Dutchmen keep it simple in beating top-ranked St. Cloud State
A rough game Wednesday against Dartmouth. An early-morning flight to Minnesota. Tired legs. Lacking energy. Certainly, those things could have conspired to doom 10th-ranked Union in its game Friday at top-ranked St. Cloud State.
But the Dutchmen are showing more and more that they are going to be a major force come March and April.
The Dutchmen, led by senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie and freshman goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos, cruised to a 4-1 win over the Huskies at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Bodie had a goal and two assists. Sakellaropoulos, the surprise starter over junior and Niskayuna Colin Stevens, made 34 saves.
The Dutchmen (12-3-2) have won nine straight, tying their Division I-era record first set in 2010-11.
â€śThat was a super team win,â€ť Union coach Rick Bennett said. â€śAfter what we went through the past couple of days, the guys did a nice job.â€ť
It was after the Dutchmenâ€™s 3-2 ECAC Hockey victory over Dartmouth, a game in which the Dutchmen looked lethargic for the first two periods before rallying to score twice in the third to erase a 2-1 deficit, that Bodie spoke of the teamâ€™s need to keep things simple in the opening game of the two-game series with the Huskies. The players had just a few hours of sleep before boarding a bus at 4:45 a.m. Thursday that would take them to Albany International Airport for a 6 a.m. flight.
Bodie led by example against the Huskies.
â€śWe did have a lot of energy,â€ť Bodie said. â€śObviously, it was a big game playing the No. 1 team in the country. I thought we did a great job of executing our game plan of chipping pucks in deep, and playing a smart hockey game and conserving our legs.â€ť
Bodie assisted on late first-period power-play goals by Max Novak and Eli Lichtenwald. Bodie scored 43 seconds into the third period to give Union a 3-1 lead.
Sakellaropoulos hadnâ€™t started since Oct. 25 at UConn, and last played when he relived Stevens midway through the second period of the Dec. 1 game at Penn State.
Stevens was coming off a career-high 37-save effort against Dartmouth. He was also named ECACH goalie of the week on Tuesday.
But Bennett made a shrewd move in giving Sakellaropoulos the start Friday. And Sakellaropoulos was impressive.
â€śHe played great,â€ť Bennett said. â€śHe gave us a sense of calm back there. Heâ€™s a big guy, and he came with some nice saves when we needed it. I thought our whole team fed off of it.â€ť
Bennett could have a tough decision who starts in goal for Saturdayâ€™s game, which starts at 8:07 p.m.
â€śWeâ€™re going to talk about it as staff for tomorrow night,â€ť Bennett said. â€śIt gives Colin a rest. It gives him a chance to regroup after how may games he has played [Stevens started 11 straight]. He was banged up early in the season. It was a nice breath of fresh air that he needed.â€ť
The Huskies (11-2-2) got a power-play goal from Joey Benik midway through the second period to cut Unionâ€™s lead to 2-1. St. Cloud State carried the play for the final five minutes of the second and appeared to have the momentum going into the third.
But Bodieâ€™s goal diffused that.
â€śWe just talked about getting back to our game plan,â€ť Bodie said. â€śThey did take it to us for five or 10 minutes at the end of the second. We did a great job to hold on and get it to intermission with a 2-1 lead. Getting the goal in the first minute of the third really helped. The guys drew a lot of energy from that. We did a great job of playing a road third period.â€ť