BURLINGTON, Vt. — In the mid 1990s, Vermont All-America goaltender Tim Thomas took four years to amass a school-record 10 career shutouts. In just one-and-a-half seasons, Joe Fallon has equaled that mark.
Fallon did so Friday, in just his 50th-career game, turning in a 15-save performance as the No. 6 Catamounts blanked Northeastern, 3-0, at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The result is also Fallon’s fifth shutout of the year, tying a record he set last season, and is his third-straight bagel at home.
Vermont (14-5-2, 6-4-2 Hockey East) got all three goals from different skaters – all even strength – and the first two in a span of 1:58 in the second period to break the game open.
“I think we got back to playing on our toes,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon. “We were aggressive on the forecheck, we drove the net hard, we used our speed to our advantage – all the things that we’ve done successfully in the past we kinda got back after having a little lapse last weekend [in a one-point weekend at UNH]. All in all, zero goals against, another great performance by Joe.
“Team defense, obviously, is our forte and we did a nice job of that tonight,” Sneddon added.
UVM controlled the play in the first period, beating Northeastern to loose pucks and winning the battles in the corners. Neither team, though, was able to light up the scoreboard. Through one period, UVM led in shots, 10-7, five of which came on two power plays.
The Cats played solid defense, blocking twelve NU shot attempts in the game. They didn’t allow the Huskies their first shot on goal until the six-minute mark.
The best chance of the period for Northeastern (1-14-4, 1-9-4) came on a delayed-penalty call late in the frame. Ryan Ginand found himself in the slot and snapped one off that Fallon saw all the way.
The Cats exploded for three goals in the middle frame. Junior Tom Collingham notched his first collegiate goal after taking a pass from Slavomir Tomko and getting behind the defense. Collingham roofed the shot over NU goaltender Doug Jewer (27 saves). Ben Driver also assisted on the tally at 2:50
Chris Myers made a terrific hustle play in the corner, stripping a NU defenseman of the puck before he found Dean Strong streaking to net for a 2-0 lead. For Strong, the Hockey East leader in rookie scoring, it was the eighth goal of the year at 4:48.
Jeff Corey made it a three-goal bulge at 15:51 of the period, taking a pass from Brady Leisenring and blowing past the defense. He slipped the puck past Jewer low to the glove side for his eighth. Corey was reunited with Leisenring and Torrey Mitchell last Saturday, and it paid dividends in this game. The top line had a total of 12 shots on goal.
Vermont had a five-minute power play to work with after Ginand was sent off for hitting from behind with a minute to go in the period, but the nation’s fifth-ranked power-play unit coming into the contest couldn’t convert. Sneddon said the power play was the only area of the game where he was less than pleased. Even so, the Cats did have 19 shots on their seven opportunities with the extra man.
The Huskies had some good looks at the net in the third, but aside from the puck that Steve Birnstill rang off the post midway through the period, Fallon was too strong and was able to hold on for the record-tying whitewash.
For Northeastern coach Greg Cronin, the story of the game was three defensive miscues in the second period that ended up with the puck in the net.
“We had breakdowns in the neutral zone area, breakaways, [and] one where we had just a poor reverse [behind the net],” he said. “We shouldn’t have reversed the puck with a one-man forecheck.
“Vermont does a tremendous job in the trenches along the boards. They’re incredibly disciplined away from the puck,” he added. “You know when you play them, you’ve gotta win the battle on the boards, and irony of the game was, I thought the battles on the boards were evenly played.”
NU was missing its leading scorer, Jimmy Russo, to an injury, and also lost Joe Santili during the game to a separated shoulder.
Northeastern went 0-for-4 with just one shot on the power play.
Vermont looks for two more crucial points in the standings, and the sweep of the season series, Saturday.