SCHENECTADY — The Union College men’s hockey seniors played their final regular-season game at Messa Rink on Saturday.
They will get to play one more on the home ice next Saturday.
Senior forward Chris Theodore scored the game-winning goal, and senior goalie and Hudson Falls native Connor Murphy made 22 saves as the Dutchmen defeated Princeton 3-1 in the last ECAC Hockey game of the regular season.
The victory clinched the eighth seed for the Dutchmen (8-13-1 ECACH, 26 points; 14-18-2 overall) in the ECACH tournament. They will face Princeton (8-14-0, 26 points; 12-17-0) in the single-elimination first-round game next Saturday at 4 p.m. at Messa. It will be the second straight year, and fifth overall, that the two teams have met in the postseason. Union swept last year’s best-of-three series at Messa. The first-round format was changed to a single game this season.
Union needed to beat Princeton in regulation and earn the three points to finish in a tie for eighth because it had the tiebreaker over the Tigers, more points against the top-four teams. Anything less, and the Dutchmen would have been on the road for the first round.
“That’s super exciting,” Murphy said. “Obviously, you don’t want to travel whenever you can. So playing at home is definitely an advantage for us, and we’re going to try to take advantage of that and run with it.”
Union has been strong at home this season, going 11-5.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been really good at home this year,” Theodore said. “Getting that home game with the way the fans have been lately, it’s obviously an advantage for us, so I’m excited for that.”
First-year head coach Josh Hauge was happy for his players, especially his six seniors.
“I’m excited for the seniors that they get this opportunity, and our guys get to experience playoff hockey at home,” Hauge said. “There’s been some ups and downs, but [I’m] excited that we at least get this chance.”
Sophomore forward Josh Nixon got Union on the board 66 seconds into the game when the rebound of a John Prokop shot hit his skate and went past goalie Aidan Porter. Nixon had a goal overturned by video review in Friday’s game against Quinnipiac, and he was thinking Saturday’s goal was going to be challenged by Princeton.
But the Tigers didn’t challenge, much to the relief of Nixon.
“It was in the back of my head,” Nixon said. “But as soon as they dropped the puck, I said, ‘We’ll keep that one.’ ”
The Dutchmen dominated the second period, outshooting the Tigers 16-4 and outsourcing them 2-0.
Theodore, who was the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year last season while playing at American International, made it 2-0 less than five minutes into the second period when he fired a shot into the net for his third of the season. After the goal, he turned to the crowd in the Princeton left-wing circle and bowed to them.
“It was obviously nice,” Theodore said. “I haven’t scored many this year. It’s been a tough year for me personally. But just getting to the net there and scoring that goal [and] getting a little confidence before playoffs is huge.”
Liam Robertson scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal with 7:46 left. It was Union’s second two-man advantage of the game, but it didn’t capitalize on its first one in the opening period.
“It was extremely important,” Hauge said, “because it’s been a focal point for us and an area where we feel like if you get a 5-on-3, you have to finish. We had that opportunity [in the first period]. We didn’t [score], but we got a second chance and were able to [score]. It was a good momentum boost and sort of carried us through.”
Union had seven power plays in the game, and that was too many for Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty. That’s something his team can’t afford to do next Saturday.
“We have to stay out of the box,” Fogarty said.
The Tigers spoiled Murphy’s shutout bid on a Mike Kennedy goal at 5:41 of the third period. They pulled Porter late in the game to try and get two goals, but couldn’t get one past Murphy.
After a whistle stopped play with 3.1 seconds left, senior Merek Pipes replaced Murphy. Pipes, making his third career appearance, made a save off of a Princeton faceoff win, sending his teammates and fans into a frenzy. It was a perfect way to end Senior Night.
“That was awesome to see,” Murphy said. “I’m glad he got a little bit of time there.”
Princeton 0 0 1 — 1
Union 1 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, Union, Nixon 9 (Prokop, Villegas), 1:06. Penalties — Allen, Uni (hooking), 2:20; Ferguson, Uni (interference), 6:03; Ma, Pri (interference), 11:53; L. Gorman, Pri (cross-checking), 12:26; Konovalov, Pri (holding), 17:56; Villegas, Uni (holding), 18:47.
Second Period — 2, Union, Theodore 3 (Snell, Farris), 4:57. 3, Union, Robertson 9 (Mell, Prokop), 12:14 (pp). Penalties — Cronin, Pri (slashing), 10:23; Robbins, Pri (hooking), 11:57; Princeton bench, served by Hayami (delay of game), 14;17; Jacobs, Pri (holding), 18:07.
Third Period — 4, Princeton, Kennedy 1 (I. Murphy, B. Gorman), 5:41. Penalties — Korpi, Uni (slashing), 8:29.
Shots on Goal — Princeton 9-4-11 — 24. Union 4-16-6 — 26.
Power-play opportunities — Princeton 0 of 4; Union 1 of 7.
Goalies — Princeton, Porter 1-8-0 (26 shots-23 saves). Union, C. Murphy 12-16-1 (23-22), Pipes (19:56 third, 1-1).
A — 1,902. T — 2:21.
Referees — Anthony Dapuzzo, Joseph Carusone. Linesmen — Ryan Knapp, Rick Lembo.
- QUINNIPIAC 4, RPI 1
Jayden Lee, Jacob Quillan, Sam Lipkin and Collin Graf scored to give the Bobcats a win over the Engineers at Houston Field House.
Sutter Muzzatti scored a first-period goal for RPI, which will host Yale in the ECACH tournament first-round game next Saturday.
Quinnipiac 0 2 2 — 4
RPI 1 0 0 — 1
First Period — 1, RPI, Muzzatti 7 (Mahshie), 9:49. Penalties — Czerneckianair, Qui (tripping), 3:13; Agnew, RPI (tripping), 15:41.
Second Period — 2, Quinnipiac, Jay. Lee 4 (Friedmann, Fillion), 5:36. 3, Quinnipiac, Quillan 12 (Jay. Lee, Nordqvist), 7:19 (pp). Penalties — MacIsaac, RPI (holding), 6:09; Czerneckianair, Qui (cross-checking), 16:02.
Third Period — 4, Quinnipiac, Lipkin 12 (Graf, Perets), 11:56 (pp). 5, Quinnipiac, Graf 19 (Quillan, Lipkin), 18:05 (en). Penalties — Budy, RPI (interference), :15; Quinnipiac bench, served by Lombardi, 1:49; Rasanen, Qui (slashing), 7:22; Davies, RPI (hooking), 10:11.
Shots on Goal — Quinnipiac 9-17-8 — 34. RPI 8-5-8 — 21.
Power-play opportunities — Quinnipiac 2 of 4; RPI 0 of 3.
Goalies — Quinnipiac, Perets (21 shots-20 saves). RPI, Cherepak (33-30).
Referees — Jason Williams, Adam Tobias. Linesmen — Michael Wrobel, Robert Lemnah.