Sophomore forward Daniel Carr finally broke out of his goal-scoring slump. Freshman goalie Colin Stevens finally got to play in his first game at Messa Rink, a place he came to watch Union College hockey while growing up in Niskayuna.
But it took forever for the 11th-ranked Dutchmen to put away American International on Saturday.
On a night when they celebrated their very successful 2010-11 season, the Dutchmen needed two late goals from freshmen Daniel Ciampini and Max Novak to pull out a 5-2 non-conference victory over the Yellow Jackets at Messa Rink.
“We’re definitely happy with the win,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “The process of how it happens is something that we can actually work on. I think it’s a win we needed going into league play [next weekend]. It came at a good time.”
Before the game, Union, which lost its first game of the season Friday at New Hampshire, unfurled banners commemorating its ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup regular-season title and NCAA tournament appearance. Then the Dutchmen (3-1-3) went out and overwhelmed the Yellow Jackets (1-6). They outshot AIC, 58-28. The shots were 45-11 after two periods. However, the score was only 3-1.
AIC goalie Ben Meisner kept his team in the game. And when Steve Mele scored his second goal of the game with 6:36 left in the third period to make the score 3-2, there was a sense of concern among the Dutchmen 1,735 fans.
“Some credit has to go to their goaltender,” Carr said. “We could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him. He definitely played well. I think there are some things we need to improve on going forward.”
Less 31⁄2 minutes later, Ciampini gave Union some breathing space. Playing in his first game of the season, Ciampini drove down the right wing, cut to the net and put the puck on Meisner, who made the initial save. But as he was going past the net, Ciampini took a jab at the puck, and it slipped past Meisner.
“It was a pretty good opportunity to be on the ice, especially at the time of the game,” Ciampini said. “I knew being on the ice at that time, you have two jobs — to keep the puck out of your net, and to just crash and bang and make some noise. At that point, you can’t be sitting back on your heels, especially with a team like that when they’re pressing.”
Novak sealed the deal for the Dutchmen by scoring on a breakaway with 1:46 to go.
Stevens, who made his first start of the season last Friday at Niagara, entered the game against AIC with just under seven minutes gone in the first period when Troy Grosenick left with a stomach virus. There was no time to get nervous.
“Anytime you’re on the bench backing up, what any goalie coach will tell you is always be ready to play because you never know what’s going to happen,” said Stevens, who made 25 saves. “I try to live by that.”
The first four goals of the game were scored on the power play. Kyle Bodie and Wayne Simpson scored in the first period for the Dutchmen. In between those goals, Mele got his first of the game.
Carr, who fired a game-high 11 shots on goal, ended a six-game scoring drought when he put the rebound of a Jeremy Welsh blast past Meisner at 8:33 of the second period. It turned out to be the game-winning goal.
“I was starting to feel like there was a brick wall in front of that net,” said Carr, who had 20 goals last season. “Now, it’s just [having to] keep after it, and keep putting pucks to the net and see what happens.”
AIC 101 — 2
Union 212 — 5
First Period — 1, Union, K. Bodie 1 (Zajac, Gostisbehere), 13:36 (pp). 2, AIC, Mele 3 (Penny, Puskar), 14:59 (pp). 3, Union, Simpson 5 (Zajac, K. Bodie), 19:12 (pp). Penalties — Reid, Uni (slashing), 4:44; Reid, boarding), 7:52; Fagerheim, AIC (hooking), 13:16; Jooris, Uni (interference), 13:53; Sliwinski, AIC (high-sticking), 19:01.
Second Period — 4, Union, Carr 1 (Welsh, M. Bodie), 8:33 (pp). Penalties — Primiani, AIC (interference), 7:52; Sliwinski, AIC (boarding), 15:13; Pleskach, AIC (slashing), 19:03; Gostisbehere, Uni (hooking), 19:35.
Third Period — 5, AIC, Mele 4 (Pleskach, Grasso), 13:24. 6, Union, Ciampini 1 (Vasaturo, Coatta), 16:45. 7, Union, Novak 3 (Zajac), 18:14. Penalties — Yanovitch, Uni, major-game misconduct (contact to head-elbowing), 2:49; Williams, AIC (slashing), 6:49; K. Bodie, Uni (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:49; Popek, AIC (cross-checking), 17:22; Welsh, Uni (hooking), 17:33; Jooris, Uni (hooking), 19:00.
Shots on Goal — AIC 5-6-17 — 28. Union 23-22-13 — 58.
Power-play opportunities — AIC 1 of 7; Union 3 of 6.
Goalies — AIC, Meisner 1-5-0 (58 shots-53 saves). Union, Grosenick (1-1), Stevens 1-0-1 (27-25).
A — 1,735. T — 2:15.
Referees — Andy O’Brien, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen — Pat Johnston, Jason Shattie.