By Dan Greene
This past weekend was an historic one as the Dutchmen upset #1 Yale 3-2 on Friday night, for their first victory over a top-ranked team in program history. The following night, Union backed up the victory with a solid 4-2 win over a hard-hitting Brown team. The win over Yale is considered to be the greatest regular season win in the history of the program, and one of the defining moments of Coach Nate Leaman’s career.
Adam Presizniuk ‘11 highlighted the Union offense with three goals on the weekend, including the game-winner against the Yale Bulldogs and two important goals against the Brown Bears. After a few weeks of recuperating from his thumb injury, Presizniuk has finally hit his stride and is once again the most dynamic, and important, forward on the team.
While all three of Presizniuk’s tallies were even strength goals, it was the Union power-play that paced the Union offense during the weekend. The Dutchmen converted on 50% of their power-play opportunities as they scored three goals on six chances. Freshman Daniel Carr, sophomore Wayne Simpson, and senior John Simpson each chipped in with extra-man tallies on the weekend.
Union will go as far as their power-play unit takes them as they sport the nation’s top-ranked unit, which clicks at a 30.58% rate (37-of-121). The second-ranked unit, Yale, has converted on 25.21% of their man advantages. The Dutchmen will have to produce on the power-play at the same rate for the remainder of the season in order to solidify a national tournament berth.
Friday night’s game in front of an energetic sellout crowd was one of the best atmospheres Messa Rink has ever seen. The crowd, which included the Union College pep band and the Dutchman mascot, was loud and supportive even before the drop of the puck. They were not disappointed as the Dutchmen limited the nation’s top offense to just a pair of power-play goals on their way to a 3-2 victory.
Union’s power-play produced early in the game as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead on two man-up goals. Carr scored on Union’s first power-play opportunity on a rip from the left circle that beat Yale goaltender Ryan Rondeau short side. Carr’s 10th power-play goal of the season is not only the second most in the nation, but is the most by a Union player in program history. In the second period Wayne Simpson doubled the lead on a quick shot off of a faceoff from the left circle.
Yale cut the lead in half with a power-play goal of their own, but Presizniuk struck back 40 seconds later with the eventual game-winning goal off of a booming one-timer from the left point. Junior Kelly Zajac showed great poise on the play as he controlled the puck behind the Yale net and found Presizniuk standing by himself in the circle.
The Bulldogs dominated the final period as they had the Dutchmen on their heels for the majority of the 20 minutes. They broke through on captain Jimmy Martin’s power-play goal, and frantically tried to tie the game for the remainder of the period. But luckily for the Dutchmen, goaltender Keith Kinkaid saved his best period of night for last. He made many outstanding saves in the period where he accumulated 12 of his 28 saves on the night. Even though Yale pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and called a timeout in the waning seconds, Kinkaid and the Union defense were up to the task. Once the final buzzer went off Messa Rink exploded with emotion.
“It feels great to have revenge,” said Kinkaid after the victory. “They embarrassed us at Ingalls. It feels good to get the win here with our fans. They support us very well. They made it a great game.”
In the following game, Union opened up the scoring once again with a power-play goal in the first period. The goal was scored by John Simpson, who fired a shot off of a pass from his younger brother Wayne.
Brown tied the game just 18 seconds into the second period. But once again, Presizniuk came to the rescue as he responded 4:10 later with a goal. Presizniuk caused a turnover in the neutral zone and skated the puck into the Brown zone on an odd man rush where he proceeded to snipe the puck past Brown goaltender Marco DeFilippo.
Senior Justin Pallos scored the eventual game-winner about six minutes later, which was followed by Presizniuk’s second goal of the night 1:04 after that.
Brown tacked on a goal in the middle of the third period, but were unable to put any more pucks past Kinkaid, who put in another solid performance with 26 saves.
“We’re just trying to take it weekend by weekend, and game by game,” senior captain Brock Matheson said after the Brown game. “We have eight games left. We’re just trying to focus on our next opponent Friday night. In the big picture, I think we put ourselves in a pretty good spot with the weekend we just had. But at the end of the day, we just have to take it game by game and shift by shift, and doing what we can each weekend and getting two wins.”
With the weekend sweep the Dutchmen now trail league-leading Yale by just one point. Also, they have moved up to #11 in the USCHO national rankings, and are now tied for 12th with Merrimack in the very important PairWise Rankings (PWR). If the Dutchmen keep capitalizing on power-play chances they will keep climbing the PWR and in doing so will solidify their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
This weekend Union travels to third-place #19 Princeton and seventh-place Quinnipiac for more important ECAC action.