SCHENECTADY — The Union men’s hockey team is hoping that familiarity doesn’t breed complacency on Saturday.
Having just beaten Princeton in last Saturday’s ECAC Hockey regular-season finale at Messa Rink, the Dutchmen will get another shot at the Tigers on Saturday, this time with even bigger stakes on the line.
The eighth-seeded Dutchmen (14-18-2) host the ninth-seeded Tigers (12-17-0) in the ECACH tournament first-round game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Messa.
Preparation will be a little easier for head coach Josh Hauge and his staff as they prepared their players for this single-elimination game. This is the first year of the one-game for the first round after having been a best-of-three series since the inception of the 12-team postseason format in 2003.
Union took care of business against Princeton last Saturday that gave it home ice. Josh Nixon scored 66 seconds into the game. The Dutchmen scored twice in the second period and outshot the Tigers 16-4. They protected the lead in the third period. They killed off all four of Princeton’s power-play opportunities.
The Dutchmen will have to play that kind of game again Saturday if they want to advance to next weekend’s best-of-three quarterfinals.
“The pre-scout’s a little bit less work,” Hauge said. “We have most of the work done. And then we have a game to reference. For the most part, obviously, in the playoffs intensity is going to rise, but we’re still going to be who we are. It’s not like the skill level changes, it’s just going to be a little bit more intense.”
Union senior forward and captain Owen Farris knows that the Dutchmen can’t take Princeton for granted just because they beat the Tigers last week. One slipup, and Union’s second could end.
“I think it’s always hard to beat a team twice and end a team’s season,” Farris said. “In [the] playoffs, it’s always going to be more intense. That’s going to be something you see in Saturday’s game versus this past weekend. Having home ice, having [last] change, those little extra advantages [and] having to travel. They’ve got a pretty long travel day. All those things will play [a factor].”
The one-game format ratchets up the pressure even more. Lose and you go home. No chance to get revenge in a Game 2 like in previous years and possibly force a Game 3.
“I would say there’s more pressure, but there’s definitely a lot smaller room for error,” said senior goalie, team captain and Hudson Falls native Connor Murphy. “We’re going to have to make sure that we’re on top of our game right away right from the first puck drop. We’re going to have to do the same thing that we did this past weekend.”
Union had seven power-play opportunities last Saturday, including a pair of 5-on-3s. The Dutchmen scored on one of them when Liam Robertson connected at 12:14 of the second period to make it 3-0.
“We have to stay out of the box and just clean up our defensive zone,” Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty said. “It’ll be a war of attrition, win small battles and it will be a great game.”
Union is planning to have a White Out for the game. It wants the fans to wear white shirts for the game.
Union students have an opportunity to win a 43-inch LG TV. The first 300 Union students with a Union ID that enter through the student door will get a free ticket and be entered to win the TV.