BURLINGTON, Vt. — If hockey periods lasted only 19 minutes and 49 seconds, the Vermont Catamounts would have skated away with a relatively easy home victory against non-conference foe Dartmouth on Saturday at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Instead, the Cats had to scratch and claw their way to a nail-biting 4-3 escape.
UVM (8-6-2) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period by taking full advantage of two Dartmouth penalties. Brayden Irwin scored the first power-play goal at the 10:10 mark — his team-leading sixth goal of the season — by firing home a feed from fellow forward Colin Vock (Kyle Medvec also assisted). Then, with only eight seconds remaining on Vermont’s second power play of the opening frame, Vock rifled a pass directly in front of net that Jack Downing tapped home for the two-goal lead with only 1:51 until the first intermission.
The Catamounts appeared to be cruising towards a comfortable cushion one period in. However, the Big Green (who fell to 3-8 on the year) cut the lead in half with only 1.9 ticks left on the first-period clock when Mark Goggin gathered in his own miss and fired it back past UVM netminder Rob Madore (30 saves). Goggin’s late score altered the entire complexion of the game.
The Catamounts maintained their one-goal advantage throughout most of a second period dominated by defense, until those pesky final seconds of the period started to tick off again.
This time, it was defenseman Evan Stephens who lit the lamp — again off his own rebound — with just 11 seconds to play in the second stanza. Suddenly, the score was knotted at two heading into the third.
“The first and last two minutes of a period are one of the things we emphasize,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon lamented. “We failed at that pretty miserably tonight.”
The Cats managed to mentally regroup in the third, however. At the 9:36 mark, Chris McCarthy broke the tie, this time just seconds after Dartmouth successfully killed off a UVM penalty, by beating Big Green goalie Jody O’Neill (36 saves) off feeds from Jeff Burrows and Justin Milo.
The Cats scored again less than two minutes later, but not without some controversy.
Freshman forward Tobias Nilsson-Roos tapped home a point-blank shot that was initially ruled no goal by the referees. Because the light went off, the officiating crew took a look at the monitors to make a determination as to whether the puck had indeed crossed the line. Upon further review, the score was allowed, giving Vermont a 4-2 lead and Nilsson-Roos his first collegiate goal.
“I saw it go behind the goalie but I wasn’t sure if it went in or not,” Nilsson-Roos admitted afterwards.
“The referee standing behind the net had no idea,” added UVM senior captain Brian Roloff, who along with Downing was credited with the assist on the disputed play. “I thought I saw it go in and put my hands up.”
The monitor review proved pivotal by game’s end. Again refusing to go away, Dartmouth answered right back less than a minute later when Goggin scored his second goal of the game off a helper by Matt Reber.
With Vermont leading by only a goal, the final minute of a period again loomed large.
The Big Green pulled O’Neill with 1:30 to play and had several good looks at the equalizer. This time, the Vermont defense held firm however, getting a pair of key shot blocks by Milo. As the last second ticked off the clock, the Catamounts could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“It came down to us playing well with a one-goal lead late,” said Sneddon. “On the power play, we moved the puck extremely well; we had some timely scoring. Coming out of an exam break, you tend to want to dump the puck and chase, but I thought we were pretty crisp in our plays.”
Despite the heart-breaking loss, Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet was pleased with the fight his Big Green showed on Saturday.
“I was disappointed with the outcome, but I told Kevin [Sneddon] after the game, it was a good game,” said Gaudet. “They played well and I thought we played well. There were some good saves on both sides, some energy, checking. Some good solid play.”