By Dan Greene
This past week the Union College club hockey team faced off against two local rivals, SUNY Albany and Skidmore.
Both games were barnburners, but the Club Dutch were able to pull out two one-goal victories at Messa Rink, 3-2 in overtime and 5-4, respectively.
“Beating Albany is very special,” Union coach Tim McGuiggan said. “Beating them really shows the direction our program is heading. Beating Skidmore was like icing on the cake.”
Senior captain Andrew Churchill led the way the entire weekend as he had his hand in every Union goal accumulating four goals and four assists over the two games.
“I can’t say enough about Andrew Churchill,” said McGuiggan. “He is not just our leading scorer, he is also our team leader on and off the ice. The team always looks to Church for a spark. He lightens things up in the locker room, but when it is time to get going he is the one that gives the team a kick start.”
On the other side of the puck, junior Kyle Anderson had a stellar weekend in-net making 54 saves and, most importantly, allowing only one third-period goal over the weekend.
The first game of week pitted Union against the SUNY Albany Great Danes, who came into the game ranked seventh in the Atlantic region out of about 75 teams. The Great Danes program is nationally known and has been a power in the Atlantic region over the years. Earlier this season the Club Dutch lost to Albany 5-4 in overtime, so they were looking for revenge.
The game was scoreless for the first 35 minutes before Albany broke through with a goal. Union, however, responded 1:28 later on a goal by Churchill.
In the third period, the Great Danes took the lead with 11:52 left in regulation, but Union responded once again to tie the game 4:22 later. This time it was sophomore Todd Wechter who beat the Albany goaltender off of a nice feed from senior Jake Grabowski.
In overtime, Union refused to fall to Albany again. Grabowski took the game into his own hands 1:10 into the extra frame when he dangled a Great Dane defender and sniped a shot past the Albany goaltender for the game-winning goal.
The following game against Skidmore was another revenge game for the Club Dutch. Over the past few years they have played many close games against the Halfbreds, but were unable to come out on top. This was the last chance the seniors had to beat their rival from Saratoga, which gave them some extra motivation as the class of 2011 accounted for all five Union goals.
Union opened the game with two quick goals early in the first period. The first came from senior Colin Gleason, who slid the puck past the Skidmore goaltender on a nifty breakaway move. Churchill doubled the lead just moments later, but the Halfbreds cut the lead in half with a goal of their own.
In the second period, the Club Dutch tallied two more goals, thanks to Churchill and Grabowski, but fell apart defensively late in the period as they left Anderson out to dry for three Skidmore goals.
For the second game in a row Union found themselves tied heading into the third period, and for the second time they emerged victorious.
“We didn’t have to say much to the team before the third period in either game,” said Churchill. “Everyone knew it was very important for us to get the win and that this would be the seniors’ last shot at beating some of our biggest rivals and brought their all to the third period.”
The key to the period was the tremendous goaltending of Anderson, who made some show-stopping and acrobatic saves to prevent goals.
Anderson’s performance allowed the Club Dutch to strike with the game-winning goal late in the game.
The game-winning goal began with a faceoff at the left circle in Union’s zone. Grabowski won the puck back, which was tipped by Anderson into the left corner. Senior Dan Greene picked up the puck and then proceeded to thread a long distance pass to Churchill, who went in on a breakaway and put the puck into the net.
Thanks to Anderson, Union held on to the victory in the final minutes of regulation.“I think goaltending was our biggest key this weekend,” said McGuiggan. “Kyle gave us a real boost.”
Union returns to action this weekend with a game on Saturday at 8 p.m. against Colgate at Messa Rink.