Union coach Rick Bennett was tired of answering questions about his team’s inability to hold on to leads in the third period.
So, the Dutchmen made sure that he wouldn’t have to hear the same line of questioning on Saturday night.
Freshman forward Nick Cruice snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, and the 17th-ranked Dutchmen made that goal stand up as the game-winner in a 2-1 ECAC Hockey victory over No. 20 Colgate at Messa Rink.
“They’re jumping up and down in [the locker room],” Bennett said. “It was a great team win, and I emphasize the word team. We’ve faced a lot of adversity here. It’s just nice to see them come back and get a win.
Union (5-4-3 ECACH, 11-8-4 overall) came into the game having blown third-period leads in two straight games, and four of their previous five ECACH contests. The low points came in the last two games, with the Dutchmen wasting a 2-0 lead against Quinnipiac in a 3-2 loss last weekend, and Friday night against Cornell, when a 2-1 Union advantage turned into a 3-2 Big Red win. The other two games where Union lost the lead, at Brown and Yale Dec. 7-8, ended up in ties.
What the Dutchmen did against the Raiders (3-6-1, 11-9-2) that they didn’t do in the other games was play a solid third period. Instead of being timid, they were attacking. The Dutchmen outshot the Raiders, 15-8, in the final 20 minutes.
“That’s all I keep hearing is this team’s been hanging on,” Bennett said. “I’m here to tell you that I’m sick of those questions. They were answered tonight. So, if holding on is 15 shots to eight, then I’d better get out of this racket.”
Union junior goalie Troy Grosenick, who made 25 saves, said the Dutchmen have learned their lesson with regards on how to play with the lead in the third period.
“Like I said last night, we never lost confidence,” Grosenick said. “We’ve always had that confidence. That was there tonight. I think we played with a lot of heart and got the job done.”
Cruice, who didn’t play in Friday’s game, turned a simple shot into the game-winning goal.
He took a Shayne Gostisbehre pass and cruised down the left wing into the Colgate zone. As he got to the faceoff dot, Cruice shot the puck. Somehow, it eluded the glove of goalie Spencer Finney, which was positioned above his head, and went into the net with 6:53 left in the second period.
“It kind of happened fast,” said Cruice, who scored his second goal of the season. “It all started with our forecheck, especially with our fourth line. Our job tonight was definitely get the bodies going and getting [pucks] deep. Give-and-go was an option cutting through the middle.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to [freshman forward] Dave Roy. He’s the one that told me to shoot because it was at the end of our shift. I was trying to get pucks on net. Fortunately, it went in.”
It wasn’t the hardest of shots that Cruice made. But it was accurate.
“It was a rainbow shot,” Cruice said.
“I think it was a knuckler,” Bennett said. “The puck is still probably going in the air, for all I know.”
The goal made up for a contact to the head-elbowing penalty Cruice took midway through the second. That penalty led to Jeremy Price’s power-play goal that tied the score.
“It was a relief,” Cruice said. “I took that penalty, and it was dumb on my part. It was definitely good to get it back for the team.”
Bennett was impressed that Cruice didn’t get down on himself for that penalty.
“He’s a bigger body,” Bennett said. “He’s a physical guy. When he gets in the lineup, he uses that body. As a staff, what we’re most proud of is he took a penalty, he came back and responded in a positive way. He’s moving his feet, he shot the puck and you never know when you get it to the net.”
Grosenick made the lead stand up. His most impressive save came with just under five minutes left in the second. Joe Wilson fired a shot from the left circle, and Grosenick was quick to stick out his glove and catch the puck.
“Colgate is really good on the rush,” Grosenick said. “They entered the zone, and made a few quick passes. The puck came back up almost to the top of the circle. I saw the guy [Wilson] coming on my blocker side. A kid made a nice pass to [Wilson], and I just tried to get out and cut down the angle and put faith in my defensemen that they weren’t going to get a back-door pass there. I just tried to get a glove on it.
“Luckily, it ended up in the glove.”
Colgate 0 1 0 — 1
Union 1 1 0 — 2
First Period — 1, Union, Simpson 11, 16:26. Penalties — Murphy, Colg (roughing), 16:08; Forgaard, Uni (roughing), 16:08; Johnston, Colg (hooking), 16:26; Ikkala, Uni (interference), 18:36.
Second Period — 2, Colgate, Price 5 (Bourdon, Murphy), 10:14 (pp). 3, Union, Cruice 2 (Gostisbehere), 13:07. Penalties — Murphy, Colg (tripping), 5:50; Cruice, Uni (contact to head-elbowing), 8:34; Wilkins, Uni (contact to head-elbowing), 10:39.
Third Period — None. Penalties — Union bench, served by Wilkins (too many men), 1:32; Price, Colg (interference), 2:51; K. Bodie, Uni (holding), 3:06; Lidgett, Colg (holding), 13:53; Ciampini, Uni (embellishment), 13:53; Murphy, Colg (interference), 17:30.
Shots on Goal — Colgate 8-10-8 — 26. Union 10-9-15 — 34.
Power-play opportunities — Colgate 1 of 6; Union 0 of 3.
Goalies — Colgate, Finney 6-5-1 (34 shots-32 saves). Union, Grosenick 7-6-4 (26-25).
A — 2,217. T — 2:07.
Referees — Bryan Hicks, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen — Jim Briggs, Richard Patry.