Union imposes its will
LAKE PLACID Wait, which was the team that played the early game on Friday, and which played late, and later still, because of two overtimes?
Perhaps it's a measure of how great a team this is that the Union Dutchmen could sleepwalk through one period of a conference championship game against the only ECAC team they hadn't beaten all year and still win going away.
The Dutchmen had the early slot in the semifinals, then Colgate needed two overtimes to beat Quinnipiac, so the Red Raiders should've been the ones running on empty on Saturday night. Right?
Wrong. Colgate carried the play in the first, outshooting Union, 16-5, then carrying that into the second, as well.
It wasn't easy to watch, if you were a Union fan, but at the same time, the goalie was alert and sharp.
Colgate coach Don Vaughn said that perhaps if the Red Raiders had popped a few in, things would have been different, but we'll never know.
Instead, Niskayuna's Colin Stevens shepherded his teammates to a better place.
He credited his defense for keeping most of the activity to the outside.
Having withstood Colgate's energy, the Dutchmen were more precise with their passes, more crisp with their angles, and the framework began to show itself.
That put them in a position to start imposing their will, and once they did that, game over.
Nobody mentioned this in the postgame, but it didn't seem to be a coincidence that the floodgates opened just five minutes after Matt Wilkins hit Kevin Lough hard, Joe Wilson harder, then Lough again to draw a charging penalty.
Stevens kept Union in the game by keeping everything out of the net, and Wilkins had a fed-up shift that resulted in a harmless penalty that seemed to represent what Matt Hatch called the turning point.
The subtle shift occurred midway through the second period, the Dutchmen winning one-on-one battles against Red Raiders, and suddenly it was 3-0 in a span of 4:23.
This team can absorb anything.
"Their structure is so sound," Colgate head coach Don Vaughn said. "They're a complete team. They stick to their game and don't get rattled.
"There's just so much depth to their game. They're hard to play against. Even the way they carry themselves. There's a quiet confidence."
"Colgate came out with a little jump that seemed to be a little bit of a high that carried over from the night before," Union head coach Rick Bennett said. "We had to weather the storm."
Once order was restored, the Dutchmen were on the way to their 13th straight game without a loss, and their third straight ECAC tournament championship, all under Bennett.
Now they're four wins away from a national championship.