By Evan Slavit
Entering the weekend ranked number 12 in the country by US College Hockey Online (USCHO), the Dutchmen ran into two hot goalies this weekend, posting 40+ shots in both games and walking away with only three goals to show for it. Yet, Coach Nate Leaman’s crew managed to cap an eventful weekend with two points.
Friday night’s game pitted Union against a surging Dartmouth squad that had gone 9-3-1 since their last meeting with the Dutchmen, a 0-0 tie. Dartmouth goaltender James Mello came into the contest with a .936 save percentage, which was good for second in the nation. Mello did not disappoint the Dartmouth contingent at Messa Rink, making 39 saves on 40 shots, good for a .975 save percentage.
Dartmouth’s netminder was only overshadowed by Dartmouth’s impressive penalty kill. The Big Green killed off four of the Dutchmen’s power plays, including a 5-on-3 opportunity. Unfortunately, Union contributed to the PK with offensive zone penalties that effectively neutralize their power plays, letting Mello’s squad off the hook.
“I thought we got two or three chances but we missed the net on our power play,” said Leaman. “I thought we got too cute. I didn’t think tonight, overall, we stuck to our game plan at all. I thought we were really undisciplined in a lot of areas of our game tonight.”
Overall, Union’s special team’s production suffered uncharacteristically over the weekend, an anomaly that caught Dutchmen fans by surprise. Coming into the weekend, Union boasted the top power play unit in the nation and sported the fifth best penalty kill unit after going 19 for 19 on the PK going into Friday’s game.
“We just didn’t get it done on the special teams. That is penalty killing and power play included,” added senior defenseman and captain Brock Matheson. “We’ve stressed that as a team and it is so big in this league. You got to win the special teams battle and we didn’t win tonight and subsequently we lost the game.”
The game was 3-0 in favor of Dartmouth at the end of the first period, with the second power play goal by Dartmouth ending up as the game winner.
In the second period, sophomore Kyle Bodie was able to get Union on the board with a nice shot from the blue line, his sixth goal of the season, but that would be all the scoring the Dutchmen would do for the game.
Dartmouth scored an empty-net goal in the third period to end the game 4-1 in favor of the Big Green.
The following night seemed to follow the same storyline early on. The Dutchmen went up against a goalie—this time Harvard’s Ryan Carroll—that stood on his head in the first period. Late in the first period Union surrendered a power play goal to give the Crimson the 1-0 advantage.
Also like the night before, Union failed, uncharacteristically, to convert on five power play opportunities. Unlike the previous night, however, the Dutchmen refused to play the same record. Down 1-0 entering the second period, Union players took the ice with an intensity that was nothing short of Leaman-esque.
After furiously increasing pressure on the forecheck, the Dutchmen crashed Harvard’s net. Still, the Union forwards were met by a brick wall: Carroll, who finished as the hard luck loser as he turned aside 40 of 42 shots.
“[Carroll] was unbelievable, especially in the second period. He made some unbelievable saves, and if it wasn’t for him, the score probably would’ve been a lot different,” said Harvard’s Michael Biega, who netted Harvard’s only goal at 17:34 of the first.
Union finally cracked the scoreboard 6:48 into the third period. Keeping pressure up in the offensive zone the Dutchmen peppered Carroll with shots until sophomore Jeremy Welsh was finally able to get a backhand shot past Carroll. The goal improved the Bayfield, Ontario native’s team-leading point total to 29.
Later in the period, Union would take the lead on what wound up being freshman Mat Bodie’s game-winning goal before an announced crowd of 1,914 at the Messa Rink. Bodie swooped behind the net, finding an opening on the other side. He pounced on the open net and quickly slid the puck past Carroll.
“I was jumping up in the play and the puck just happened to be right there. I was curling around the net and it just landed right on my stick and saw the empty net and I just tried to fire it as soon as I could,” said Bodie.
With the 2-1 victory Saturday, Union sits alone in second place in the ECAC with 17 points. Also, the Dutchmen have fallen a bit in the rankings as they now stand at 13th in the USCHO poll, and 15th in the important PairWise Rankings (PWR).
The only team ahead of them in the ECAC standings, number one ranked Yale with 22 points, comes to Messa Rink this Friday followed by Brown (11 points) on Saturday.
This weekend is considered to be one of the most important home weekends for the Dutchmen this season. Both games start at 7 p.m.