Union Men’s Ice Hockey opened its 25th Division I season last weekend with a 1-1 tie against Sacred Heart and a huge 5-3 victory over No. 3-ranked Boston University.
The Dutchmen donned throwback uniforms in their season opener against Sacred Heart on Oct. 9 to commemorate the team’s 25th year in NCAA Division I.
In the game, both squads displayed their penalty-killing units early in the first period.
Union scored its first goal of the season when rookie Cole Maier ’19 netted a two-on-one opportunity setup from Mike Vecchione ’17. It was Maier’s first collegiate goal in his debut game for the Dutchmen.
The game proceeded to turn into a defensive struggle, as the Dutchmen held on to their slim one-goal margin through the end of the second period.
Union’s defense was especially stellar, holding Sacred Heart to just three shots on net in the second period and 10 overall through the first two periods of play.
Union continued its dominant defensive play deep into the third period, but could not capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities and failed to add a much-needed insurance goal.
This came back to bite the Dutchmen as Sacred Heart evened the game at 1-1, just eight seconds after pulling their goalie, Brett Magnus, late in the third period.
It was Sacred Heart captain, Jacob Brightbill, who potted the equalizer for the Pioneers and sent the game to overtime.
Again, the Dutchmen had multiple scoring opportunities in the overtime period, but weren’t able to put one past Sacred Heart’s goaltender, Magnus.
Spencer Foo ’18 rang the iron twice and Mike Pontarelli ’17 whiffed on a rebound opportunity late.
Dutchmen goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos ’17 had a strong game, stopping 17 of 18 shots on goal and helping Union earn the 1-1 tie in their opener.
The following night, Union concluded its opening weekend by taking on last year’s national runner-up, the Boston University Terriers.
Despite the loss of freshman phenom Jack Eichel to the NHL, the Terriers entered the year with plenty of firepower — enough to earn the No. 3-ranking in the preseason USCHO poll.
This matchup featured more offense than the last one, with three goals scored in the first period alone.
Ryan Scarfo ’18 gave Union the 1-0 lead early, but BU battled back and took a lead of its own on a pair of goals from Mike Moran and Doyle Somerby. Union’s Pontarelli answered for the Dutchmen in the second period when he tied the game at 2-2.
In the third period, 6 foot 6 inches tall Eli Lichtenwald ’17 used his big body to park himself in front of the net and jam home the rebound off of a Brendan Taylor ’19 shot, reclaiming the lead for the Dutchmen. The assist marked Taylor’s first collegiate point.
Union held the 3-2 lead into the final five minutes of the period, but BU freshman Charlie McAvoy netted the equalizer, tying the game up once again.
It was Matt Wilkins ’16 who would be the hero for Union. Just one night after getting ejected midway through the Sacred Heart game, Wilkins decided the game when he jammed home an opportunity in front of the net to give Union the 4-3 lead. Foo then iced the game with an empty-netter in the final minute of play to make it 5-3.
The victory was the 100th of Rick Bennett’s Union Hockey head coach career. He earned his 100 wins faster than any previous ice hockey coach in Union’s history.
Last season, the team ended its lackluster run with a 3-1 loss to Quinnipiac in the ECAC playoffs. It’s been a long seven months for Union fans since then, but the 2015-2016 season has started with a bang.
The team resumes action next weekend when it hosts a two-game series against the Maine Black Bears at Messa Rink.