnesota-Duluth was a much different team from the previous night early on. The Bulldogs employed a hard forecheck, pressuring the puck every chance it got and bottling up Vermont’s speed. The Cats were forced to go 200 feet to get scoring chances, and that was difficult for Vermont, which had trouble breaking out of its zone.
“I thought [Duluth's] jump in the first period really had us back on our heels,” Sneddon said of the Bulldogs’ quick start. “I think there’s little things with a young team that you have to build on, and I thought they played very, very well in the first half of the game.”
Even though the Bulldogs trailed in shots at the end of the period, 10-5, they were able to tally the first goal of the game when Justin Williams took a long pass from Steve Czech and snuck behind the Vermont defense. The senior winger slipped the puck low to the stick-side of Joe Fallon at 7:04, for his 19th career goal.
Trailing for the first time all season, Vermont quickly knotted the score at 1-1. Slavomir Tomko fired a wrist shot past Duluth netminder Isaac Reichmuth at 10:20. Mitchell, who recorded four assists on the night, got the puck to Tomko for the sophomore’s first of the year.
The Cats then took the lead at 16:09. Buzzing in the Bulldogs’ zone four-on-four, Kenny Macaulay took a pass from Leisenring as a delayed penalty was called and found the back of the net.
As the game grew older, the Catamounts wore down the opposition with the power play.
Vermont started the second on a power play and cashed in immediately. Leisenring hit Jeff Corey in the slot on a band-bang play to make it 3-1 at 1:18. Mitchell also assisted on Corey’s first of the year.
Midway through the period, the Cats were whistled for a penalty, giving Duluth another shot with the man advantage. The visitors applied pressure on the Vermont end, but Fallon was up to task, making several tough saves.
With a little over five minutes left in the middle frame, The Bulldogs committed two hitting-from-behind penalties, giving Vermont’s potent power play, which came into the weekend struggling, another opportunity.
It took a few minutes of constant pressure but the lead was lengthened in the final minute of the second. Ryan Gunderson’s backdoor feed found freshman Corey Carlson camped at the left post, where he buried his first collegiate goal.
Off of the ensuing face-off, Peter Lenes netted his fourth goal in two nights from Mitchell and Leisenring to make it 5-1.
The Bulldogs thought they had cut the lead to 5-2 two and half minutes into the third on the power play, but an apparent goal was quickly waved off.
Duluth coach Scott Sandelin thought the puck found the net, potentially swinging the game’s momentum.
Duluth had a five-on-three advantage later in the period, but was unable to convert.
For the series, the Bulldogs went 0-for-12 on the power play, including 0-for-6 tonight. Meanwhile, the Cats were 3-13 on the power play on the night, scoring six goals on the man advantage on the weekend.
Fallon got the win, stopping 17 shots on the night and 35-of-37 on the weekend. Reichmuth made 28 saves in the loss.
Sandelin said he got a better effort tonight from his team, but undisciplined penalties were his its bane.
“We got a lead in the first period, then we just got into penalty trouble,” he said. “That was the difference in the game. Obviously, we were in the box most of the second period. It’s tough to kill penalties all the time. One after another, we took some bad penalties.
“It’s like a golf game, trying to put all the pieces together,” he said. “We did a lot of better things tonight. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Duluth is at Michigan Tech for two to start WCHA play next weekend, while Vermont hits the road for another nonconference series at Niagara starting Friday.