BURLINGTON, Vt. — Taylor Willard's power play goal with 1:08 remaining in the third period gave the Catamounts the 3-2 lead and eventual victory over the defending national champions and third-ranked Golden Knights.
Vermont improves to 5-6-1 overall and remains 3-4-1 in Hockey East play while Clarkson falls to 10-2-1 and 3-1-0 in ECAC play. The victory is Vermont's first-ever win over a team ranked in the top-3 nationally, Previously, Vermont had beaten two fourth-ranked teams in the 2009-10 season, defeating Clarkson in October and knocking off New Hampshire in February.
"This is the team I knew we had all along," Head Coach Jim Plumer said. "I have been talking about us focusing on the details, learning to play smart, simple hockey, and to take advantage of the opportunities when they're given. We put it together for 60 minutes against an excellent hockey team in Clarkson. I hope we take that same mentality into every game for the rest of the season."
The Catamounts struck 8:20 into the first period. After gaining control in the Golden Knight zone, Ali O'Leary dished the puck to Alyssa Gorecki at the top of the circle, and with space, Gorecki fired a wrist shot through traffic and over Shea Tiley's left pad. Alyssa Holmes also picked up an assist on the play.
Vermont entered the first intermission leading 1-0. Sydney Scobee made 11 saves and the Catamount defense blocked four shots. UVM's killed both penalties in the frame.
Just over a minute into the second period, Clarkson's leading scorer Loren Gabel could not finish on the odd man rush. Scobee made a fantastic save with her right pad to keep the Golden Knights off the board. The Catamounts had multiple high quality scoring chances on their first power play of the period following a holding penalty on Emma Keenan, but were unable to beat Tiley and expand their lead.
Clarkson's Michaela Pejzlova scored two power play goals in less than four minutes to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 advantage with 7:52 remaining in the middle frame. The first goal came following quick puck movement by Clarkson, and the second came on a rebound during a 5-on-3 Clarkson advantage.
Gorecki netted her second of the game with 2:49 remaining in the period. Ève-Audrey Picard grabbed a Clarkson turnover and moved the puck to Taylor Willard in the Clarkson zone. Willard moved the puck to Gorecki, who carried the puck to the left hash mark, and roofed a goal over Tiley's blocker for the equalizer.
Sydney Scobee made 10 saves and Vermont blocked six more in the period, and UVM entered the intermission tied at 2-2.
The teams traded chances through the first half of the final frame, with Vermont unable to capitalize on a power play and Scobee making multiple saves from point blank range. The Catamount defense also remained stout, blocking five shots in the first 10 minutes.
With 8:33 remaining in the period, Sammy Kolowrat was penalized for holding, but Clarkson could not get a shot by Scobee, who stopped all four quality chances Clarkson had on the advantage.
Picard picked up a hooking penalty with 5:32 remaining to give Clarkson another power play opportunity. Clarkson gave the power play up 25 seconds later when Rhyen McGill was also called for hooking. Neither team could find the back of the net during the 4-on-4 play or the short UVM power play that followed.
Vermont controlled the next two minutes of play and kept the puck in the Clarkson offensive zone, which led to a Catamount power play with 1:15 remaining in regulation. Seven seconds later, Willard took a wrist shot from the point through traffic that found the back of the net, giving Vermont a 3-2 lead with 1:08 to play. Taylor Flaherty and Saana Valkama picked up the assists on the game winning goal.
Scobee corralled a rebound and held for a whistle with 18 seconds remaining. Clarkson called a timeout to try to even the game with the 6-on-5 advantage, but Picard blocked their only shot with eight seconds left, closing out the Vermont victory over third-ranked Clarkson.
In the victory, Scobee made 35 saves, Vermont blocked 19 total shots, and Alyssa Gorecki added her third and fourth goals of the season, bringing her team-leading points total to 12. Picard's assist made her the second Catamount of the season to reach double digit points.
Vermont and Clarkson conclude the home-and-home series tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, New York.