SCHENECTADY — Union freshman defenseman Dylan Anhorn burst out of the penalty box and jumped into a 2-on-1 with Anthony Rinaldi.
Rinaldi faked a shot, passed to his left and Anhorn swiped a shot toward the inside of the left post that goalie Corbin Kaczperski knocked away with a sparkling blocker save that preserved a 1-0 Yale lead in the first period.
The Dutchmen’s failure to finish there played a big part in the Bulldogs’ 2-0 victory at Messa Rink Saturday night, and also reminded everyone how far from a finished product Union is.
Riding a 5-0 win over Brown on Friday for their first back-to-back victories of the season, the Dutchmen (3-5-0 ECAC Hockey, 4-12-0 overall) came back to reality when Yale (4-6-0, 4-7-0) showed more energy and made just enough plays to win.
The Bulldogs got another goal in the second period and weathered the final 1:40 of the game with Union goalie Darion Hanson on the bench for an extra attacker.
“For me, it’s a game-changer, right?” Rinaldi said of the thwarted 2-on-1. “It puts a goal in our favor and probably gives us the momentum and we come out stronger. I felt like we came out flat, and that could’ve changed some things.”
“We had moments, but it just wasn’t good enough, and I thought Yale played a very strong road game,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said.
“I think that save made a huge difference in the whole game,” Yale head coach Keith Allain said. “I think that was their best chance. It was a great scoring opportunity, they made a good play on it and he was over solid. I really felt like that was the key moment in the game for us.”
For the second game in a row, Union senior defenseman Vas Kolias was not in uniform, after having been injured in a 2-1 overtime win at Princeton on Nov. 16.
That game also marked the first for Union after Bennett relieved Kolias and Hanson of official captain duties; Josh Kosack and Sean Harrison wore A’s as alternate captains this weekend, as the Dutchmen continue to search for consistency and an identity with a freshman-heavy roster.
“There was no drama. There’s no drama now,” Bennett said after Friday’s win. “It was just the fact we wanted to have a community leadership group. Those two guys [Hanson and Kolias] are still captains. Everyone knows it. Everyone in that locker room knows it, the coaching staff knows it. I’m alerting you guys and whoever wants to read the papers that, but I just wanted to take a little bit of pressure off those guys and make it a little more community [based].”
On Saturday, Yale got Union’s defense scrambling around the net and opened the scoring at 7:07 of the first period, on Tyler Welsh’s fourth goal of the season.
Anhorn nearly tied it with six minutes left in the first when he made a beeline from the penalty box to the left side of the Yale net.
Kaczperski, who came into the game with a 3.77 goals against average on the season and one career shutout, launched himself to his right and blocked Anhorn’s shot, and the score stood at 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
“I heard everyone yell, ‘Two! Two!’, so I kept my head up, saw him flying with speed, thought maybe I could get it on his tape,” Rinaldi said. “Looked like he overreached a little bit, but he did get a shot off and the goalie made a good save.”
Anther potential momentum swing — for either team — came at 6:26 of the second period when Union freshman center Owen Farris was given a five-minute major for boarding Yale captain Evan Smith, who left the game and did not return.
Hanson was rock-solid throughout the penalty kill, but the Dutchmen couldn’t get anything going once they were back to even strength.
Luke Stevens gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead at 14:22 of the second with a nifty deflection of a slap shot from the point by Graham Lillibrid.
“I don’t have the data to tell you when you kill a five-minute, do you score after or does it tax you,” Bennett said. “For us, it just taxed our legs. We didn’t really have a good push until the last little bit when it was ‘Here we go, time to circle the wagons, we need two goals in a span of two minutes.’ We needed that all night long.”
“Those penalties and power plays can go either way,” Allain said. “We had good zone time, we had some chances, so it wasn’t a momentum-killer even though we didn’t score.
Late in the third, Union’s Liam Robertson reacted as if he had scored on a one-timer from the left circle to get the Dutchmen within 2-1, but play resumed. Bennett called for a review at the next stoppage, based on Robertson’s belief that the puck went in, but the officials ruled no goal.
The replay showed the puck get between Kaczperski’s legs, but it trickled wide of the post.
“I think the goaltender saw an awful lot,” Bennett said. “Tonight, we just didn’t want to get to that dirty area, take a little bit of a pounding and try to take away their goalie’s eyes. That’s an area that we’re really going to focus on.”
“I like the way they work, and they work consistently,” Allain said of Union. “I think they defend really well. All those pieces of their game — they’re disciplined, they play with structure — they’re in place. To me, on the outside looking in, they’re having trouble finishing.”
Yale 1 1 0 — 2
Union 0 0 0 — 0
First period — 1, Yale, Welsh 4 (Pearson, Hall), 7:07. Penalties — Anhorn, U (interference), 13:49; Rowan, Y (hooking), 19:59.
Second period — 2, Yale, Stevens 3 (Lillibrid, O’Neil), 14:22. Penalties — Sidorski, U (hooking), 2:22; Farris, U (major-boarding), 6:26; Hall, Y (interference), 15:02.
Third period — None. Penalties — Kemp, Y (cross-checking), 11:05.
Shot on goal — Yale 6-11-6 — 23. Union 12-7-7 — 26.
Power-play opportunities — Yale 0 of 3. Union 0 of 3.
Goalies — Yale, Kaczperski W, 3-5-0 (26 shots-26 saves). Union, Hanson, L, 4-12-0 (23-21).
T — 2:15. A — 1,614.
Referees — Tory Carissimo, Joe Carusone. Linesmen — Rick Lembo, Jordan Patarino.