Union-St. Lawrence postgame report (with 2 videos)
Watching Union dismantle St. Lawrence on Friday night, one must wonder, “Why can’t this team do that every game.”
It has been perplexing as to why the Dutchmen have been so inconsistent this season. Three weeks ago, they laid an egg in the North Country, losing to Clarkson and St. Lawrence and not looking good in either one of them. The following week, Union fired a combined 90 shots on goal and beat Yale and Brown. The Dutchmen were dominate.
But that didn’t carry over last week at Colgate and Cornell. A 4-1 loss to Colgate meant lineup changes for the Cornell game, the most prominent being Union leading goal scorer Wayne Simpson. The Dutchmen reacted poorly to Simpson’s benching by falling behind, 3-0, to Cornell. Although the Dutchmen played better over the final 40 minutes and got to within a goal, they lost.
With an ECAC Hockey tournament home-ice berth still up for grabs, and, possibly, a first-round bye, the Dutchmen needed to be the team that rolled over Yale and Brown when they faced the Saints at Messa Rink.
Charlie Vasaturo and Matt Hatch scored in the first 4:05 of the game, and the Dutchmen rolled to a 5-1 victory that clinch home ice for at least the first round.
“I’m not going to say it’s the best we’re going to get because, hopefully, there’s a lot more in the tank, and I believe there is,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It was nice effort tonight. It was a great team effort. A lot of guys showed a lot of heart tonight.”
The Dutchmen wanted to forget what happened last weekend and focus on what they needed to do in order to show everyone that they are not done yet.
“Anytime your top guy’s out of the lineup, whether it be injury or for other reasons, it makes the boys think,” Dutchmen captain Mat Bodie said. “All throughout practice, we were just looking forward to this weekend and putting last weekend behind us. It as about playing 60 minutes. We did a great job playing 60 minutes tonight.”
The Dutchmen took control right from the opening faceoff. Kyle Bodie nearly scored 15 seconds into the game. Vasaturo did score 30 seconds later, thanks to a Josh Jooris faceoff win and a nifty pass by Matt Wilkins to Vasaturo at the left point.
Hatch made it 2-0 on another nice setup by Matt Wilkins. He sent a cross-ice pass to Hatch, who was coming off the bench. The puck was slightly behind Hatch at the top of the right circle, but he gathered it and fired a twisted wrister over goalie Matt Weninger’s right shoulder.
In effect, the rout was on. Union outshot St. Lawrence, 17-4, in the first. For the game, it was 46-20.
Kyle Bodie made it 3-0 early in the second. Mat Bodie scored a big goal nearly four minutes after the Saints’ Chris Martin scored midway through the third period, a goal that chased goalie Troy Grosenick (more on that below).
Shayne Gostisbehere sent a pass to Mat Bodie as both teams went for line changes. Mat Bodie skated down the left wing, and then fired a shot from the left circle over Weninger’s left shoulder.
“Anytime you get that one, it’s big,” Bennett said. “That’s a big-time goal by a big-time player. That was a heck of a pass by Shayne to find him when everything was kind of scrambling and line changes. Things looked like a New York City traffic stop.”
And, in an ironic twist, Wayne Simpson closed out the scoring late in the game. Simpson, the Dutchmen’s top goal scorer with 14, was a healthy scratch for last Saturday’s Cornell game, ending his streak of playing in 151 consecutive games.
“He played better than he has recently,” Bennett said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
The Dutchmen will need another effort like that Saturday against Clarkson. They need to keep this consistency in the March to Atlantic City.
Grosenick left at the 9:10 mark of the third after Martin put the puck past his right pad. Grosenick immediately skated off. However, trainer Cheryl Rockwood was back on the bench quickly after Grosenick went into the locker room.
Vasaturo was injured in the first period.
Bennett acknowledged that they were injured, but refused comment as to the severity of the injuries.
The Dutchmen (9-8-4) are in a three-way tie for the final first-round bye spot with Dartmouth (9-8-4) and St. Lawrence (9-8-4). If the teams remained tied after Saturday’s season finales, Union would lose the head-to-head-to-head tiebreakers. Union needs to beat Clarkson, while the Saints and Big Green tie or lose to RPI and Quinnipiac, respectively, to get at least the final bye slot.
Union still has a shot at the third seed. It trails third-place Yale (11-9-1) by a point. The Bulldogs pulled out a 4-3 overtime win over Colgate on Josh Balch’s goal with three seconds left.
The Dutchmen are 18th in the PairWise Rankings.
RPI, with its 5-0 win over Clarkson, is 15th.
I thought that Gostisbehere had his best game since returning from the World Junior Championships. He had three assists in the game, and a plus-4 defensive rating.
Powerless power play
The only thing that went wrong for the Dutchmen is they were 0-for-6 on the power play. They only had seven shots on goal.
“There were a couple of turnovers in the ‘O’ zone, where we fanned on a pass,” Mat Bodie said. “‘Carrsie [Daniel Carr] had a one or two chances. That’s something will clear up. It’s usually a strength of our team.”
Meanwhile, Union scored five even-strength goals in a game for the first time since it got five against Harvard Nov. 9.
The Dutchmen will honor their five seniors — Simpson, Kyle Bodie, Greg Coburn Ryan Forgaard and Shawn Stuart after Saturday’s game against Clarkson.
Jeremy Welsh would have been honored, too, had he not signed with the Carolina Hurricanes after the Frozen Four last April. But his parents did come to Union for the weekend.
I have two postgame videos.
To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.
To see the press conference with Mat Bodie, Hatch and Gostisbehere, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Shayne Gostisbehere, Union defenseman — Had three assists, all primary, and was a plus-4.
2) Matt Wilkins, Union right winger — Collected two key assists.
3) Kyle Bodie, Union center — Had a goal and was 11-for-17 on faceoffs.
That’s all from Messa Rink. I’ll be back with you Saturday for the regular-season finale against Clarkson.
Good Night! Good Hockey!