The Vermont Catamounts beat the Clarkson Golden Knights 6-3 in a crucial ECAC matchup at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Friday. Six different UVM skaters lit the lamp as Vermont avenged a previous 1-0 shutout at the hands of Clarkson starting goaltender Dustin Traylen.
The win, combined with a St. Lawrence loss at Dartmouth and a Colgate loss at Harvard, moved the Cats into a tie with the Raiders for the eighth and final home-ice playoff spot.
“We played well,” longtime Catamount mentor Mike Gilligan said, “as well as we played at Dartmouth [a 6-4 win]. It would be fabulous to have four points this weekend and set ourselves up for home ice.”
The Cats netted two goals, sandwiched around a score by Clarkson’s Jay Latulippe, to grab a 2-1 lead after one period. The Catamount power play, which was clicking at a rate of 23.3 percent coming in, went two for six on the night.
“We knew that they were going to come out with a lot of jump,” said Clarkson head coach Fred Parker, “I was surprised that we didn’t match it.”
Jaime Sifers, one of the ECAC’s brightest young stars, got the Gutterson faithful out of their seats with a shot from the left point. The initial shot was stopped by Traylen, but bounced off the back of a defender’s skate and trickled across the goal line. Sifers’ second career goal was assisted by Jeff Corey and Brady Liesenring.
Clarkson (11-16-1, 8-8-1 ECAC) answered 3:30 later with a goal of its own. After Vermont could not clear a long rebound, the Knights worked the puck around the perimeter and then down low. Kevin O’Flaherty rifled a pass across the goalmouth and Latulippe had the easy tap-in.
Vermont (10-14-3, 7-10-0 ECAC) scored again at 13:44. Sophomore Scott Mifsud fired a long diagonal pass that hit Corey in stride. Vermont’s top-scoring freshman found himself behind the defense and skated in on Traylen, deked the freshman netminder, and beat him top shelf, glove side. It was his sixth of the year.
The Catamounts made it 3-1 on a great passing play between Ryan Miller and Thomas Hajek. Miller, who was circling just above the goal line, found Hajek, who had crept in from his position on the blue line in front of the net. It was the third goal of a career spanning 104 games. Jeff Miles also assisted.
UVM goalie Shawn Conschafter was stellar in the win, doing his best work in the second period, when he stopped 13 of 14 shots. Clarkson’s Jean Desrochers got the one past him. Desrochers busted in over the offensive blue line and beat Conschafter from the high slot through the legs, assisted by Jeff Genovy and John Sullivan.
Vermont scored again to regain its two goal lead. Miles stole the puck at center ice and rocketed a slap shot which Traylen kicked out. UVM captain John Longo was the trailer in the play. He gathered the rebound and put the puck away in the open net.
The Cats opened a three-goal advantage late in the period when Liesenring potted his 10th of the year, with the teams skating four on four. Hajek assisted on the goal. Gilligan was pleased with the play of Liesenring, who is now second on the team in goals.
“Brady’s had a heck of a second half,” said Gilligan. “He’s had a great season. It seems like anybody we put with him plays with a lot of energy.”
Traylen was pulled in favor of Mike Walsh for the third period. Clarkson cut the lead to 5-3 on a shorthanded goal by Tristan Lush at 7:11 of the third, after a host of Vermont players overskated the puck at center ice.
After a great save by Conschafter on defenseman Dave Reid, Miles scored his team-leading 16th on the power play, with a shot over the shoulder of Walsh (five saves) to secure the victory.
“Tonight Shawn was key when he had to be,” Miles said, “When he makes a big save like that, everyone gets a big confidence boost. It’s that much easier to put the puck in the net, after he does that.
“To be a good team,” Miles continued, “you have to rebound after an 8-1 loss [to Cornell] and to come out and play the way we did. Tonight was just phenomenal.”
Conschafter finished the game with 23 saves. Traylen stopped 22 in the losing effort.
Concluded Parker, “We’ve been working hard; it’s surprising tonight that we didn’t work as hard as we have been.”
Clarkson travels to Dartmouth on Saturday, and Vermont hosts St. Lawrence.