Hockey Cats Sweep Clarkson 2-0 to Advance in ECAC Playoffs

Vermont’s Phil Youngclaus scored his first career goal and Shawn Conschafter continued his outstanding play against Clarkson as the Catamount men’s ice hockey hung on for a wild 3-2 win over Clarkson in the opening round of the ECAC Division I playoffs Friday.

Youngclaus’ goal came in a dominating middle frame for Vermont (12-18-3 overall), which bottled up the Golden Knights in their own zone for much of the period. Jeff Corey scored a power-play goal early in the third to give Vermont a 2-0 lead before Clarkson finally solved Conschafter with a goal from Kevin O’Flaherty with 1:47 left.

The Catamounts then got the game-winner in the most unlikely of ways, into an empty net shorthanded from 180 feet on the fly off the stick of freshman Jaime Sifers with 58 seconds left. That goal gave Vermont a 3-1 lead, which quickly shrunk to 3-2 on Randy Jones’ 6-on-4 goal with 30 seconds left.

“Clarkson came on in the end, but I thought Shawn played very well,” Vermont coach Mike Gilligan said. “We’re fortunate to come out of here with a win. They are a strong team.”

The win, Vermont’s sixth all-time at Cheel – the most of any ECAC team – was the third playoff-game win for the Catamounts in the last three seasons. Vermont is the only team to ever beat Clarkson in a playoff game and a playoff series.

As was the case two years ago, Conschafter played a big part in the win, recording 27 stops. The Catamount special teams were also brilliant, scoring one power-play and one shorthanded goal while and keeping the Golden Knights to just one late goal on eight extra-man chances.

Then, on Saturday, in the second game of the series, Vermont’s Brady Leisenring scored two third-period goals, highlighting a five-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes, and Shawn Conschafter was brilliant as usual as the Catamounts defeated Clarkson, 6-1.

Vermont, the tournament’s 10th seed, will now play at #2 Harvard in the ECAC quarterfinals starting next weekend in Boston. Game one will be Friday night at 7:00pm at the Bright Arena. The winner of that series will move on to Albany, N.Y. for the 2003 ECAC Championships.

The series win is the second in Potsdam in three years for Vermont, which defeated the Golden Knights two years ago, two games to one. The Catamounts have won six of the last nine games against Clarkson, and remain the only ECAC team to defeat the Knights in a playoff series at Cheel Arena.

With the two teams tied at 1-1 entering the third period, Vermont scored three goals in a span of 5:37, with Leisenring starting the run. The sophomore played brilliantly, and now has 12 goals this season, second on the team.

Tim Plant then took a pass from John Longo and beat Traylen with a snapshot from the left circle at 9:54 to give Vermont a 4-1 lead, and the Cats were rolling.

“Toward the end of the second, we started to get things going and we carried that intensity on into the third and got a couple of bounces,” Leisenring said.

Vermont added a pair of goals late, the first coming at 17:40 into an empty net off the stick of freshman defenseman Phil Youngclaus, who scored his second in as many games. The final blow came at 19:26 on Bryson Busniuk’s eighth goal of the season, with Plant getting the assist.

Conschafter, meanwhile, kept the Golden knights to one goal on 30 shots.

“I thought Shawn played very well, especially early,” Vermont coach Mike Gilligan said. “We got it going there in the third period. I thought Clarkson played a real solid first half of the game. It was a real competitive game, and then we had a few bounces go in for us.”

Conschafter was glowing in the aftermath of Vermont’s playoff win.

“Right now this is better than three years ago,” he said. “Tonight was a total team effort.”