Union ties Colgate, clinches ECAC Hockey tournament first-round bye
Union had a makeshift lineup for Saturday night's ECAC Hockey encounter with Colgate at Starr Rink.
It didn't get the third-ranked Dutchmen a win, but it was good enough to earn them a first-round bye and move them closer to a Cleary Cup regular-season title.
Union overcame a pair of two-goal deficits to earn a 4-4 tie against No. 19 Colgate.
With the tie and losses by Cornell and Clarkson, the Dutchmen (14-3-1 ECACH, 20-6-4 overall) earned its fifth straight first-round bye and sixth in the last seven years. Union also increased its first-place lead to four points over second-place Quinnipiac, which dropped a 4-2 decision to Brown. If things break right next weekend, when they host Clarkson and St. Lawrence, the Dutchmen can clinch their third Cleary Cup in four seasons.
Unlike last year, when the Dutchmen clinched the bye on the final night of the regular season, they did it this time with four games to spare.
"Any time, a first-round bye is crucial," said Union forward Kevin Sullivan, who scored the game-tying goal with 4:49 left in the third period. "Last year, we had to battle until the end for the first-round bye, so it’s definitely nice to clinch the first-round bye early and know you have it. For the most part, it lets us rest up our players that need to heal, and it gives us time to watch some other teams."
Already missing forward Cole Ikkala, who has been out since getting injured at St. Lawrence Jan. 31, the Dutchmen played the Raiders without forwards Daniel Carr, Max Novak and David Roy. Carr and Novak were injured in Friday's 4-1 win at Cornell. Roy had a stomach virus. Matt Hatch also caught the virus, but he played the game.
Forwards Mark Bennett and Nick Cruice were inserted into the lineup, but Union was one forward short. So defenseman Matt Krug played left wing.
"It's a really good squad," Dutchmen defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. "We have a lot of guys that can play. Anytime you have a defenseman playing forward, you're just hoping that he doesn't make any mistakes out there. I thought 'Krugger' did a great job playing on the fourth line and giving us some energy.
"It's a tough roster to crack. Guys just do whatever they're asked of them. It was a real gutsy effort in the face of adversity."
Union overcame deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to get the tie.
After the Raiders (10-5-3, 14-11-5) took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Spiro Goulakos and Andrew Black, the Dutchmen made it 2-2 later in the period on goals by Michael Vecchione and Daniel Ciampini. Colgate then took a 4-2 lead on power-play goals by Darcy Murphy late in the first and Joe Wilson midway through the second.
Theo DiPauli pulled the Dutchmen to within one with 5:40 left in the second period, and Sullivan got the equalizer.
"I thought it was an incredible effort by all our guys," Union coach Rick Bennett said. "Just the way they hung in there and battled back [from} 2-zip and 4-2 ... it was a great effort."