Union-Harvard postgame report (with 5 videos)
I wasn’t in Hamden, Conn., for the Union-Quinnipiac game earlier this month. But listening to the game as Union prepared to start the third period with a major power play for nearly the first five minutes.
The Dutchmen had a 2-0 lead against the unbeaten and ECAC Hockey-leading Bobcats. Getting at least one goal would have given the Dutchmen plenty of momentum.
Instead, the Dutchmen wasted their chance. They only had two scoring opportunities on the major, and that gave the Bobcats life. They scored the next three goals to take a 3-2 victory.
Another critical two-man advantage came up in the third period Tuesday night against Harvard. It was a full two-minute, two-man chance for the Dutchmen, who were leading, 1-0. They needed to convert.
And they did.
Wayne Simpson scored on the 5-on-3 to make it 2-0. That goal proved to be the game-winner in the 19th-ranked Dutchmen’s 4-1 ECACH victory over the Crimson at Messa Rink.
The Dutchmen got the 5-on-3 with 12:24 left in the third when Luke Greiner was called for high-sticking, and Marshall Everson was penalized for hooking. The Quinnipiac game was certainly in the back of everyone’s mind.
“We watched tape on that,” Simpson said. “Those are big turning points in the game. They could be momentum shifts for either team.”
The Dutchmen, who have the nation’s top power play at 25.4 percent (29-for-114), showed patience, working the puck around the perimeter until they got the opening they needed. Mat Bodie, who was in the high slot, saw an open Simpson at the goal line to the right of goalie Raphael Girard. Simpson took Bodie’s pass, whirled to his left and fired a shot over Girard’s glove 36 seconds into power play.
“Not many players can make the play that ‘Matty Bods’ did to get it to me,” Simpson said. “He drew two of the guys out, so it was pretty much me. I was looking for the pass initially, but I found a spot to put it in. Luckily, it just snuck in the corner there.”
The fact that Union didn’t try to do anything too fancy pleased coach Rick Bennett.
“The difference between tonight and Quinnipiac was the fact that we stuck with the process,” Bennett said. “We weren’t overzealous. We stayed with it, and that’s what you have to do. When you play a team like Harvard, they’ve very good defensively and it’s a very good team, so you’ve just got to keep battling when it’s 0-0, or whether you’re on a five-on-three and it doesn’t come the first three seconds. You’ve got to stay with it.
“They didn’t pass through sticks, and they just kept it simple.”
It was the second of two power-play goals for Union. Bennett was just as happy with the first one scored by Max Novak late in the second period.
With center Josh Jooris out because of an upper-body injury (more on that down below), Max Novak got playing time on the power play. He was in the slot when Bodie slid the puck to him. Novak calmly turned and fired a shot between Girard’s pads with 2:23 left in the second.
“The unit that was thrown together because Josh Jooris was out did a great job,” Bennett said. “I thought they came out with a little sense of urgency. Max Novak, Mat Bodie and [Sebastian] Gingras did a great job. Matt Wilkins screened the goalie, and that’s something we’ve been preaching. [Novak] did his job, and [the puck] was in the back of the net. That really got us going.”
Another timely goal came from freshman forward Matt Wilkins. Less than three minutes after Harvard closed the gap to a goal when Jimmy Vesey scored at 10:54, Wilkins restored Union’s two-goal cushion.
Wilkins, who was the top scorer in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season with the Brooks Bandits but has been struggling to produce at Union, restored the Dutchmen’s two-goal cushion with 6:25 left. He was at the top of the slot when he one-timed a pass by Bodie from the left point and beat Girard past his right pad.
Not only was it a big goal for Union, it was an important one for Wilkins. It was his second goal of the season, and his first at Messa.
“Like my first goal, [it’s] a weight off the shoulders,” Wilkins said. “It’s not like I’ve been lacking opportunities. It just seems like it’s not going in right now. Hopefully, this one will get me rolling.”
It not only got the Dutchmen rolling, it took the life out of a Harvard team that is 1-9-1 in its last 11 games.
“When they got their first goal there, we instantly said on the bench, ‘Just keep going at it. Let’s get another one here,” Bodie said. “Matty made a great shot on that play. It was huge. It was a big goal for us. That’s the one where we felt like we’ve got this one under control.”
Need to count again
Obviously, the Dutchmen are still having trouble with having the right number of players on the ice.
For the third straight game, the Dutchmen were caught with too many men on the ice. It happened at 8:11 of the first period.
“That was a tough one today,” Bodie said. “I thought the two over the weekend were our fault completely. This one, there was a little bit of confusion as to who was actually touching the puck between Greg [Coburn] and Dan Carr, who was hopping on. I don’t think that one was as big of a deal, but, yeah, that’s some that we’re definitely going to clean up.”
And there will be repercussions in the next practice.
“It’s going to be a tough skate Thursday, and for the coaching staff, as well,” Bennett said. “That’s a team penalty. The coaching staff is going to be held accountable just as much as the players.”
Jooris didn’t play because of an upper-body injury. He was hit in the facemask early in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Colgate. Jooris missed a couple of shifts, but returned.
It’s doubtful that Jooris will play in the Mayor’s Cup game against RPI at the Times Union Center on Saturday.
Bennett would not say if Jooris suffered a concussion.
“I don’t think it looks great right now,” Bennett said. “We’ll see.”
I have five postgame videos.
To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.
To see Simpson’s press conference, click here.
To see Bodie’s press conference, click here.
To view Wilkins’ press conference, click here.
To catch the thoughts of Harvard coach Ted Donato, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Mat Bodie, Union defenseman — Had three assists, all primary.
2) Wayne Simpson, Union right winger — Scores big power-play goal, and adds an assist.
3) Matt Wilkins, Union left winger — Scored Dutchmen’s third goal to take life out of Crimson.
That’s all from Messa Rink. I’ll be on the radio Thursday with my “Slap Schotts” college hockey segment on FOX Sports 980 (WOFX). Times Union general manager Bob Belber will be the guest to talk about the Mayor’s Cup. And I will see you Saturday at the TU Center.
Good Night! Good Hockey!