Union-Harvard postgame report (with 2 videos and photo gallery)
A look back at third-ranked and ECAC Hockey-leading Union’s 4-3 victory over Harvard Friday at Messa Rink.
3M Line delivers
Union coach Rick Bennett doesn’t even want to think how things would have turned out had the line of freshman center Mike Vecchione, senior left winger Matt Hatch and freshman right winger Michael Pontarelli had not delivered three goals and five assists.
“That’s a great question,” Bennett said of my inquiry. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I know it’s not a good response. But I don’t have a crystal ball.”
If Bennett had a crystal ball, he might have envisioned a bad loss to the Crimson.
But great chemistry by the 3M Line — Mike, Matt and Michael — save the Dutchmen from a possible upset. The didn’t combined for three goals and five assists. They were also a combined plus-9.
Vecchione, who missed the last four games because of a full-body injury, got things going for the line when he scored with 6:32 left in the first period to tie the score, 1-1. He was in the slot when Hatch attempted a wraparound, but the puck slid off of his stick. But it slid perfectly to Vecchione, who ripped it home.
“Playing with these two [Hatch and Pontarelli], it’s pretty easy to get into a rhythm out there,” said Vecchione, who has six goals and nine assists. “As the game went on, I got a little more comfortable out there. I got a goal. That really breaks the ice for me. We were rolling from there.”
Hard work paid off on Hatch’s first goal late in the second period, which gave Union (10-2 ECACH, 16-4-3 overall) a 3-1 lead.
Pontarelli got a shot off from inside the right circle that Michalek stopped. The rebound was bouncing around in the slot. Vecchione got his stick on it, and then Hatch got more of it and put it home.
“The coaching staff stresses doing the little things and outworking your opponent,” said Hatch, who has eight goals and three assists. “We knew they were going to come at us hard. We knew the building was going to be packed. We knew it was going to be an intense game and an intense atmosphere.
“Right from the beginning, our plan was to get pucks low and outwork them. That was a process of a couple of our goals.”
Pontarelli and Hatch delivered what proved to be the game-winning goal with 7:33 left in the game.
Pontarelli forced a turnover at the right point in the Union zone. He led a two-on-one rush down the left wing. When he got to the left faceoff circle in the Crimson zone, Pontarelli fired a cross-ice pass to Hatch. He settled the puck down, and then ripped a shot past Michalek’s glove.
“One of their forwards tried to throw it back to their defenseman in the high zone,” said Pontarelli, who has nine goals and 10 assists. “It jumped over his stick, and we went on a two-on-one. I sent it over to ‘Hatchie.’ I think the pass was too hard, and he did a great job of stopping it and having great poise to put it in there.”
Before Hatch scored, the Dutchmen were very sloppy with the puck. They were being too cute and not taking care of the puck like they should. It resulted in numerous turnovers.
One of those bad plays led to a Brian Hart goal at 11:31.
“I don’t know if we kept it as simple as we could tonight,” Bennett said. “We had a few turnovers there. Our emphasis of our five-foot rule [and] simplicity was lacking there tonight. And it’s easy to throw it on the young guys. It was collective tonight, and that’s a little disheartening.”
With Saturday’s Mayor’s Cup game against Capital Region-rival RPI on tap, the Dutchmen will need to be better. But they aren’t giving back the win.
“At the end of the day, the main goal is that we won,” Pontarelli said. “That’s what we’re taking away from it. Obviously, we want to get better every game. There was a little bit of adversity tonight, but we came with the ‘W.’ That’s all that matters.”
— Dutchmen defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Jeff Taylor were each a plus-3. At the other end of the spectrum, defensemen Mat Bodie and Charlie Vasaturo were a minus-3 each. The only Dutchmen not to register a plus/minus was the line of center Eli Lichtenwald, left winger Daniel Carr and right winger Matt Wilkins.
— Bodie did lead Union with three blocked shots. Union had 14 blocks.
— Carr didn’t get a point in the game. He remains tied with Adam Presizniuk for first on Union’s all-time Division I career scoring list with 131 points.
— The Dutchmen have won four straight, and are 13-1-1 in their last 15 games.
— Vecchione and Lichtenwald led the Dutchmen with 11 faceoff wins each.
I have two postgame videos.
To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.
To see the 3M Line press conference, click here.
To view Gazette photographer Peter R. Barber’s photo gallery from the game, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Matt Hatch, Union left winger — Two goals, including the game-winner, and one assist.
2) Michael Pontarelli, Union right winger — Had three assists and set up Hatch’s game-winner.
3) Mike Vecchione Union center — One goal, one assist.
That is all from Messa Rink. I’ll be back with you Saturday night for the Mayor’s Cup game.
Good Night! Good Hockey!