March 28, 2014

Special teams key as Union powers past Vermont

Union goalie Colin Stevens stopped 23 shots to turn back Vermont on Friday. (Photo/John Crouch/J. Alexander Imaging)

By Roman J. Uschak
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Union College used three special-teams scores to upend fourth-seeded Vermont, 5-2, on Friday in the first game of the 2014 NCAA East Regional at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. Union, which has now won nine straight contests overall, advances to Saturday’s regional final at 3 p.m.
Union finished 2-for-7 on the power play while also outshooting Vermont, 39-25.
“They won the special-teams battle,” said Vermont senior forward Chris McCarthy. “We took too many penalties.”

Union junior Shayne Gostisbehere is the only defenseman among the 10 finalists for this season’s Hobey Baker Award. (Photo/John Crouch/J. Alexander Imaging)

Vermont earned the afternoon’s first power play, but Union got the game’s first goal. After the Dutchmen’s Max Novak was whistled off for slashing, Matt Hatch picked up a loose puck, skated down the right side and cut across the crease to slip a shot between the pads of Vermont’s Brody Hoffman at 4:15.
“I thought it was crucial,” said Union head coach Rick Bennett. “The shorthanded goal got us going. We were a little flat coming out, and Matt used his speed.”
The Catamounts broke through at 13:18 when McCarthy tried to center a pass from behind the net. The puck banked off a skate and went to the left post, where McCarthy had rounded the cage and then knocked it past Colin Stevens.
Union went back ahead after Daniel Carr’s power-play slapper from the right circle was stopped by Hoffman. Kevin Sullivan corralled the rebound and swung it over to Novak, who chipped a backhander up and in at 14:27.
The Catamounts got into penalty trouble in the second stanza, and the Dutchmen made them pay on the third consecutive infraction, as Novak worked a give-and-go with Carr that ended with Novak scoring from the right circle at14:22.
“There were a couple of plays tonight where speed was crucial for us,” said Bennett.
Carr’s second assist helped increase his points streak to nine straight contests.
“As long as the puck goes in, it doesn’t matter who does it,” said Carr.
The Dutchmen cemented matters with 8:35 remaining in regulation when Mat Bodie took a pass from Sullivan, and then waited out a defender who had gone down before wristing the puck off the post and in for a 4-1 lead.
“I was going to go back to Sully, but I took what was given,” said Bodie.
McCarthy got the Catamounts back within two with just under seven minutes left, but Hatch later closed the scoring on an empty-netter, with Sullivan drawing his third assist.
“Congratulations to Union,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon, a former Union coach. “There’s obviously a lot of close ties, and I thought it was pretty classy that their players thanked me (in the handshake line) for helping move the program forward.”
“We’re very humbled and honored to go to the final,” said Bennett, who has now helped Union to three straight East Regional finals. "Somebody mentioned the Frozen Four, but that’s light years away.”