SCHENECTADY — After Friday night’s 1-0 overtime win against Princeton, Union head coach Rick Bennett was asked about facing Saturday’s opponent, Quinnipiac.
“They can play any style you like,” Bennett said.
The fourth-ranked Bobcats showed why they are a contender for not only an ECAC Hockey title, but an NCAA championship.
The Bobcats thoroughly dominated the Dutchmen from start to finish, taking a convincing 4-0 victory at Messa Rink.
In extending their unbeaten streak to 11 games, it was as if the Bobcats (5-0-1 ECACH, 17 points, 12-1-3 overall) were toying with the Dutchmen (3-4-1, 8 points; 5-8-2 overall).
They smothered the Dutchmen defensively. And then in the third period, they turned up the heat by scoring three goals against a tired Dutchmen squad.
“I thought they turned it up the whole game,” Bennett said. “[They’re] everything a top-five team in the country looks like. Tonight, I thought they were excellent, and their coaching staff had them ready to go. I credit [Quinnipiac head coach] Rand Pecknold. There’s a reason why he’s one of the best coaches in the whole country.”
Union had very little offensive momentum. The Dutchmen had just 13 shots on goal. They had nine shots on goal with just under 10 minutes left in the game. They mustered just 28 shot attempts. The Dutchmen had just two shots on goal on five power-play attempts.
Meanwhile, Quinnipiac peppered Union with 37 shots on goal, 36 of which were on starting goalie Connor Murphy. The Bobcats had 63 shot attempts. They had two less power plays than the Dutchmen, but they had seven more shots on goal in those three man-advantage situations.
“They’re excellent,” Bennett said. “Coming in, you knew they were good defensively. But you don’t know until you play against them. Again, they totally just outworked us tonight. The score was every bit of a 4-zip game tonight.”
Union senior forward and team captain Josh Kosack said the team was never in the game right from the start.
“Obviously, they’re a very good team,” Kosack said. “I thought we beat ourselves. I don’t think we brought our ‘A’ game by any means. We were slow. I thought we looked tired. We really didn’t get any sustained pressure. ‘Murph’ held us in it until eight minutes left in the third when we really didn’t have much.”
The Dutchmen were only down 1-0 after two periods, thanks to Murphy’s efforts. The only goal he allowed in the first 40 minutes was to Desi Burgart off a Union turnover with 7:06 left in the second period.
“Obviously, it was nice for a little while,” Murphy said about keeping the Dutchmen in the game. “But I think our ultimate goal as a team, myself included, is to win hockey games. We weren’t able to do that tonight. We’ve got to get back at it and try to get better next weekend at Maine.”
But it all collapsed in the third period. Guus Van Ness outmuscled forward Gabriel Seger as he came out from behind the net to backhand the puck past Murphy at 8:56. Less than two minutes later, Van Ness got behind defenseman Brandon Estes as he took a pass from Griffin Mendel and scored on a breakaway.
Murphy’s night mercifully ended after Ty Smilanic scored with 5:10 to play. Freshman Joe Sharib replaced Murphy and made his Union debut. Bennett, who was pleased with Murphy’s effort, said he should have pulled the Hudson Falls native sooner.
“It sucks [getting pulled]. I want to finish every game,” Murphy said. “But that was Rick’s decision, and that’s OK. That’s the way the game was going at that point. I think he made the right decision. I was glad to see Joe get some action. I think he did well.”
The players will be watching the tape of this game for a while. Bennett hopes they will learn a lesson.
“You don’t throw that video out,” Bennett said. “They’re going to watch every second of that. You just use that for the future and how hard you have to work and show what an older team like Quinnipiac can do to you, especially when you’re not working hard, and that’s what you get, a 4-zip loss. If we show the positives of Quinnipiac against us, then maybe we can apply that in the following game.”
Quinnipiac 0 1 3 — 4
Union 0 0 0 — 0
First Period — None. Penalties — Smilanic, Qui (tripping), 10:11; Ferguson, Uni (cross-checking), 15:02, Quinnipiac bench, served by Van Nes (faceoff violation), 18:50.
Second Period — 1, Quinnipiac, Burgart 2 (de Jong, Bongiovanni), 12:54. Penalties — Robertson, Uni (hooking), 5:48; Cohen, Uni (holding), 8:51; Quillan, Qui (tripping), 16:06.
Third Period — 2, Quinnipiac, Van Nes 2 (Less, Chau), 8:56. 3, Quinnipiac, Van Nes 3 (Mendel), 10:46. 4, Quinnipiac, Smilanic 8 (Fillion, Brind’Amour), 14:50. Penalties — Chorney, Qui (tripping), 10:57.
Shots on Goal — Quinnipiac 11-15-11 — 37. Union 4-4-5 — 13.
Power-play opportunities — Quinnipiac 0 of 3; Union 0 of 5.
Goalies — Quinnipiac, Perwts 8-0-2 (13 shots-13 saves). Union, Murphy 5-7-1 (36-34), Sharib (14:50 third, 1-1).
A — 1,723. T — 2:05.
Referees — Matt Wyld, Cameron Lynch. Linesmen — Adam Wood, Patrick Woodward.