OXFORD, Ohio — After a stellar performance against Denver on opening night at the Steve Cady Arena, the No. 8 Miami RedHawks (1-1-0) could not seem to find the same intensity against the Vermont Catamounts (2-0-0) as they dropped the Ice Breaker Championship game, 4-1.
The difference maker for the Catamounts was junior goaltender Joe Fallon. After shutting out No. 14 Colgate the night before, Fallon was nearly flawless again as he stopped 31 shots against the powerful RedHawk offense.
“He’s a top-notch goalie in the nation and he proved that this weekend,” RedHawk head coach Enrico Blasi said.
The major story throughout the night was the abundance of penalties that the officiating crew handed out to both teams. Throughout the night, both teams combined for 67 penalty minutes and plenty of 5-on-3 advantages.
“We were warned that the CCHA refs call a lot of penalties,” said Catamount forward Peter Lenes.
The first period was pretty uneventful as both teams could not find the back of the net, but saw plenty of their players sent to the penalty box. Both teams combined to have 18 penalty minutes during the first period, but neither team could capitalize on their power play chances.
The RedHawks had two 5-on-3 advantages during the first, while the Catamounts had one two-man opportunity. Stringent defense and goaltending made it hard for either team to score as they went into the locker room at the end of the first scoreless.
The RedHawks and Catamounts combined for a whopping 37 penalty minutes in the second period. However, the Catamounts began to capitalize on their chances, and they took the lead at 12:51 with their first goal.
“I thought we did a good job of capitalizing on our opportunities because Miami has one of the best penalty kills I have ever seen,” said Catamount head coach Kevin Sneddon.
The first Catamount goal came as the RedHawks returned to even strength. Defenseman Evan Stoflet sent a shot that banked off of RedHawk goalie Jeff Zatkoff’s pads and forward Corey Carlson was there to fire the rebound into an open net.
The RedHawks fell apart after the first goal as the next two Catamount scores came off of careless Miami penalties. The game’s second goal came at 17:07 on a 5-on-3 power play when defenseman Kenny Macaulay found forward Colin Vock at the top of the slot, where Vock fired a slap shot past Zatkoff.
“During the first two periods I thought our team was flat and it was frustrating,” said RedHawk captain Ryan Jones.
The third goal would come with just three seconds left in the period on another 5-on-3 when Lenes sent a pass to Torrey Mitchell at the top of the left circle. Mitchell buried the chance to stake the Catamounts to a three-goal lead.
“We gutted it out tonight and we were real good on the special teams,” said Sneddon.
The Catamounts brought relentless pressure on Zatkoff and the RedHawk defense in the second period, racking up 22 shots.
“Whenever you give up 22 shots in a period, that’s not good and that had to do with our discipline on the penalties,” said Blasi.
During the third period, the RedHawks brough more pressure against Fallon, but it was not enough to get back into the game.
At the 3:00 mark, the RedHawks scored with a 5-on-3 advantage when Marty Guerin fired a wrist shot past Fallon from the top of the slot. It was the first goal that Fallon allowed during the tournament.
Carlson put the RedHawks away with his second goal of the night. At 17:55, he skated in on a 2-on-1 rush and fired a wrist shot off of Zatkofff’s pads and in, finishing the night’s scoring.
Fallon ended the night stopping 31 shots and earning All-Tournament honors for the Ice Breaker after surrendering only one goal in two games.
“It feels good to start the season off on the right foot,” Fallon said.
After starting the season unranked, the Catamounts proved to their critics that they deserved to be up there with the likes of the other teams involved in the Ice Breaker tournament.
“I think that was huge for everyone and we had something to prove,” Lenes said. “We showed that we could play with these other teams.”