BURLINGTON, Vt. - Jake Fallon scored on a breakaway with 1.7 seconds remaining in regulation to clinch the 2013-14 Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup as Vermont cruised to a 6-2 win over Canisius on Sunday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. UVM won both of its games over the weekend and captured the championship by virtue of total goals scored (9) in a tiebreaker over No. 10 UMass Lowell.
Michael Paliotta, who posted a goal and two assists in the win and finished the weekend with four points, was named the tournament MVP. The Catamounts have now won seven of their last eight games overall as they improve to 10-6-1 (4-5-0 HEA) on the season. Canisius dropped both of its contests in the event as the Golden Griffins fall to 5-10-1 (4-4-1 AHA).
"It was an interesting game. There were times when it felt like the momentum was clearly in our favor and we were controlling things and they would push back and put us on our heels," said head coach Kevin Sneddon. "I was very pleased with our effort. A lot of guys had big nights tonight for us and hopefully this will springboard us going forward into next weekend."
The Catamounts opened the scoring just 54 seconds into the contest. Paliotta fired a shot on target from the right point and Keegan Asmundson made a kick save with his right pad. The rebound squirted out to Chris McCarthy at the edge of the left faceoff circle and the senior buried the puck high glove side for a 1-0 lead.
Vermont doubled the lead just after a 5-on-3 had expired at the 7:13 mark. Nick Bruneteau cut off a clearance in the right side of the Canisius zone and delayed before dishing a pass into the slot for Pete Massar. The senior unleashed a one-time slap shot that beat Asmundson five-hole for his second goal of the weekend.
Just two minutes later, Mario Puskarich pushed the lead to three as Paliotta rifled a pass from the right point to the freshman, who was wide open at the left doorstep. Puskarich controlled the puck and fired a wrist shot inside the right post as UVM took a 3-0 advantage before the 10:00 mark of the first.
Canisius got on the board at 13:46 as Carl Larsson took a feed from the goal line and played the puck back to the point for Duncan McKeller. The defenseman's slap shot deflected off Chris Muscoby at the right post and into the net past Mike Santaguida's pad.
Paliotta pushed the Catamounts' lead to 4-1 with eight minutes left in the second period as Vermont earned its third power play of the night. Fallon and Puskarich helped win the faceoff back to the left point for the junior and he uncorked a drive from the blue line. The puck found its way through traffic inside the left post as Paliotta collected his third point.
In the third period, Brendan Bradley found the upper left corner blocker side at 7:06 with a wrister from the left circle and Asmundson was replaced by Adam Harris. Canisius countered with 2:01 left in the game as Shane Conacher finished off a centering pass through Santaguida's five-hole, forcing Vermont to score an additional goal to earn the tiebreaker over UMass Lowell.
Sneddon called his timeout in the final minute as Vermont searched for the deciding tally during a 4-on-4 situation. Bruneteau stretched a pass down the middle of the ice through the neutral zone for Fallon, who skated in alone on Harris. The junior faked a backhander, deked to his left, and roofed a shot for the clinching goal with less than two seconds on the clock.
The Catamounts registered a season-high 61 shots on goal and out-shot the Golden Griffins by 33. UVM had at least 18 shots in each period as the team was led by Tom Forgione with eight shots on target. Santaguida finished the night with 26 saves as the rookie collected his sixth victory of the season.
Vermont closes out its nine-game homestand next weekend with a pair of non-league games against ECAC schools at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The Catamounts host Dartmouth on Friday (Jan. 3), followed by a matchup with defending national champion Yale on Saturday (Jan. 4). Both games are scheduled to face off at 7:05 p.m. and will be streamed live for free in high definition via CatamounTV.com. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on WVMT 620-AM and SportsJuice.com.
Friday against Dartmouth is Chamber of Commerce Night at Gutterson. On Saturday against Yale, fans can gain free admission into the women's hockey game against Syracuse (2 p.m.) with a men's ticket. Vermont will also be celebrating Rally's 10th Birthday Party from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Patrick Gym. Alliance Sports Marketing (Friday) and Champlain Orthodontics (Saturday) will have tables in the main lobby next weekend.
2013-14 ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Michael Paliotta (MVP) - Vermont
Pete Massar - Vermont
Jake Fallon - Vermont
Josh Holmstrom - UMass Lowell
Christian Folin - UMass Lowell
Zack Kamrass - UMass Lowell