SCHENECTADY — Union associate coach Jason Tapp said on Friday that the Dutchmen were “a skeleton crew” in practice on Monday and Tuesday, because of illness running through the team.
Skeletons must keep their fingernails, because that’s what Union held on with on Saturday night.
For the second night in a row, freshman Liam Morgan scored the game-winner and junior goalie Jake Kupsky held down the fort in net, this time for a 2-1 victory over Dartmouth.
With the win and a Clarkson tie against Colgate, Union (13-5-0 ECAC Hockey, 18-13-1 overall) moved into a tie for second place with the Golden Knights with four regular-season games left.
Morgan, who came into the weekend with just one goal in 21 games, totaled three for the weekend, burying a shot off Cole Maier’s faceoff win at 12:26 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
Kupsky, who made 35 saves while his team was outshot 36-20, did the rest.
“I think we’re a really good hockey team, and that showed tonight in how we’ll bend without breaking, and if we keep doing that, we’ll be fine in the long run,” Kupsky said.
Head coach Rick Bennett has been among the infirm and stayed home for Friday’s 3-1 win over Harvard.
He was back on the bench for the Dartmouth game, but was still feeling lousy, Tapp said, so Tapp sat in for the post-game.
“Seven guys [sick earlier in the week], and another guy rolls into the rink who was supposed to play and he’s down with the flu,” Tapp said. “I thought our guys battled hard. Dartmouth was the better team tonight, but we found a way to win. That’s the key part, they found a way.”
And it was Morgan, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound freshman from Whitby, Ontario, who pulled the trigger on the one shot that mattered most.
Captain Cole Maier won a faceoff back to Morgan at the top of the circle, and he waited just long enough for Dartmouth’s Jamie McLaughlin to slide to the ice before snapping a sharp wrist shot past goalie Adrian Clark.
“Cole won the draw, I saw the guy go down and tried to put it over the top of him, and it just found the back of the net again,” Morgan said. “Pretty good weekend. We got four big points that we really need for the standings.”
Union scrapped out the victory despite losing one of its scrappiest players, senior Ryan Scarfo, who took a big shoulder to the ribs in a mid-ice collision with Quin Foreman midway through the second period.
Scarfo had given Union a 1-0 lead with a deft redirection of J.C. Brassard’s slap shot from the point at 1:53 of the second.
Kupsky said the Dutchmen were motivated to pick up the slack after seeing one of their toughest players skate off the ice, not to return.
“I think it gave us a little bit of life, too, because that kid wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’d do anything to play that last period,” Kupsky said. “We kind of modeled our play for him.”
Dartmouth (9-8-1, 10-13-2) outplayed Union for much of the second period, but Kupsky was solid, especially in denying a one-timer from Corey Kalk off a cross-ice pass that was targeted for the upper left corner.
“I kind of read the play and took a quick peek over my shoulder,” Kupsky said. “He came out from the corner. I don’t know, I just tried to get anything I could in front of it, and he probably put it in my blocker more than I made that save.”
Tim Shoup finally tied it for the Big Green at 1:16 of the third period,
Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet pulled Clark with a minute and a half left, but the Big Green weren’t able to find any prime scoring chances.
Kupsky credited his defense for boxing out Dartmouth players in front of the crease all night, and he did well to keep the rebounds to a minimum.
“It was one-nothing because of him for a huge stretch, especially in the second period,” Tapp said. “He was a calming influence in the game, for sure.”
Dartmouth 0 0 0 — 1
Union 0 1 1 — 2
First period — None. Penalties — Supinski, Union (tripping), 1:59; Brassard, Union (holding), 6:36; Rutherford, Dartmouth (hooking), 10:20; Less, Dartmouth (hitting from behind), 13:12.
Second period — 1, Union, Scarfo 17 (Brassard, Kolias), 1:53 (pp). Penalties — Rymsha, Dartmouth (interference), 1:49; Light, Union (cross-checking), 19:08.
Third period — 2, Dartmouth, Shoup 7 (Graber), 1:16. 3, Union, Morgan 4 (Maier), 12:26. Penalties — Michalowski, Dartmouth (interference), 1:36; Rutherford, Dartmouth (slashing), 6:30; Maier, Union (hooking), 8:35.
Shots on goal — Dartmouth 11-17-8 — 36. Union 8-5-7 — 20.
Power-play opportunities — Dartmouth 0 oif 4. Union 1 of 5.
Goaltenders — Dartmouth, Clark 1-5-1 (20 shots-18 saves). Union, Kupsky 8-9-1 (36-35).
A — 2,092. T — 2:08. Referees — Peter Feola, Marty Hughes. Linesmen — Glen Cooke, Matt Wyld.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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