When Union junior defenseman Mat Bodie left the game with an upper-body injury after the first shift of Friday’s ECAC Hockey opener against Capital Region rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the other five blue-liners knew they had to step up their game for their captain.
They did Bodie proud.
Senior defenseman Greg Coburn had two assists, and sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had a goal to help the two-time defending ECACH regular-season champion Dutchmen to a 4-2 victory over the Engineers before 4,345 fans at Houston Field House.
“It was definitely a big game on the D’s part,” said Gostisbehere, who seemed fine after suffering a lower-body injury in last Saturday’s 2-2 tie at Connecticut. “Mat is a big part of our D-corps back there. We just had to bear down, and put our nose to the grindstone and get going with five.”
Bodie was cradling his left arm when he was escorted off the ice by Union trainer Cheryl Rockwood with 18:12 left in the first period. He did not return.
“I didn’t see it, and I have no idea [how it happened],” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “I just know that it doesn’t look good for right now.”
Bennett said the injury is long-term and could be one to two months. He doesn’t know who will replace Bodie in the lineup for tonight’s rematch at Messa Rink. Tim Boyle and Charlie Vasaturo are candidates.
With the loss of Bodie, it meant more playing time for Coburn, Gostisbehere, seniors Shawn Stuart and Ryan Forgaard and freshman Sebastien Gingras.
Even though 10th-ranked Union (1-0 ECACH, 4-1-1 overall) was outshot, 33-18, Bennett was pleased with the defensive unit’s effort. Add in goalie Troy Grosenick, who made 31 saves.
“They did a great job,” Bennett said. “Shawn Stuart, we needed him tonight, and he came up big. I thought the biggest plus of all was Sebastien Gingras and the way he played tonight. As a first-year guy, to come into an environment like this, I thought he did a tremendous job tonight for us.”
Three of the defensemen had plus defensive ratings. Coburn and Gostisbehere were plus-2, and Forgaard was a plus-1. Gingras was even, and Stuart was a minus-1.
“We didn’t think too much,” Coburn said. “It’s unfortunate that he went down. We just said the five guys have to step up, and we did that tonight. . . . You just had to bear down a little bit deeper and keep your shifts smarter. That’s what we did tonight.”
Coburn’s two assists were very similar. His right-point wrist shot was tipped by Daniel Ciampini past goalie Scott Diebold 5:39 into the game.
On the second one, Coburn took a shot from the left circle that Diebold turned aside. But Matt Hatch was coming down the right wing, and he rammed the rebound home with 1:00 left in the second period to give Union a 4-1 lead.
Gostisbehere scored on the power play at 4:06 of the second after a faceoff win by Kyle Bodie. That made it 2-0.
“It was a good faceoff win by Kyle Bodie,” Gostisbehere said. “I was trying to get it on net, and thankfully, it went in.”
Nick Bailen’s power-play goal midway through the second pulled RPI (0-1, 1-2-1) within one. But Bailen was involved in the turning point of the game.
Dutchmen senior right winger Wayne Simpson blocked a Bailen shot at the left point. The puck caromed just on the Union blue line, and Simpson beat Bailen to it. Simpson went in alone on Diebold, avoided the goalie’s poke check and put a backhander into the net with 2:20 left in the second to make it 3-1.
“I just tried to get in the shooting lane,” said Simpson, who set a Union record with his 11th career game-winning goal. “After it hit me, luckily, it just sat there for me. I just tried to push it out of the zone first, get in the neutral zone and I was able to beat him. I just saw the goalie come out at the last second, so I went to my backhand. Luckily, I slid it in there.”
Even though Jacob Laliberte scored an early third-period goal for RPI, Engineers coach Seth Appert believed the game was over after the second. He wasn’t happy that his team took four penalties in the second period, including a 10-minute misconduct to captain CJ Lee.
“We showed a real lack of maturity, and I take responsibility for that,” Appert said. “I like our team. We have a lot of fight in us. We’ve got some good things about us. But we need to grow up. We need to understand how to respond in key moments. We need to understand how to play with poise and belief of who we are, and in big moments.”
Union 1 3 0 — 4
RPI 0 1 1 — 2
First Period — 1, Union, Ciampini 1
(Coburn, K. Bodie). Penalties — K. Bodie, Uni (tripping), :36; McGowan, RPI (boarding), 13:06; Dolan, RPI (holding), 16:29; Bubela, RPI (charging), 19:35.
Second Period — 2, Union, Gostisbehere 2 (K. Bodie), 4:06 (pp). 3, RPI, Bailen 2 (Laliberte), 10:31 (pp). 4, Union, Simpson 4, 17:40. 5, Union, Hatch 2 (Coburn), 19:00. Penalties — Leboeuf, RPI (checking from behind), 2:28; Jooris, Uni (slashing), 4:41; Haggerty, RPI (tripping), 8:00; Gostisbehere, Uni, double minor (tripping, slashing), 8:24; Lee, RPI, minor-misconduct (slashing), 8:24; Jooris, Uni (boarding), 9:00.
Third Period — 6, RPI, Laliberte 4 (Neal), 6:39. Penalties — Jooris, Uni (high-sticking), 13:49; Carr, Uni (holding), 18:52.
Shots on Goal — Union 5-9-3 — 18. RPI 10-9-14 — 33.
Power-play opportunities — Union 1 of 5; RPI 1 of 6.
Goalies — Union, Grosenick 3-1-1 (33 shots-31 saves). RPI, Diebold 1-1-1 (18-14).
A — 4,345. T — 2:12.
Referees — Bryan Hicks, Robert St. Lawrence. Linesmen — Leo Boylan, David Brown.