For ECAC Hockey purposes, Union’s game against Colgate on Saturday at Starr Rink meant nothing, for the Dutchmen were entrenched in third place.
For NCAA tournament purposes, though, the game had significant meaning for the 15th-ranked Dutchmen. A win would have kept them on the bubble for an at-large bid.
But the Dutchmen didn’t play like the game meant something. The result was a 5-2 loss to the Raiders in the final game of the regular season for both teams.
Union (12-6-4 ECACH, 18-10-6 overall) will be the third seed in the ECACH tournament, The Dutchmen will open the best-of-three quarterfinals starting March 12, and their opponent could be Capital Region-rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Engineers are the sixth seed after their 1-1 tie at Cornell.
The Dutchmen came into the game tied for 18th in the Pairwise Rankings, which help determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field. Their loss to the Raiders (12-8-2, 15-13-6) will drop them down the rankings.
“Before the Cornell game, we definitely knew about that,” Union defenseman Mike Schreiber said. “We didn’t get it done. We had a sloppy game.”
The Dutchmen, who have dropped two straight, lost this game thanks to bad defensive plays.
Defenseman Mike Wakita moved up to try and intercept a David McIntyre pass in the neutral zone. Wakita missed, and Francois Brisebois got the pass. He went in alone, and scored on goalie Keith Kinkaid 52 seconds into the game.
On what turned out to be the game-winning goal, Nolan Julseth-White pinched from the right point as a Kelly Zajac shot from the left wing missed the net and came around the right-wing boards. But the puck got past Julseth-White and into the neutral zone, where Kurtis Bartliff picked it up. Leading a two-on-one rush, Bartliff fired a shot over Kinkaid’s right shoulder with 5:45 left in the second period, giving Colgate a 3-1 lead.
“We didn’t have our brains tonight,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “That was the bottom line. I thought the guys were a little over-emotional. We made the game so hard on ourselves tonight, and that’s disappointing because we got outside of what we do. They like to go up and down the rink, we tried to go up and down the rink with them. We traded turnovers. It cost us.
“Mike Wakita steps up the first shift of the game when we talked about not stepping in our pregame meeting. Nolan steps up, and makes a bad read and gives them a two-on-one.”
On Nick Prockow’s power-play goal at 4:04 of the second, Ryan Forgaard didn’t tie him up. That enabled Prockow to tip Thomas Larkin’s left-point shot past Kinkaid.
The Raiders took advantage of a turnover deep in the Union zone late in the game to make it 4-2. Austin Smith stole an outlet pass, sent the puck over to Brisebois on the left side, and he beat Kinkaid.
“We got a little away from our game plan,” said Mario Valery-Trabucco, who scored his 21st goal of the season midway through the third period to set the Union Division I record for goals in a season, snapping a tie with Chris Ford, who did it in 1993-94. “We were trying to go for offense. We weren’t thinking about defense. We were making some poor turnovers at both blue lines, and that’s what made the difference.”
It just adds another chapter in Union’s miserable history at Starr. The Dutchmen are 1-17-1 in their 19-year Division I existence at the facility. Saturday marked the 12th anniversary of Union’s only win at Starr, a 6-0 triumph.
“I’ve never won here,” Schreiber said. “We tied here last year. That’s the closest I’ve come. Maybe the atmosphere changed from Cornell to here.”
Union 1 0 1 — 2
Colgate 1 2 2 — 5
First Period — 1, Colgate, Brisebois 14 (McIntyre, Sinz), :52. 2, Union, Bodie 5 (Boileau), 7:55. Penalties — Matheson, Uni (tripping), 1:55; Walters, Uni (goalie interference), 19:11.
Second Period — 3, Colgate, Prockow 8 (Larkin, McNamara), 4:04 (pp). 4, Colgate, Bartliff 3, 14:15. Penalties — Julseth-White, Uni (boarding), 2:42; McIntyre, Col (high-sticking), 6:17; Sinz, Col (cross-checking), 15:24.
Third Period — 5, Union, Valery-Trabucco 21 (Walters), 9:51. 6, Colgate, Brisebois 15 (Smith), 17:30. 7, Colgate, McIntyre 11 (Williams), 18:57 (en). Penalty — Sinz, Col (high-sticking), 3:24.
Shots on Goal — Union 8-13-15 — 36. Colgate 13-13-8 — 34.
Power-play opportunities — Union 0 of 3; Colgate 1 of 3.
Goalies — Union, Kinkaid 11-6-3 (33 shots-29 saves). Colgate, Long 6-5-2 (36-34).
A — 1,045. T — 2:03.
Referees — Mike Baker, John Murphy. Linesmen — David Brown, Andrew Suhoivc.