The last time Union earned a victory at Quinnipiac, Sam Coatta was playing junior hockey for the U.S. Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
The Dutchmen’s last win at High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden, Conn., was a 3-2 overtime triumph on Feb. 5, 2011. Since then, the Dutchmen have gone 0-3-1. Coatta and his fellow seniors will need to snap that streak if the Dutchmen want to make it back to Lake Placid and try for a fourth straight Whitelaw Cup.
The 10th-seeded and three-time defending ECAC Hockey tournament champion Dutchmen (18-16-2) will face top-seeded and 11th-ranked Quinnipiac (21-9-4) in the best-of-three quarterfinals starting tonight at 7. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Saturday. If necessary, Sunday’s game will start at 4 p.m.
The Dutchmen’s three losses at Quinnipiac have all been by one goal, including a 4-3 setback Jan. 10.
“Obviously, it’s important,” said Coatta, an alternate captain. “Our season’s on the line. We’re going to be playing desperate.”
High Point Solutions Arena is the newest building in the ECACH, having opened during the 2006-07 season, Quinnipiac’s second year in the league after coming over from Atlantic Hockey. The Bobcats, who had a first-round bye, are 11-4-3 at home this season, including 8-1-1 in league play.
In the last four years, Quinnipiac is 53-12-12 at home.
“They’re, obviously, a really good team,” Coatta said. “They’ve had really good teams the past four years. We haven’t thought about it too much this year going into their building. We know we’re playing a really good team in Quinnipiac, and that’s what we’re focused on and not their building.”
It will be important for the Dutchmen, who have won four straight, to sustain the momentum they developed after winning at another tough arena.
Last weekend, the Dutchmen swept seventh-seeded Cornell at Lynah Rink by scores of 4-2 and 7-0. They did it by scoring the first goal in each game, and getting excellent goaltending from senior and Niskayuna native Colin Stevens, who stopped 57 of 59 shots, including 29 in the shutout win.
“We did a great job at Cornell getting the first goal and taking their crowd out of it, and dictate the game we wanted to [play],” Union sophomore center Mike Vecchione said. “It’s huge [to do that] down there [at Quinnipiac]. They’re a great team. That’s why they won the league. They’re the No. 1 seed, so it’s going to be a tough one, but I think we’re up for the challenge.”
Much like the regular-season series with Cornell, the two games between Union and Quinnipiac were polar opposites. The Bobcats’ 4-3 win at Messa Rink on Nov. 14 was a back-and-forth contest, was decided by Travis St. Denis’ controversial power-play goal with 51.7 seconds left. Replays showed that St. Denis appeared to be offside before scoring the goal.
Although the January rematch was a one-goal contest, the score wasn’t indicative of how the game was played. Quinnipiac thoroughly dominated Union, taking a 4-0 lead after two periods and having a 24-12 shot advantage. The Dutchmen scored three times in the second half of the third period to make the score respectable.
Union coach Rick Bennett knows that the Dutchmen need to bring the same effort it had at Cornell to Quinnipiac.
“Down there, that wasn’t pretty at all,” Bennett said. “I know we scored three at the end. I’ve got to thank Quinnipiac for letting up the last eight minutes or so, whatever it was. This is an excellent hockey club. They finished first for a reason, and ranked wherever they are. It’s going to be a huge test for us.”
Union and Quinnipiac have developed a simmering rivalry over the past few years.
The teams, who have combined to win the last five ECACH regular-season Cleary Cup titles, have met three times in the postseason. The Bobcats swept the Dutchmen in the first round in 2007. Union eliminated Quinnipiac in three games in the 2010 quarterfinals, which included the Bobcats’ five-overtime victory in Game 1. Quinnipiac advanced to the 2013 NCAA tournament Frozen Four after defeating Union, 5-1, in the East Regional championship game.
Now, a trip to Lake Placid is on the line for both teams. Union wants to make history and join Cornell (1967-70) and Boston University (1974-77) as the only teams to win four straight Whitelaw Cups. Quinnipiac wants to stop that run, and get a chance at its first tournament title.
“We haven’t won there since I’ve been here,” Union junior left winger Matt Wilkins said. “We’ve had some tough games here [at Messa], too. Anytime you get two top teams in the league against each other, there’s going to be that rivalry. We’re looking forward to change things there this time.”
Categories: High School Sports