By Andrew Stinchfield
The Union Men’s Hockey team (15-10-5 overall, 8-6-4 ECAC Hockey) bounced back from a disappointing North Country visit by beating Yale and Brown at home. The Dutchmen tied both Brown (3-3) and Yale (2-2), the last time they met both teams on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, respectively.
Union took on Yale Friday night in front of 2,085 fans at Messa Rink. The Bulldogs took advantage of an early power play opportunity after freshman defenseman Sebastien Gingras was called for holding. Yale’s Tommy Fallen picked up the puck at the circle after a failed clearing attempt, and fired it past goalie Troy Grosenick ‘14 to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 first period lead.
The Dutchmen responded in the second period by scoring two lucky goals. With Yale on a power play, sophomore forward Max Novak blocked a shot and skated along the boards into the Bulldog’s zone. Novak fired a soft backhanded shot from a tough angle that beat Yale goaltender Nick Maricic to tie the game at 1-1. It was Union’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
The Dutchmen struck again following a good cycle in Yale’s zone at the end of the period.
Junior forward Matt Hatch took a pass from line-mate Kevin Sullivan ‘14 and skated the puck below the Yale net. Hatch shot the puck from below the goal line and banked it off the back of Maricic to put Union up 2-1. Shortly thereafter, Yale’s Connor Wilson replaced Maricic in net for the remainder of the game.
Union extended their lead to two, following a power play opportunity early in the third period. With two Yale players in the penalty box, the Dutchmen established control in Yale’s zone. After receiving a pass from junior defenseman Mat Bodie, senior forward Kyle Bodie fired a low shot from the slot that Wilson kicked right to the stick of senior forward Wayne Simpson. Simpson took the rebound and found the open net to score his team-leading 13th goal and giving Union a 3-1 lead. With the assist on that play, Mat Bodie passed Lane Caffaro ‘09 for the school points record by a defenseman in the D-I era with 80 career points (18 goals, 62 assists).
Later in the period, junior forward Josh Jooris picked up his second assist of the night after finding junior line-mate Daniel Carr all alone in the slot. Carr beat Wilson low on a one-timer at 9:00 to give the Dutchmen a 4-1 advantage.
Yale cut Union’s lead to two after Andrew Miller scored a power play goal at 11:09; however, Grosenick stood strong in the remaining minutes of the game to give Union the 4-2 victory. Grosenick made 37 stops in the contest.
Union took on Brown the following night where they kept their momentum rolling. The Dutchmen dominated the game for the most part, outshooting the Bears 48-24 in the contest. But Brown goal-tender Anthony Borelli kept the Bears in the game and Union off the scoreboard in the first period.
Union broke the tie midway through the second period after a strong forecheck in Brown’s zone. Novak fed the puck down low to Sullivan and cut towards the net. Sullivan fed the puck back to Novak who beat Borelli high over the shoulder to give Union 1-0 lead. The goal was Novak’s sixth of the season and extended his point streak to three games.
The two teams continued to battle for the remainder of the game with neither able to capitalize on their chances. Grosenick played his strongest at the end of the second period and made a number of impressive stops to give the team a 1-0 lead going into the third.
The Dutchmen sealed the deal in the final minutes of the game when Kyle Bodie scored an empty net goal at the 19 second mark. Grosenick made 23 saves for his first shutout of the year.
Union’s success this season seems to be tied to the play of Simpson, who leads the team in scoring with 29 points (13 goals and 16 assists). When Simpson registers a point, the team has a record of 14-2-3. When he is not on the score sheet, their record is 1-8-2.
The Dutchmen climbed the ECAC standings with both wins where they are currently tied for third with St. Lawrence with 20 points. RPI barely holds second place with 21 points and Quinnipiac stands far above the competition in first with 32 points. Yale and Dartmouth are right in the mix with 19 points.
With four games remaining in the season, Union controls its own destiny. If they win their remaining four games they could secure a first round bye in the ECAC tournament.
The team will be on their final road trip of the season this weekend, where they play Colgate Friday and Cornell Saturday.