By Evan Slavit
Union increased its winning streak to seven games, tying a school record, as they beat both Cornell and Colgate at Messa Rink this weekend.
The weekend sweep, combined with Yale’s loss to St Lawrence on Friday has vaulted the Dutchmen into first place in the ECAC with four games left to play, the latest Union has been in first place since the program became Division I during the 1991-1992 season.
Additionally, with its win over Colgate on Saturday, Union broke the school record for most wins in a season with 22 and clinched a first-round bye, guaranteeing the Dutchmen a home series in the second round of the ECAC playoffs.
The first game of the weekend pitted the Dutchmen against Cornell, a perennial contender for the ECAC crown and winners of three straight heading into the night. Union was ready for the challenge, however, and thoroughly dominated Cornell, outshooting the Big Red a record 36-9, ultimately winning by a decisive 4-0 margin.
Cornell’s nine shots on goal is the lowest the Dutchmen have allowed in their history.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that since I’ve been here and it is uncharacteristic of our team,” said Cornell goalie Mike Garman. “The credit goes to Union,” said the junior from Vail, Colorado. “When they are in our end a lot it is tough for us to get shots.”
Union head coach Nate Leaman was thoroughly impressed by his team’s effort.
“I thought we executed our game plan really well. About as well as we could. I think the reason we did it is because we have so much respect for them,” he said following Friday night’s game.
Perhaps most affected by Leaman’s gameplan were his freshman forwards; all four of Union’s goals were scored by the ECAC neophytes.
The scoring started out early for the Dutchmen with Daniel Carr tallying his 18th goal of the season—astoundingly, his 11th of the season with the man-advantage—a little over two minutes into the first period.
“I didn’t really have to do much,” said the powerplay specialist. “Josh [Jooris] and Welsh are just so strong down low, especially on the power play it makes it easy for me to just kind of float up high and usually they put it right on my tape,” said Carr.
A few minutes later Union was on the board again, this time with an even-strength goal scored by Matt Hatch.
The opportunity began after junior Kelly Zajac forced a turnover in Cornell’s zone. Receiving a pass from Zajac, senior Adam Presizniuk let it rip from in front of the net.
“It was a great team effort,” said Simpson. “Welshie’s [Jeremy Welsh] line had them down there for a minute and a half and we got a great change. They were just tired and [Stephane] Boileau had the puck, there were three guys on him, he just chipped it down low and I had the lane wide open and I just took it down to the net and luckily it went in.”
Union took the lead in the third period on Presizniuk’s second goal of the evening, a breakaway attempt, and never looked back.
Carr padded the lead with his second goal of the weekend, a beautiful one-timer fed off the stick of Jooris. Jooris later scored a goal of his own on the powerplay.
Colgate battled back, narrowing the lead to a two-goal 5-3 lead for Union, but the Dutchmen put it away with an empty-netter scored by sophomore Wayne Simpson.
“Our hard work has put us in a spot where we wanted to be,” senior captain Brock Matheson said after the game. “But that being said, our work is cut out for us for the next four games just to maintain that spot and keep improving.”
“I think for us it is just a matter of, we got to stick to our game plans for every game,” added Carr. “It is harder to get there than it is to keep it and for us it is just keep working. Get better every day and keep getting better and see where we end up at the end of the year.”
The win has propelled the Dutchmen to seventh place in the all-important PairWise, and USCHO rankings.
Next week the Dutchmen look to continue their historic hot streak when they travel to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
But for one week, at least, the Union men’s hockey team has reason to celebrate. Just don’t expect head coach Nate Leaman to depart from his successful gameplan.