Dutchmen can clinch home ice this weekend

The Union men’s hockey team certainly had nothing to be happy about after Saturday night’s 8-0 troun
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The Union men’s hockey team certainly had nothing to be happy about after Saturday night’s 8-0 trouncing at the hands of Colgate at Starr Rink.

While the loss was the 16th in 17 trips to Starr for the Dutchmen since joining the Division I ranks in 1991, it hurt them more in the ECAC Hockey standings. They dropped from the final ECACH tourn­ament first-round bye position into a three-way tie for fifth.

“It doesn’t matter if it was a 1-0 loss or 8-0,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “It’s all about two points. We didn’t get them, and [Colgate] did.”

Despite that, the Dutchmen find themselves in great shape to be hosting at least a first-round tournament series for the fifth time in six years. All Union needs is one point — a tie or a St. Lawrence loss — over the next four games to clinch home ice.

The Dutchmen begin that quest Friday when they host league-leading Clarkson at 7 p.m. at Messa Rink.

Union (8-6-4 ECACH, 13-11-5 overall) is tied with Harvard and Yale for fifth. The trio leads ninth-place St. Lawrence, which will be at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Friday and Union on Saturday, by eight points. The three teams below the Saints — RPI, Brown and Dartmouth — are nine points back, and can’t catch Union, Harvard and Yale.

For one day, the Dutchmen

occupied fourth place and the

final first-round bye spot. Their 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Cornell at Lynah Rink gave them a one-point lead over the Big Red. Cornell regained fourth place Saturday by routing RPI, 7-1.

Besides trailing Cornell by a point, Union, Harvard and Yale are within striking distance of the top three spots. They are two points behind third-place Quinnipiac, four in back of second-place Princeton and six behind Clarkson. However, catching the Golden Knights will be difficult because there are so few games left.

So, despite the loss to Colgate, Union still came away from the weekend earning two points, and moving itself closer to clinching home ice.

“We split the season series with Colgate,” Leaman said. “The bottom line is you’ve got four games left in your season. Two of them are at home, and two of them are on the road. We’re in a position for a first-round bye. The bottom line is, you’ve got to put this one behind us as quick as we can, and move on.”

Colgate coach Don Vaughan, whose team is just two points behind Union, Harvard and Yale, believes the Dutchmen will bounce back.

“Nate’s done an unbelievable job,” Vaughan said Saturday.

“Obviously, it was a bit of an off night, but I don’t think it’s any

indication of how good that team is, and how hard they work.”

If the Dutchmen want to make things easier for clinching home ice, they must work harder in the first period. They have struggled in the opening 20 minutes in three of their last four games, and have been outscored, 6-0.

“Both nights [this weekend], we came out soft in the first period,” Leaman said. “We can’t do that. We have to be sharp right from the puck drop. We definitely have to learn from that.”

NOTEBOOK

Five teams have clinched home ice — Clarkson, Princeton, Quinnipiac, Cornell and Yale. Despite being tied with Union and Harvard, the Bulldogs’ 4-3 victory Friday over the Saints gave them a season-series sweep. Yale won at

St. Lawrence, 3-2, Nov. 17. . . .

The Dutchmen have tiebreaker edges over Cornell and Quinnipiac. Harvard has the tiebreaker over Union.

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