Bend, but don’t break. That has been the philosophy of the Union hockey team, especially in the postseason.
That mindset has earned the Dutchmen another game in the NCAA hockey tournament, one step closer to Tampa, Fla.
Max Novak, Jeremy Welsh and Wayne Simpson scored, Troy Grosenick made a big save late in the game and the top-seeded Dutchmen survived a video review of a Michigan State no-goal to beat the Spartans, 3-1, Friday in the East Regional semifinal at Webster Bank Arena.
It was the first NCAA tournament Division I win for the third-ranked Dutchmen (25-7-7), who lost to Minnesota Duluth, 2-0, in last year’s East Regional semifinal here. Union will face UMass Lowell in tonight’s regional final at 6:30. The winner advances to the Frozen Four April 5-7 in Tampa.
“We preach stick on puck, and try and deflect pucks,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We try to keep everything away from Troy, and create pockets where he can see the puck at all times. I thought our defense did a great job of that tonight.”
The Dutchmen did get caught running around a bit early in the third period. The Spartans (19-16-4) got a power-play goal late in the second period by Matt Berry that made it 2-1, and they carried the momentum of that into the third. The Spartans had the Dutchmen running around in their own zone and discombobulated for the first 31⁄2 minutes of the period.
“Coming into the room, the coaches said to stick to the game plan, and we’ll be fine,” Union right winger Josh Jooris said. “We’ve just got to keep the talk up in our ‘D’ zone, and just work things out.”
The Dutchmen did just that. But there were two very anxious moments. First, Berry shot wide from the slot with 7:30 left.
Then, with 2:50 to go, Lee Reimer almost tied the score. He was just outside the left circle when he got a pass and fired a one-timer. Grosenick, the Ken Dryden Award winner as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award top-10 finalist, got a piece of the puck with his glove to keep it out of the net.
“That’s what you need,” Bennett said. “He wasn’t the goaltender of our league for nothing. Sometimes, you’re going to have to call on your goaltender to make a huge save, and that’s what he did.”
Grosenick felt fortunate to get his glove on the shot.
“I just saw the puck get passed out of the corner there,” said Grosenick, who made 20 saves. “I thought it was going to get passed out to a D-man out on top. I don’t know if it was a D-man or not. It seemed like he had the puck at the top of the [left] circle. I just got out on top of the crease as fast as I could. Our ‘D’ stepped up and started to pressure him. I just got some leather on it.”
Shortly after Greg Wolfe pulled down Mat Bodie to give Union a power play with 1:34 left in the game, Simpson sealed the deal by scoring his 18th goal of the season.
“We wanted to fight to the end,” Simpson said. “Against a good team like this, it’s never really over until it’s over. It was really good to get that two-goal cushion. The guys did a good job of finishing it off from there.”
Union grabbed a 1-0 lead with 4:51 left in the first period during a four-on-four situation.
The Dutchmen were on a five-minute power play after Dean Chelios was called for hitting Daniel Ciampini from behind at 10:52. The power play ended when Dutchmen’s Daniel Carr was penalized for interference with 5:03 left.
Novak led a two-on-one rush down the left wing. Using Welsh as a decoy, Novak fired the puck over the right shoulder of goalie Will Yanakeff.
“They had two guys back pressuring me,” Welsh said. “I started to yell at him to shoot, shoot. He made a great shot.”
Controversy struck with 1:18 left in the first. There was a mad scramble in front of the net as Grosenick tried to get the puck. Spartans defenseman Brock Shelgren swatted at the puck just as Jooris backed into the net.
The net lifted up ever so slightly. The Spartans celebrated as if they scored, but there was a no-goal signal from referee Derek Shepherd, who is from the WCHA. The play went to video review.
After a lengthy look, the no-goal call stood. The ruling was the net was dislodged prior to the puck going in, although it was tough to tell on the video if the puck had indeed gone in.
“I felt like I had it covered once,” Grosenick said. “They had kept whacking at it. I didn’t have it covered long enough. Jooris tried to squeeze it back into my pads, and I just got whacked all over the place. One of their guys ended up hitting it out of mid-air. After it passed me, I didn’t know what happened exactly.
“I just found it laying in the crease, and covered it from there.”
The NCAA issued a statement, saying that Shepherd followed Rule No. 16, Section 18.12, saying the net must be firmly in place in order for it to be a good goal.
“They gave it plenty of time,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. “I trust the process, but I will look at it.”
Yanakeff was giving up a lot of rebounds, and Welsh took advantage of that early in the second period. After Yanakeff kicked out a rebound of a Mat Bodie shot, Welsh got the puck in the right circle, moved to the low slot and fired home his 26th goal of the season.
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“We noticed that in the first period. He seemed to be a bit shaky,” Welsh said. “Our game plan is always to just get pucks to the net and get guys to the net. I had a fortunate bounce there, and cashed my goal.”
And now, the Dutchmen are hoping to cash in on another win, which sends them to Tampa.
Michigan State 0 1 1 — 1
Union 1 1 1 — 3
First Period — 1, Union, Novak 9 (Welsh), 15:09. Penalties — M. Bodie, Uni (tripping), 4:23; D. Chelios, MS, major-game misconduct (checking from behind), 10:52; Carr, Uni (interference), 14:57.
Second Period — 2, Union, Welsh 26 (M. Bodie), 3:20. 3, Michigan State, Berry 11 (Perlini, Krug), 19:21 (pp). Penalties — Shelgren, MS (cross-checking), 16:24; Welsh, Uni (slashing), 17:32; Berry, MS (facemasking), 20:00; K. Bodie, Uni (facemasking), 20:00.
Third Period — 4, Union, Simpson 18 (Zajac), 18:42 (pp). Penalties — Wolfe, MS (hooking), 18:26; Shelgren, MS (hitting after whistle), 18:42.
Shots on Goal — Michigan State 6-7-8 — 21. Union 9-13-10 — 32.
Power-play opportunities — Michigan State 1 of 3; Union 1 of 4.
Goalies — Michigan State, Yanakeff 13-9-1 (32 shots-29 saves). Union, Grosenick 21-5-3 (21-20).
T — 2:35.
Referees — Derek Shepherd, Marco Hunt. Linesmen — Anthony Czech, Jeff Schultz.