SCHENECTADY — The clock said 9.4 seconds left in the game.
Luc Brown shoved the puck down ice and Anthony Rinaldi sprinted after it, only to come up a step short while trying to make a desperation game-saving play as time expired.
It was worth a little ooh-and-ahh to the Messa Rink crowd but otherwise didn’t pose a scoring threat as the Union College men’s hockey team chased the University of Massachusetts Minutemen all night and never caught up, losing their home opener 5-4 on Friday.
With the loss, Union fell to 0-4, the first time in head coach Rick Bennett’s seven seasons that the team failed to win a game within the first two of a season, much less the first four games.
The Minutemen (2-1) led 5-2 on an empty-net goal with 1:33 left before Union scored two to make the score cosmetically close.
The two most damaging goals came 52 seconds into the second period, when Oliver Chau ruined momentum Union established at the end of the first, and at 9:12 of the third, when George Mika scored with defenseman Connor
Light in the penalty box after the Dutchmen had climbed back within 3-2.
“We’ve been really inconsistent all year, which has been hurting us a lot,” Union forward Brett Supinski said. “We need to come out strong and hard and take it through the whole game. It’s been a problem throughout the year.”
“We’re far from there, playing 60 minutes or even close to it,” Bennett said. “We just played a team that had, what, 20 freshmen? They seemed to figure it out. There’s no excuse.”
For the record, UMass has 13 freshmen, the most of any Division I team in the country, although at least two of them, defensemen Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro, are highly touted. Makar, the No. 4 pick overall in the NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche, was credited with an assist on a hard blast that deflected off Mitchell Chaffee for a 3-1 UMass lead midway through the second.
The Dutchmen came out flying in the third period and got within 3-2 on Rinaldi’s power-play goal 2:48 into the period, but that glimmer of hope lasted all 6:24, as Mika scored with Light in the box to reassert the two-goal lead.
“We took three penalties. But the timing of one of them was horrendous,” Bennett said. “We score a goal, and our response was let’s go out and take a penalty. It takes away some serious momentum that you have.”
After Hildenbrand made it 5-2, Brendan Taylor and Supinski scored inside the final 1:15 to make it interesting, but Rinaldi’s desperate lunge on the final play symbolized Union’s game.
“Brownie read the play well and just shot it down the ice,” Rinaldi said. “I think it hit off Brett and I just couldn’t get a reach on it.
“But I don’t think any more time would’ve done anything. It’s just too bad we didn’t play in all three periods the way we played in the third period.”
“We did have some battle level when it became important to them,” Bennett said. “I think we played about eight to 12 minutes. That’s not going to win you many hockey games.”
In the first period, UMass dominated puck possession early and took a 1-0 lead on Niko Rufo’s second goal of the season at 6:01.
Union left a loose puck sitting between the circles, leading to a goalmouth scramble and Rufo’s goal, which was reviewed briefly by the officials but was upheld.
The Dutchmen began to turn the momentum in their favor in the final six minutes of the first and finished with an 11-8 advantage in shots on goal. They failed to get any chances in close to UMass goalie Ryan Wischow, however.
And any momentum was quelled right away in the second period, when Chau waltzed in untouched from the right corner and flipped a sharp wrister over goalie Jake Kupsky’s shoulder for a 2-0 lead just 52 seconds into the period.
The Dutchmen finally got on the scoreboard when Ryan Walker skated off the endboards to the right post and jammed the puck past Wischow.
UMass 1 2 2 — 5
Union 0 1 3 — 4
First period — 1, UMass, Rufo 2 (Leonard, Lagunov), 6:01. Penalties — Bozzo, UMass (high sticking), 7:34; Boeing, UMass (slashing), 16:54.
Second period — 2, UMass, Chau 1 (Chaffee), :52. 3, Union, Walker 1 (Adams, Campbell), 8:17. 4, UMass, Chaffee 2 (Makar), 10:33 (pp). Penalties — Light, Union (interference), 9:49; Foo, Union (interference), 10:48; Hildenbrand, UMass (interference), 15:32.
Third period — 5, Union, Rinaldi 3 (Supinski, Vidmar), 2:48 (pp). 7, UMass, Mika 1 (Couturier, Rufo), 9:12 (pp). 8, Union, Taylor 1 (Walker), 18:45. 9, Union, Supinski 2 (Vidmar, Scarfo), 19:51. Penalties — UMass bench (too many players on ice), 2:11; Light, Union (interference), 8:22; Mika, UMass (boarding), 13:26.
Shots on goal — UMass 8-14-9 — 31; Union 11-3-12 — 26.
Power play opportunities — UMass 2 of 3; Union 1 of 5.
Goalies — UMass, Wischow 1-1-0 (26 shots-22 saves); Union, Kupsky 0-4-0 (30-26).
T — 2:20. A — 1,912.
Referees — Cameron Lynch, Robert St. Lawrence. Linesmen — James Shea, Stephen Drain.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3148 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports