BURLINGTON, Vt. — Playing behind No. 5 Vermont’s stalwart defense, goaltender Joe Fallon recorded his second shutout in as many nights and his fourth of the year. Fallon made 19 saves while leading the Catamounts past No. 15 Clarkson 3-0 in the Championship Game of the TD Banknorth/Sheraton Catamount Cup Tournament, Saturday, at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Torrey Mitchell paced the Cats’ offense collecting a goal and an assist to help the team capture the championship.
Fallon, named the tournament Most Valuable Player, was tested more often and was forced to make tougher saves than against Dartmouth, Friday. That prompted Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon to call his goalie’s performance “probably one of his best games of the year.
“I’m just really proud of our guys,” he added. “To come off a break like that and come back with the kind of defense that we are becoming known for. [I'm] just really proud.”
Vermont’s fourth line opened the scoring in a tight-checking first period. Mike Arcieri took advantage of his chance off of a rush four minutes into the period. Ben Driver and Evan Stoflet set up the goal, which came on the Cats’ first shot of the game. Arcieri let a lightning-quick snapshot go that beat Clarkson goaltender Kyle McNulty (19 saves) cleanly from the right circle at 4:19.
“We’re hoping that’ll just kinda spark something for him because he’s played some good hockey for us,” Sneddon said of Arcieri who, “just hasn’t had the offensive opportunities. It’s a beautiful goal for him and that’ll give him some confidence.”
Neither side had any quality chances the rest of the period except when Jeff Corey found a loose puck that squirted to open ice, in the closing second. He gathered it, and skated in on McNulty uncontested. The goalie made the stick save, keeping it a one-goal game.
In the second, penalties started to uncharacteristically mount on UVM, the nation’s least penalized team, and Clarkson got some opportunities on the power play. Fallon made three saves on the Knights two one-man advantages, and also had to make several nice stops on even-strength shots from close range, to preserve the lead. He made great saves on Nick Dodge, Jeff Genovy, and Chris D’Alvise twice.
Later, Vermont increased its lead to two with a goal that is sure to have a spot on the team’s year-end highlight reel. Brady Leisenring started the play on the rush getting it to Matt Syroczynski, who the found Torrey Mitchell streaking to the net. Mitchell made a move getting McNulty down and out before popping the puck into the vacated net at 14:38. The goal was Mitchell’s seventh of the year and team-leading 23rd point. The sophomore centerman added his second point of the night and 24th of the season late in the third on Corey’s empty netter.
Clarkson pushed to make a game of it in the third, but Fallon denied everything that came his way.
By game’s end, the stingy Vermont defense blocked 14 shots, and when they did get through, rebounds were cleared away efficiently on the few attempts that seemed to handcuff the goalie.
“Team defense was just phenomenal this weekend,” said Fallon, who moved into a tie for the national lead in shutouts with the blanking. “Every time I leave a rebound in front there’s always a [teammate] waiting in the slot area. These past few games, it’s been really great communication with the defense.”
“I think he’d be the first one to say we just played really solid team defense for 120 minutes this weekend,” Sneddon said.
Sneddon explained his team’s formula for success on the weekend. “I think we kept the game simple. We didn’t allow teams to forecheck us that hard, if we didn’t have a play, we chipped it off the glass, kept the puck to the outside.
“I think we’re just starting to play some of our best hockey.”
Even in being held scoreless, Clarkson coach George Roll thought his team played well, especially for being in a hostile environment.
“I thought we had a very good effort tonight,” said Roll. “I was pleased with the way we played. The real difference in the game was that they finished ‘Grade-A’ attempts and we didn’t. Even though it was a 3-0 game, I think it was a lot closer than that.
“In the second period we could have easily tied the game up, but as long as you’re creating opportunities, that’s all you can ask,” he said.
The Cats outshot the Knights 22-19. Both squads went 0-for-4 on the power play.
After spending the entire month of December at home, UVM (13-4-1) will hit the road, jumping back into league play next week with a pair of games at New Hampshire starting Friday. Clarkson (10-6-2) plays non-league games against RIT at home on Friday and St. Lawrence at the Corel Centre in Ottawa on Saturday.
Torrey Mitchell, F. – Vermont
Matt Syroczynski, F. – Vermont
Nick Dodge, F. – Clarkson
Mike Devine, G. – Dartmouth
Rob Sirianni, F. -Bemidji State
Most Valuable Player
Joe Fallon, G. — Vermont