First playoff bye within Union’s reach

Union moves closer to earning a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs after defeating St. Lawrence, 3
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Union is on the verge of something amazing, thanks to a pair of seniors who will have at least two more home games to play.

Goalie Justin Mrazek made a car­eer-high 46 saves, and Sam Bowles had a goal and an assist Saturday night, leading the Dutchmen to a 3-1 ECAC Hockey victory over

St. Lawrence in the final regular-season home game at Messa Rink.

The win, coupled with Cornell’s 2-1 loss to Princeton, puts the Dutchmen (9-6-5 ECACH, 14-11-6 overall) in a fourth-place tie with the Big Red. But the Dutchmen have the tiebreaker over the Big Red, which means, with two games left in the regular season, Union is in great position to get a first-round bye in the ECACH tournament for the first time. The Dutchmen, who clinched a home-ice berth Friday, conclude the season next weekend at Yale and Brown.

Quinnipiac, which is a point behind Union and Cornell, could move in front of those two teams if it beats Colgate today.

“I thought Justin and Sam played a great game,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “We needed it. We were struggling there.”

Mrazek made 21 saves in the first period, keeping the game scoreless for the Dutchmen, who showed the effects of the previous night’s feisty 3-3 tie with Clarkson. The Dutchmen were very sluggish, and were outplayed by the Saints (5-13-2,

10-18-4).

“The way I like to play is the more shots, the better,” said Mrazek, whose previous career high for saves was 43 at Providence on Dec. 7. “We started off slow, but in the second period, we picked it up. After that, it was a back-and-forth game.”

The Dutchmen, who were outshot, 47-26, got a wake-up call at 6:18 of the second period, when Saints defenseman Zach Miskovic ripped a one-timer past Mrazek from the right circle. Union tied it 52 seconds later when John Simpson scored a power-play goal.

Bowles, who missed the last two games because of an injury suffered against Cornell last Friday, snapped a 1-1 tie with his third goal of the season with 5:37 left in the second. He was a little off balance in the Saints’ left circle when he got a pass from Jason Shaffer. Bowles regained his balance, and then fired a turn-around wrist shot past goalie Justin Pesony.

“[Defenseman] Brock Matheson made a great play coming up the ice, and he head-manned it to Shaffer,” Bowles said. “Shaffer made an unbelievable play fighting off a [St. Lawrence] guy.”

Bowles then made an outstanding play on the Dutchmen’s third goal.

He skated with the puck into the St. Lawrence zone. He went around the net from the left side, and came out on the right. Bowles went to the right circle before backhanding a pass to Chris Potts in the slot. Potts fired a wrister past Pesony’s right pad.

St. Lawrence 010 — 1

Union 021 — 3

First Period — None. Penalties — Mc­Kenzie, StL (tripping), 2:57; Valery-Trabucco, Uni (tripping), 4:35.

Second Period — 1, St. Lawrence, Miskovic 4 (Vermeulen, Curran), 6:18. 2, Union, Simpson 4 (Delforte, Schreiber), 7:10 (pp). 3, Union, Bowles 3 (Shaffer, Matheson), 14:23. Penalties — Coyle, Uni (hooking), 1:44; Giffin, StL (interference), 3:31; Mrazek. Uni, served by Cook (interference), 4:32; St. Lawrence bench, served by Muir (too many men), 5:28; Valery-Trabucco, Uni (hooking), 18:24.

Third Period — 4, Union, Potts 4 (Bowles, Shaffer), 11:48. Penalties — Delforte, Uni (holding), 12:42; Union bench, served by Shaffer (too many men), 16:33; Harr, Uni (cross-checking), 17:38; McKenzie, StL (contact to head-roughing), 18:44.

Shots on Goal — St. Lawrence 21-9-17 — 47. Union 6-13-7 — 26.

Power-play opportunities — St. Lawrence 0 of 6; Union 1 of 5.

Goalies — St. Lawrence, Pesony 1-4-0 (26 shots-23 saves). Union, Mrazek 9-4-0 (47-46).

A — 2,178. T — 2:17.

Referee — Dan Murphy. Assistant referees — Bryan Hicks, Dan Taggart.

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