Union-Quinnipiac postgame report (with 5 videos)
A look back at 11th-ranked Union’s 6-4 victory over fifth-ranked Quinnipiac on “Showdown Saturday” which moved the Dutchmen into a first-place tie in ECAC Hockey with the Bobcats.
Freshmen play like upperclassmen
Union’s freshmen forwards didn’t play like first-year college players.
Centers Eli Lichtenwald and Mike Vecchione and right winger Michael Pontarelli played a huge role in lifting the Dutchmen to the win.
Lichtenwald and Pontarelli each had two goals and an assist. Vecchione had a goal and two assists.
All of their points were crucial.
Lichtenwald’s first goal came on a power play that gave Union a 3-2 lead at 5:48 of the second period. It made for a tough mistake on the part of Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who accidentally shot the puck into his own net during the delayed call against Devon Toews.
Vecchione gave Union a 1-0 lead 4:42 into the game, then set up Pontarelli for his first goal of the contest late in the first.
But it was a big faceoff win by Vecchione that set up Pontarelli’s second goal that tied the score, 4-4, 6:01 into the third period.
Vecchione won a faceoff in Quinnipiac’s left circle. Pontarelli got it and skated to the high slot, where he fired a wrist shot that eluded a screened Garteig.
“I was struggling on draws tonight,” Vecchione said. “I just found a way to get it back to him. He did a great job of picking the seam and finding the top shelf.”
Pontarelli, who has six goals on the season, came into the game having not scored a goal in his last nine contests.
“It’s nice to put a couple in tonight,” Pontarelli said. “‘Vechs’ did a great job of winning the faceoff. It found its way to my stick. The coaching staff has been telling me a lot to shoot more. I just tried to throw it on the net. I guess good things happen when you shoot.”
The game-winner came on a nice passing between Lichtenwald and Wilkins.
Wilkins sent a pass to Lichtenwald in the left circle. It looked liked the puck would elude Lichtenwald. But thanks to his big reach, he got it.
Lichtenwald sent it back to Wilkins, who went to the net. The pass was a couple of feet off the ice, but Wilkins batted it home to give Union a 5-4 lead with 5:29 to go.
“It started with ‘Carsie’ [left winger Daniel Carr] on the blue line to get the puck in,” Wilkins said. “It sort of went up, and I just grabbed it. It’s lucky that Eli’s [6-6] because I passed it a little far in front of him. He made a nice back-door pass to me, and I was lucky enough to get a stick on it.”
Lichtenwald sealed the win on an empty-net goal with 2.5 seconds left.
“In a big game like that, [and] I’m not saying that they’re all not big, but I think everyone knew it was a battle there trying to tie them and get first place,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “I thought it was a good test, and it happened to be the freshmen tonight.”
Crazy own goal
It was unfortunate what happened to Gostisbehere. It’s a play you just dread.
Goalie Colin Stevens was on the bench for an extra attacker when Gostisbehere took his eyes off the puck as he tried to make a pass in the Union zone. It slid off of his stick and headed toward the vacated Union net. Gostisbehere tried in vain to get it, but failed. Michael Peca was credited with the goal as he was the last Quinnipiac player to touch the puck.
Gostisbehere made up for his mistake later in the period, stopping a Peca drive from the right circle when Stevens was out of position.
“We all make mistakes,” Bennett said. “He responded, and he saved a goal. As I look at it, it’s even. And for our guys to come back and get a power-play goal after that just shows the push back. That’s a sign of maturity.”
The last time Union scored an own goal like that was Feb. 16, 2007, against Clarkson at Cheel Arena. Michael Beynon did it 2:47 into the game with Justin Mrazek pulled for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty against Jeremiah Crowe. Union lost the game, 6-2.
Needless to say, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold wasn’t happy with his team’s play.
“I thought we stunk tonight,” Pecknold said. “I thought we were absolutely atrocious. We’re running around, our ‘D’ didn’t do what it was supposed to do, our forwards didn’t do what they’re supposed to do. We blew two backchecks, blew a faceoff coverage.
“It was chaos. That’s not how we’re supposed to play. Real disappointing.”
— Carr picked up three assists in the game. He now has 125 career points. He is seven away from surpassing Adam Presizniuk as the Dutchmen’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.
— Union is 7-1 in league play. It’s the Dutchmen’s best start on conference play since 2009-10, when they opened 7-0-3.
— Quinnipiac rookie sensation Sam Anas was a non factor. He only had one shot on goal
— Pontarelli led Union with six shots on goal.
I have five postgame videos.
To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.
To see Wilkins’ press conference, click here.
To see Pontarelli’s press conference, click here.
To see Lichtenwald’s and Vecchione’s press conference, click here.
To see Pecknold’s press conference, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Eli Lichtenwald, Union center — Had two goals, set up Matt Wilkins’ game-winner.
2) Michael Pontarelli, Union right winger — Two goals, one assist.
3) Mike Vecchione, Union center — One goal, two assists.
That is all from Messa Rink. I'll have my College Hockey Slap Schotts blog Monday, and be back at Messa for Wednesday's game against Dartmouth.
Good Night! Good Hockey!