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.
“That was a super team win,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “After what we went through the past couple of days, the guys did a nice job.”
It was after the Dutchmen’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 team’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.
“We did have a lot of energy,” Bodie said. “Obviously, 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.”
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 hadn’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.
“He played great,” Bennett said. “He gave us a sense of calm back there. He’s a big guy, and he came with some nice saves when we needed it. I thought our whole team fed off of it.”
Bennett could have a tough decision who starts in goal for Saturday’s game, which starts at 8:07 p.m.
“We’re going to talk about it as staff for tomorrow night,” Bennett said. “It 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.”
The Huskies (11-2-2) got a power-play goal from Joey Benik midway through the second period to cut Union’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 Bodie’s goal diffused that.
“We just talked about getting back to our game plan,” Bodie said. “They 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.”