Andrew Buote and Kelly Zajac were put on the same line by Union coach Nate Leaman for the first time this season.
The duo found instant chemistry Friday against Princeton.
Buote and Zajac each scored twice, leading the 17th-ranked Dutchmen to a 7-3 ECAC Hockey victory over the Tigers at Hobey Baker Rink.
“We’ve obviously have been playing with the second and third lines there a little bit, just trying to get some chemistry,” Leaman said. “Those guys were only together a couple of days. It was nice to get some secondary scoring tonight.”
Jason Walters added a goal and an assist for the Dutchmen (5-0-3 ECACH, 11-4-5 overall) to extend his point-scoring streak to 11 games. The senior forward is one point away from 100 for his career.
Union, which moved into a second-place tie with Cornell, remains the only unbeaten team in ECACH play. Coupled with league-leading Quinnipiac’s 4-1 loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Dutchmen are a point behind the Bobcats. Union visits Quinnipiac tonight at 7. Cornell is off this weekend.
“Right now, we’re just going to evaluate what we did,” Leaman said. “This was a great game tonight. It was a war. It was an even game, despite the score. We’ve just got to make sure that we regroup, and prepare for [tonight].”
After Michael Sdao gave the Tigers (3-7-1, 6-9-2) a 1-0 lead at 8:19 of the first period, Buote tied it nearly three minutes later when he fired a shot from the right circle past goalie Alan Reynolds.
Zajac ignited a three-goal second period for the Dutchmen at 4:17. Leading a two-on-one rush down the left wing, he had Buote on his right as a decoy. Zajac rifled a shot past Reynolds.
“Kelly’s a great offensive player,” Buote said. “He sees the ice so well.”
After Dan Bartlett made it 4-3 at 8:24 of the third period, Zajac’s second goal put the Tigers away. Buote, who was just inside Union’s zone, found Zajac breaking up the ice. With the Tigers changing players, Buote made a perfect pass to Zajac.
“Kelly had a lot of speed going up the ice,” Buote said. “I put it into an area, and he skated into it.”
Zajac broke in alone, made a couple of moves and then put the puck past Reynolds with 8:14 left in the game to make it 5-3.
“I saw one of their guys changing, and I just blew the zone, like we’re told to do,” Zajac said. “ ‘Bootsie’ had some good patience there, and just saw me cutting through the middle and made a great pass. I went in from there. I tried to bear down on the play.”
It was the second time that Union was able to expand its lead after a Princeton goal. The Dutchmen added to the lead on a power-play goal by Stephane Boileau 33 seconds after Zajac scored, and Buote sealed the team’s third straight win on a short-handed, empty-net goal with 59 seconds left.
Union 1 3 3 — 7
Princeton 1 1 1 — 3
First Period — 1, Princeton, Sdao 2, 8:19. 2, Union, Buote 3 (J. Simpson), 10:58. Penalties — Presizniuk, Uni (interference), 5:18; Sdao, Pri (holding), 13:33.
Second Period — 3, Union, Zajac 7 (Coburn), 4:17. 4, Union, Walters 12 (Valery-Trabucco), 7:18. 5, Princeton, Fedun 2 (Magnowski), 17:55. 6, Union, Valery-Trabucco 11 (Schreiber, Walters), 19:09 (pp). Penalties — Matheson, Uni (boarding), 9:19; Yanovitch, Uni (cross-checking), 17:01; Arhontas, Pri (goalie interference), 17:11; Sbao, Pri (contact to head-roughing), 18:25; Godlewski, Pri (cross-checking), 18:54.
Third Period — 7, Princeton, Barltett 12 (Meland), 8:24. 8, Union, Zajac 8 (Buote), 11:46. 9, Union, Boileau 7 (J. Simpson, Coburn), 12:19 (pp). 10, Union, Buote 4, 19:01 (sh). Penalties — Bartlett, Pri (roughing), 3:30; Bartlett, Pri (tripping), 11:48;
Schreiber, Uni (unsportsmanlike conduct-facewash), 15:00; Meland, Pri (roughing), 15:00; Wakita, Uni (high-sticking), 17:53; MacDonald, Pri (roughing), 19:14; Cain, Uni (slashing), 19:53.
Shots on Goal — Union 14-10-9 — 33. Princeton 7-19-14 — 40.
Power-play opportunities — Union 2 of 7; Princeton 0 of 4.
Goalies — Union, Kinkaid 6-2-2 (40 shots-37 saves). Princeton, Reynolds 4-3-0 (33-26).
A — 1,656. T — 2:17.
Referees — Rich Leonard, Bob Ritchie. Linesmen — David Brown, Dan Taggart.