SCHENECTADY — For decades, hockey coaches and players have always stressed the importance of winning and earning the two points that goes with the victory.
But everyone has to catch themselves now because three points are up for grabs.
ECAC Hockey went to the three-point format last season. The team that wins in regulation gets the three points. Should the contest be tied at the end of regulation and goes to overtime or a shootout, the winner gets two points and the loser gets one point. (Games that are decided in a shootout are considered ties in a team’s overall record because shootouts aren’t used to decide games in non-conference contests.)
Union found out the nuances of the three-point system last week. The Dutchmen earned two points for their 4-3 overtime victory over Clarkson last Friday, and got a point in the 3-2 shootout loss to St. Lawrence the next night.
“It’s extremely important just to win it in general,” Union senior defenseman Brandon Estes said. “You’d rather take it in regulation than in overtime. But if overtime is what it takes, then it’s what it takes. It’s taxing, but it is what it is.”
The Dutchmen (1-2-1, 3 points ECACH, 2-6-2 overall) will be looking for six points as they head on the road this weekend, visiting 13th-ranked Cornell (1-1, 3 points, 3-1) Friday at 7 p.m., and then Colgate (0-2-0, 0 points, 5-6) at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Union freshman forward Collin Graf didn’t have the three-point system when he played junior hockey for the Boston Junior Bruins last season. But he doesn’t mind the new setup.
“Trying to get points in every game that we play is huge because if we keep getting points, then they’ll just keep building up by the end of the year and we’ll be much better [off] than if we didn’t get any points,” Graf said.
Union head coach Rick Bennett is getting used to the format that the ECACH started using last season. Union and seven other teams sat out last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s tough because this is the first time going through it, so I don’t have a great sample size,” Bennett said. “I’ve got a whopping four games, so it’s tough to really have a grasp on it. I think it’s exciting hockey based on this past weekend. The guys seemed to like it. If the players like it and the fans keep coming back for that kind of entertainment — it’s not going to happen all the time — it’s kind of fun.”
Union junior goalie Connor Murphy said he is feeling much better after leaving the game early in the third period against St. Lawrence because of cramping.
“It was one of those things where, during the game I lost a lot of sweat,” the Hudson Falls native said. “Losing the salt from the sweat is kind of what caused the cramping. It’s something that I have been kind of dealing with over the last year, I would say. It did happen one other time when I was at Northeastern last year. I’m trying to figure out some stuff to try to keep up to date with it and try to keep from happening again.”
The Big Red (1-1, 3 points, 3-1 overall), who leads the series against the Dutchmen 39-22-9, split their two games last weekend, losing at Harvard 3-2 and winning at Dartmouth 5-4 on a goal by Ben Berard with 6.2 seconds left in the third period.
Berard, who had a hat trick in the Dartmouth game, leads Cornell in scoring with three goals and two assists. Joe Howe and Nate McDonald have split time in goal. Howe is 1-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a /929 save percentage and one shutout. McDonald is 2-0 with a 2.98 GAA and a .850 save percentage.
Like Union, Cornell didn’t play last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Raiders started the season 4-0, but are 1-6 in their last seven games, including losses in their last five games. One of those setbacks was a 6-5 home-ice decision to Western Michigan on Oct. 29, a game in which Colgate had a 5-0 lead.
Colton Young leads Colgate in scoring with seven goals and seven assists.
Colgate leads the series 38-24-4, but Union is 6-3-1 in the last 10 meetings.
After Saturday’s game, Union will be off to prepare for final exams for the first trimester. The Dutchmen will return to action Nov. 27 at Merrimack.