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by Ken Schott

Parting Schotts

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Ken Schott blogs about college hockey & more

Union-Dartmouth postgame report (with 3 videos)

A look back at 10th-ranked Union’s 3-2 ECAC Hockey victory over Dartmouth on Wednesday at Messa Rink.

Third-period rally
It was an ugly 40 minutes for the Dutchmen. They were being outplayed by a Big Green team they blasted, 7-2, Nov. 1 in Hanover, N.H.

Union’s passing was bad. The two power plays it had in the first two periods looked awful. Dartmouth had better scoring chances short-handed.

The Big Green bottled up the neutral zone. They were winning puck battles. They had a 2-1 lead after two periods.

“I thought they did an excellent job of winning one-on-one battles for the first two periods,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. I thought they just gave it to us. That’s a credit to [Dartmouth coach] Bob Gaudet and his team.”

In the locker room after the second period, Dutchmen captain Mat Bodie spoke to his teammates about what they needed to do better in the third period in order to win the game.

“I think just sticking with it and creating our own energy [was key],” Bodie said. “It was kind of a quiet night throughout. On the bench, on the ice, guys weren’t really talking. In between the second and third, we wanted to make that adjustment. I thought just supporting each other through taking, that was a big difference.”

The Dutchmen were much better in the third. Their best passing play of the night led to the tying goal midway through the period.

Sophomore right winger Nick Cruice, who turned 21 on Wednesday, tied it, 2-2, with 10:21 left in the third on great tic-tac-toe backhanded passing. Daniel Ciampini sent the puck to Max Novak, who got it to Cruice in the right circle. Cruice skated to the net and backhanded the puck between goalie Charles Grant pads.

“It definitely was one of the best birthday presents I got,” Cruice said. “It happened off of the forecheck. ‘Champ’ and ‘Novs’ did a great job of moving the puck. We just kept it simple. Luckily, we got a bounce.”

A fortuitous bounce led to freshman right winger Michael Pontarelli’s game-winning power-play goal with 3:46 left.

Michael Vecchione won a faceoff in the Dartmouth left circle. He drew the puck to Ciampini, who sent it to Jeff Taylor at the right point. Taylor’s shot hit someone in the slot, and it caromed to Pontarelli, who was to the left of the net. He fired it past for his team-leading fifth power-play goal and seventh overall.

“‘Vechs’ did a tremendous job of winning a faceoff, just like [against] Quinnipiac,” Pontarelli said. “He always finds a way to just win it back. Jeff did a good job of taking a shot. I don’t know who it hit in front, but it kind of found its way back door. I just took a whack at it.”

The Dutchmen extended their winning streak to eight games, one short of the team record in the Division I era set in 2010-11. They also took over sole possession of first place by two points over Quinnipiac. Union has a game in hand on the Bobcats.

“I just thought our guys really battled in that third period,” Bodie said. “We weren’t at our best in the first two, but good teams got to find ways to win ugly sometimes. I thought we did that tonight.”

Bennett praised Bodie’s leadership.

“Mat Bodie, between periods, was excellent,” Bennett said. “What I mean by that is led the charge for that third period. That’s what you need from your captain, and that’s what he did.

“I wasn’t in the locker room, but I’m, obviously, getting it second hand. Basically, [Bodie said], ‘It has to get better. We’re playing for first place.’ He took it upon himself and what you need from your leader is to call out people, but at the same time, point that finger right back at you, and that’s what he did.”

Meanwhile, all Gaudet could do is shake his head. The Big Green played a great game. They didn’t deserve to lose.

“A couple of tough breaks went against us,” Gaudet said. “Our team played really hard. They’re a good hockey team. It was just one of those games with the bounce of the puck.”

Sharp Stevens
Coming off his ECACH goalie of the week award Tuesday, Niskayuna native Colin Stevens had the best game of his career.

He made a career-best 37 saves. His previous high was 31 against Quinnipiac in a 2-2 tie Dec. 2, 2011.

“I thought he kept us in the game,” Bennett said. “I don’t fault Colin at all. I haven’t the whole season. I think [assistant coach] Jason Tapp has done a great job with him, and the other goalies, as well. [Stevens] kept us in it. He really battled, and that’s all we ask, for guys to battle. They’ll never have a problem with this coaching staff if they battle and show some grit.”

On to St. Cloud
There is no rest for the weary.

The Dutchmen will leave campus at 4:45 a.m. Thursday on a bus for Albany International Airport. They have a 6 a.m. flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Then they will bus to St. Cloud State and prepare for their two-game series against top-ranked St. Cloud State. Friday’s game is at 8:37 p.m. Saturday’s contest is 8:07 p.m.

Those two games are Union’s last for 2013. The Dutchmen will return to action Jan. 10 at Quinnipiac.

Slap Schotts
— The next time Union is home will be Jan. 24 against Harvard. That will be its only home game in January, although it will face RPI in the second Mayor’s Cup game the next night at the Times Union Center.

— Daniel Carr is inching closer to becoming the Dutchmen’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level. His second-period goal gave him 126 career points. He is six points away from surpassing Adam Presizniuk.

— Union is 8-1 in league play. It’s the Dutchmen’s best start on conference play since 2009-10, when they opened 7-0-3.

— The Dartmouth goals, by Tyler Sikura and Ryan Bullock, were each their first of the year.

— Despite the assists on Pontarelli’s game-winner, it was a rough night for Taylor. The Clifton Park native had three penalties in the game.

— There were two video reviews, one for each team. Dartmouth’s Connor Dempsey was denied a goal early in the first period when video determine if the puck had crossed the goal line. The puck was under Stevens’ pads, and he swung his pad around to a point where it crossed the goal line. However, the puck was nowhere to be found on the video.

Early in the third period, a Novak shot hit the crossbar and then landed outside of the net. The goal horn sounded, and play was stopped. Replay showed the puck never went in.

— Ex-Union goalie Troy Grosenick was at the game.

Postgame videos

I have three postgame videos.

To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.

To see the Bodie, Cruice and Pontarelli press conference, click here.

To see Gaudet’s press conference, click here.

Three stars
My three stars of the game:
1) Colin Stevens, Union goalie — Made a career-high 37 saves.
2) Michael Pontarelli, Union right winger — Scored game-winning goal.
3) Daniel Ciampini, Union left winger — Had two assists, including one on Pontarelli’s goal.

For the final time in 2013, That is all from Messa Rink.

Good Night! Good Hockey! Merry Christmas!

Follow @slapschotts on Twitter. Follow @dgazettesports on Twitter.

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