Vermont scored five goals in less than five minutes and handed Dartmouth its first home loss of the season, a 6-4 decision.
The most telling statistic of the game can be found in the breakdown of the teams’ shots. Dartmouth only managed 17 shots that were on target and a whopping 16 that didn’t even hit the net. In contrast, Vermont put 40 shots on Yacey (34 saves) and missed the net 10 times.
“That team deserved to win the game,” Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet said. “They out-played us, out-worked us, out-hit us, out-everything. I have tremendous respect for the effort they put into the game.”
The Big Green (9-7-1, 5-5-0 ECAC) never seemed to have control of the game against the incredibly quick Catamounts, yet held a 3-0 lead for more than 35 minutes of the game.
Dan Yacey and the Big Green defense escaped an early deficit at 10:13 in the first period when an errant puck bounced into the zone and created all kinds of opportunities for UVM. In danger of a serious momentum shift, the Dartmouth offense sprung into action. Hugh Jessiman ripped a shot from the right wing past UVM goaltender Shawn Conschafter to give Dartmouth a 1-0 lead. The goal was Jessiman’s 10th of the year.
Gillings had a chance to put Dartmouth up two in the second period when he pulled back for slapper, but waited and slid the puck wide of the net, one of the Big Green’s 16 errant shots. Dartmouth quickly took that two-goal advantage on sophomore Lee Stempniak’s team-leading 12th goal, his first since the Big Green’s last meeting with the Catamounts.
Defenseman Garret Overlock, with all kinds of time, added to Dartmouth’s lead by beating Conschafter five-hole just a few feet outside of the net.
“We were up 3-0, but I didn’t think we were playing particularly well, but we were up 3-0,” Gaudet said. “To me it’s always the next shift, not the one before. And what happened is the next shift we didn’t play very well.”
Vermont (7-10-3, 3-6-0 ECAC) struck back with a vengeance at the end of the period, as Scott Mifsud worked through the Dartmouth defense and freshman Jeff Corey beat Yacey for the first time.
Assistant captain Bryson Busniuk capitalized on Mifsud’s work again, ripping the puck between the outstretched right pad of Yacey and the post.
Technical difficulties sent the teams into the locker room right after the crucial Vermont goal with 20 minutes and 48 seconds of third period coming up in an streaky one-goal game. Vermont continued its momentum by drawing an early power play when P.J. Martin took out a UVM winger who didn’t seem to be in control in the first place. The Catamounts capitalized at 0:23 when Yacey was drawn out of the net to his right and gave up several rebounds before Busniuk put home his second to tie the game at three.
Just over a minute later, Vermont took its first lead of the game when junior star Jeff Miles roused the Vermont fan-base with a goal very similar to Overlock’s second-period tally. A Dartmouth skater went down to block Vermont left winger Tim Plant’s shot, but only got a piece of it and the puck fluttered over Yacey’s head and into the back of the net to give the Catamounts a 5-3 lead.
“That fifth goal was a bad, bad break. They made their breaks, but it was a bad break, no question about it,” Gaudet said of the fluky score.
The goal was Vermont’s fifth in a span of just four minutes and 50 seconds and ultimately the gamewinner.
Overlock had his second goal nullified because a Dartmouth player was in the crease when his shot went in over the pile in the net. Mike Wheelihan turned that hope of a one-goal deficit into a reality, one-timing a Stempniak pass from behind the net into the back of the net with 9:47 remaining.
Dartmouth got its golden opportunity when not one, but two Catamounts were sent to the box for hooking and slashing. Two minutes with a two man advantage yielded not one, but two unbelievably close chances for Dartmouth to tie the game, but no goals.
“We had point-blank chances, but the goalie made great saves,” Gaudet said.
The Big Green men grew weary, working with only three lines for most of the third frame. Mifsud drew a penalty on what may have been a dive to put the Big Green down a man for two minutes of the remaining two and a half.
“You have to play the guys that are going,” Gaudet said of the shifts, “we had to give ourselves an opportunity to win. We didn’t have enough guys going tonight with their ‘A’ game. It’s between a rock and a hard place.”
After successfully killing the penalty, Dartmouth did a good job of keeping the puck in the zone. Plant, however, put the nail in the coffin with a breakaway empty-netter to give the Big Green its first loss at Thompson Arena this season.