RUTLAND, Vt. – Kurt Johnson tallied a goal and two assists to lead the Castleton men's hockey team past visiting Plymouth State, 3-1, Wednesday night in non-conference action at Spartan Arena.
Johnson had a hand in all three Spartan goals for a season-high three points on the night. Matt Bloomer and Caleb Fizer both found the back of the net, while Ryan Smith, Troy Taylor, and Jimmy Burns each picked up an assist. Ryan Mulder finished with 16 saves and held the 10th-ranked scoring offense to just one goal to improve to 4-2-0 on the season between the pipes.
Plymouth State (8-3-1), which is receiving votes in the latest d3hockey.com national poll, opened the scoring 24 seconds into the contest. Chris Zuccaro battled the puck in the corner and found Ryan Stevens all alone in front of the net, who went forehand to backhand to beat Mulder and give the visitors a short-lived 1-0 advantage.
Castleton (5-8-0) quickly responded as Bloomer rifled a low wrist shot that found its way through a scrum in front of the net and beat Panthers' goaltender Thierry Messervier through the five-hole just over four minutes later. Cycling the puck on the power play, Johnson and Smith traded positions on the right wing before finding Bloomer at the right point for the game-tying goal. The Spartans dominated the opening period, outshooting Plymouth State, 10-2.
A back-and-forth second period saw no scoring but was not short of action. Trevor Hanna came away with a clean breakaway opportunity after a long stretch pass went blue line to blue line and Hanna split the defense to head 1-on-1 with Messervier, but the Panthers netminder was all over it, taking away Hanna's angle and deflecting the shot wide. Mulder flashed his glove multiple times as well to keep the game knotted at 1-1 headed into the final frame.
With regulation time winding down under three minutes left, Johnson netted what proved to be the game-winning goal. Taylor beat a Panthers' defender to the puck behind the net and slipped a backhand pass to Johnson in front, who one-timed it past Messervier to give the Spartans their first lead of the game, 2-1, with 2:25 left in the game. Fizer added an empty-net goal with 11 seconds left to secure the 3-1 victory for the Spartans.
Castleton outshot Plymouth State, 32-17, and won the faceoff battle, 41-33. The Spartans finished 1-for-7 on the power play and held the Panthers to 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
The Spartans return to action at 7 p.m. on Friday as they travel to SUNY Canton to take on the Kangaroos in the final game of the 2017 slate.