Cats Send Saints to Hell, Earn ECAC Tourney Berth

Freshman forward Patrick Sharp scored the go-ahead goal for Vermont on a wrap-around at 12:44 of the second period, propelling the Catamounts to a 8-4 victory over conference foe and national power St. Lawrence Saturday evening, securing a berth in the ECAC playoffs. “Our guys played some pretty darn good hockey in the past 10 or 15 games and haven’t come up with much,” said head coach Mike Gilligan. “It was something to see us break out with all those points.” Vermont, 9-4-1 when they score first, jumped to a 1-0 lead at 17:48 of the first period, as junior forward Ryan Cox left the puck for Catamount scoring leader J.F. Caudron, who drilled it past St. Lawrence goaltender Sean Coakley from just outside the high slot. St. Lawrence defenseman Ryan Glenn beat Vermont’s Andrew Allen just over a minute into the second period to even the game. Winger Robin Carruthers, who assisted on Glenn’s tally, scored at 4:24 to give the Saints the lead. St. Lawrence widened the margin, as Matt Desrosier’s wrister from the point at 5:44 beat Allen, putting the Cats in a desperate situation. Facing a 3-1 deficit, and sure elimination from post-season play with a loss, Gilligan replaced Allen with sophomore Shawn Conschafter, who boasted a solid performance against Clarkson on Friday night. “We made a switch in the net, and usually something like that gets them motivated,” Gilligan said. “It did tonight.” Conschafter’s superb performance complemented a potent UVM scoring attack, which began with sophomore forward Bryson Busniuk’s goal at 10:39 of the second. Busniuk skated down the left wing and hit the far corner of the net, closing in on the Saints’ lead and creating a uproar in Gutterson Fieldhouse. “We were missing that offensive flair that we had in the beginning of the year,” said Busniuk. “All we wanted to do tonight was win one for the seniors – win one for everyone. Everyone showed up tonight.” Just a minute later, the Cats built on the surge of intensity that Busniuk ignited, as Caudron found Cox out in front at 11:46, who backhanded it past Coakley to tie the game. “It shows what kind of character and what kind of talent we have on this team,” Cox said. “We’ve got a ton of heart, a ton of chemistry in this locker room. We showed tonight that we’re not quitters – we’re not gonna give up on anything.” After Sharp put the Cats ahead less than a minute later, ECAC freshman scoring leader Jeff Miles followed through on his wrap-around attempt that was initially rejected, at 15:02 to put the Cats ahead 5-3. Sharp’s deflection of senior defenseman Martin Wilde’s blast from the point gave Vermont a three goal lead, as they neared the end of the second period. The Saints battle back with a goal at 18:25, but Vermont exploded for two more in the third, swarming on offense, and manhandling a strong and fast St. Lawrence team that had 12 players over 200 pounds on their roster. “We responded tonight, and that’s something we weren’t doing for the last few games,” said captain Jerry Gernander. “They got a goal and we responded instead of hanging our heads as we have in the past. Tonight it was very energetic.” With the victory, Vermont improves to 8-12-2 in the ECAC and 12-16-2 overall, earning the final position in the ECAC playoffs. “The program’s been through a lot in the past few years,” Gernander said. “To go out this way and give the fans a show like we did tonight is really something special for us.” On Saturday night, Vermont hockey fans bid farewell to senior captain Jerry Gernander, assistant captains Andreas Moborg and Mike Torney, forward J.F. Caudron, defensemen Jim Gernander and Martin Wilde, and goalie Andrew Allen, who wore the green and gold for the final time on home ice. The Catamounts travel to Clarkson’s Cheel Arena for the first round of the ECAC playoffs tonight.