Dutchmen combine to pick up a teammate
PHILADELPHIA Even through who knows how many walls and layers of insulation and plumbing in the gigantic building, Matt Hatch could hear the oohs and aahs from the crowd.
It was horrible.
It was beautiful.
It was excruciating.
It was glorious.
While Hatch was sitting in the locker room, hearing reactions to God knows what because the TV feed there was on tape delay, the Union hockey team played exquisite defense on a potentially crippling five-minute power play by Boston College in the third period on Thursday.
And in the process, they picked up their guy. Because that’s what they do.
The Dutchmen’s kill of that major and the subsequent goal by Mike Vecchione goes down as the no-brainer turning point in Union’s 5-4 win over Boston College that sends the Dutchmen — yes, say it again with me, people — to the national championship game on Saturday.
More than a simple plot point, though, that penalty kill illustrated why this team is in this position.
Everybody looks out for everybody else, whether it’s covering for a defenseman who rushes into the offense; lifting a stick so your goalie, who just stopped a difficult shot, doesn’t have to face a more difficult one on the rebound; or killing a penalty and winning a game to pick up a senior teammate who got kicked out of it.
Now Hatch and his boys get to play one more game despite his five-minute major and game misconduct in the third period, with his team nursing a 3-2 lead.
“Defense has been a staple of ours all season,” Hatch said. “That’s been a staple all year, too, that we’re all in this together.”
“I felt for him. He’s a senior,” said captain Mat Bodie, also a senior. “That could’ve been the last play he had in college hockey. We really wanted that not to be the case. Everyone banded together.”
Hatch, Union’s fourth-leading goal scorer coming into the game, was sent to the room for checking from behind with a scary-looking 13:11 left in the third.
It was double jeopardy, since he’s also a key player on Union’s penalty kill.
“I was going in the corner. It happened so fast,” Hatch said. “I was skating pretty fast, he turned to the wall and was pretty vulnerable. At that point, it was too late for me to pull back. It was the right call.”
The Dutchmen turned their worst moment of the game into their finest.
Daniel Ciampini made a nice chip out of the zone to burn some clock, Max Novak made a strong rush up the left boards, defenseman Noah Henry didn’t bite on a shot fake, Daniel Carr made a nice steal.
Just about everybody on the roster contributed. Charlie Vasaturo slammed one down ice, Matt Wilkins chipped a lazy back pass up the boards and out.
Then goalie Colin Stevens made a tough left-pad save on a hard shot, and before a Boston College player could bury the rebound, Novak lifted his stick from behind and the puck fluttered harmlessly into the corner. The Eagles had three, count ’em, three shots on goal in the five minutes.
“I saw the penalty, and, to be honest, I thought it was going to be a two-minute call,” Novak said. “I went out for that first set, came back and thought it was killed off. I looked up, and there was three minutes on the clock. I had no clue it was a fiver and that he was even gone.
“Now you [Hatch] don’t have any more control over the game and you’re just sitting here, waiting.”
“I can’t even explain what it was like,” Hatch said. “It really [stunk] to put the guys in that situation. I was really fortunate they were able to pull off that kill. Guys were in shot lanes, blocking shots, doing the little things and paying the price. They kept their top guys to the outside and prevented cross-ice passes.
“I’ll still approach it [Saturday] the same way I would have, but it’s important for me to pick up the guys who picked me up.”