SCHENECTADY — At one end was a goalie, Connor Murphy, who made over 1,000 saves last year to rank third in the country in Division I.
All the guy at the other end, Devon Levi, did last year was win the Mike Richter Award as the most outstanding netminder in the country.
And, nevertheless, the best goalies on the Messa Rink ice on Saturday night may have been the Union College skaters.
The Dutchmen blocked 21 shots in support of Murphy, who was facing his former team, Northeastern, and senior transfer Chris Theodore made his first goal for Union a big one, cleanly beating Levi at 9:28 of the third period for a 3-2 non-conference victory.
The game ended with a scattering of scraps and tussles between the players around Murphy, who laughed and joked, “I almost did,” when asked if he had been tempted to join one of the scraps.
He transferred from Northeastern after two seasons and has been a stalwart for the Dutchmen since last year, so it was a gratifying result, especially coming against a team ranked No. 18/19 in the country.
“I’ve had this game circled for a long time,” Murphy said. “Ever since I knew that we were playing them, it’s been one of the games I’ve been looking forward to, so it was a really exciting game to be a part of. I’m extremely happy that we came out with a win.
“In terms of going through the handshake line, it was good to see some old faces, but on the ice they’re enemies to us during the game. Once it was over, it was good to kind of catch up and say hi. I just talked to a couple of them out in the lobby. All-around, a good time.”
Union improved to 6-8-1 overall, while dropping Northeastern to 7-6-3.
Murphy stopped 23 shots, which means he barely beat his teammates on the stat sheet.
Defenseman Cullen Ferguson was responsible for six blocks, and although forward Bram Scheerer only had one, his presence was particularly felt by the Huskies on a power play early in the second period.
During that penalty kill, with Union trailing 1-0, Scheerer blocked a shot from the point, nudged a cross-ice pass just outside the blueline and whacked away a shot attempt at Murphy’s left post.
“Bram does so many little things for us to be successful,” Union head coach Josh Hauge said. “I’m glad you mentioned him, because I don’t think he gets enough credit for the way he plays. He plays really hard, he’s a big body and he’s willing to sacrifice it.”
He did that again later in the period with a body check that forced a turnover, leading to a pass from John Prokop that set up Owen Farris for a break-in on Levi that Farris buried to tie it 1-1.
The Huskies regained a one-goal lead at 16:48 of the period on Justin Hryckowian’s 10th goal of the season, but the teams were tied 2-2 heading into the second intermission when the Dutchmen’s Liam Robertson scored on the power play.
Midway through the third, Theodore glided unchecked laterally across the slot and found a shooting lane, beating Levi with a laser wrist shot inside the left post for a 3-2 lead.
“We worked all week on cutting to the middle, and it was a good play by [Carter] Korpi to bring those two guys to him,” Theodore said. “Then I just cut across and found a lane and let it fly. I looked up and saw the spot open and kind of fired it.”
“He’s extremely talented,” Hauge said. “He’s been around getting his first one for us for a long time, so we’re really happy for him to finally get that monkey off his back. Carter Korpi drove the net hard, which allowed him to cut back behind him, and if you give Chris Theodore time and space, he’s going to make you pay.”
That goal came after Northeastern had taken a 3-2 lead that was erased after a video review that showed that it was kicked in by the Northeastern player, for which Union assistant coach John Ronan called a challenge.
“Everybody rallied around the fact that it was a big game,” Murphy said. “It was great to see. I knew right off the bat we were blocking shots. Obviously, that helps me out a ton. They did a lot of the work I luckily didn’t have to do, so give them a ton of credit, the whole team, for bearing down for the 60 minutes and getting the job done.”
“It was a really relentless effort from the group,” Hauge said. “We got down twice, found a way to battle back. Extremely proud of the effort and the buy-in from the group. It’s really difficult to have two weeks off and have habits and details like the guys did tonight.”
“Looking at where they rank and their standing in the country, I think it shows that we can beat, really, anybody,” Robertson said.
Northeastern 1 1 0 — 2
Union 0 2 1 — 3
First period — 1, Northeastern, Williams 4 (Hughes), 10:24.
Second period — 2, Union, Farris 2 (Prokop), 12:54. 3, Northeastern, Hryckowian 10 (McDonough, Doyle), 16:48. 4, Union, Robertson 4 (Hanley, Villegas), 19:07 (pp). Penalties — Allen, U (hooking), 3:14; Borgesi, N (tripping), 17:45..
Third period — 5. Union, Theodore 1 (Young, Hanley), 9:28. Penalties — Snell, U (tripping), 5:06; Farris, U (face masking), 20:00; Farris, U (game misconduct), 20:00; Robertson, U (face masking), 20:00.
Shots on goal – Northeastern 10-7-8 — 25. Union 5-7-3 — 16.
Power play opportunities — Northeastern 0 of 2. Union 1-1.
Goalies — Northeastern, Levi 7-5-3 (16 shots-13 saves). Union, Murphy 6-6-1 (25-23).
A — 1,621. T — 2:21.
Referees — Jason Williams, Douglas Place. Linesman — Michael Wrobel, Jason Shattie.