Union-Brown ECAC Hockey championship game postgame report (with 2 videos)
Maybe Union had a right to be upset at the media. After all, many of the stories written about the Dutchmen this season have focused on their up-and-down play this season.
Well, the media has something else to write about the Dutchmen — repeat champions.
Union won its second straight ECAC Hockey tournament title Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over seventh-seeded Brown at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The Dutchmen became the first team to win consecutive tournament titles since St. Lawrence did it in 2000 and 2001.
The Dutchmen (21-12-5) have picked the right time to be playing their best hockey of the season. They have won six straight, and have been efficient in doing it.
I asked junior goalie Troy Grosenick, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was also named to the all-tournament team, about how meaningful this second championship was compared to last season, when the Dutchmen were the top seed.
“I’d like to thank everyone that’s here in the media for giving us a lot bulletin-board material,” said Grosenick, who made 32 saves. “We used that as motivation. We never really thought that we were ever as bad as everyone made us out to be. Just like last year, we didn’t think we were as good as everyone made us out to be.”
Arrogant? Perhaps. Is Grosenick correct? Probably.
But there is no denying that the Dutchmen were trying to find their way for a couple of months. I recall writing a blog about that they seemed to be in funk since the Penn State weekend in late November.
That funk is gone now. This team is playing with a high level of confidence, and that is very valuable heading into the NCAA tournament, especially since it looks like the Dutchmen will be a No. 3 seed and possibly playing in the Midwest Regional in Toledo, Ohio, or the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Against Brown, the Dutchmen started out sluggish, but ended up with a 3-0 lead. Daniel Carr scored midway through the first, Max Novak got one late in the first and one more in the second.
That spelled trouble for Brown.
“Just like any team, we’re much better with a lead,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “I thought we were buzzing pretty good, and then [Union] created their chances and buried them. What it does is, maybe, puts a little doubt in our head.”
Although Dennis Robertson scored a power-play goal in the second for the Bears, the Dutchmen played solid defense in the third.
The Dutchmen put on a defensive clinic in the third period. Brown was credited with 11 shots on goal in the final stanza, but they didn’t get many great chances until late in the game, when goalie Anthony Borelli was pulled for an extra attacker.
“We made a little adjustment between the second and third, and it paid off,” said Union coach Rick Bennett, who joins Cornell’s Mike Schafer and Boston University’s Jack Parker as the only coaches to win two straight ECACH tournament titles in their first two seasons as head coach. “We just felt by changing up a few things, it would re-circuit the wires upstairs with the boys and just get them to refocus, and that’s what they did. They really stuck to the game plan.”
“Those guys, all year, have been great in front of me,” Grosenick said. “Anytime you’re able to see every shot and those guys are clearing out rebounds, like I said yesterday, that’s your best friend. Our forwards, too, are key in our D-zone coverage [with] the centers being low and helping out our ‘D’ down low, and the wingers blocking shots. It makes my job real easy. It’s how we get the job done.
“When we stick to that, we’re going to be pretty successful.”
As the final buzzer sounded, the Dutchmen celebrated in the same right-wing corner that they did last year, when the beat Harvard, 3-1, in the final.
“Last year was really special,” Bennett said. “But I guess going through some ups and downs makes it as special. I don’t want to take away from last season, but this season, with these guys, it’s been phenomenal.”
I have two postgame videos.
To see Union press conference, click here.
To see Whittet’s press conference, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Troy Grosenick, Union goalie — Made 32 saves, named Most Outstanding Player of tournament
2) Max Novak, Union center — New Jersey native scores twice, named to all-tournament team.
3) Dennis Robertson, Brown defenseman — Scored goal, named to all-tournament team.
For the last time, that’s all from Boardwalk Hall. I’ll be back with you Sunday night for the NCAA tournament selection show. It will be on at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Good Night! Good Hockey!