The last time Union had a two-man power-play advantage, it failed not only to score against Quinnipiac, but also to generate much in the way of scoring chances. Instead of building on a 2-0 lead in the third period that night, the Dutchmen lost the momentum and, ultimately, the game.
Union was determined that the next time it got a two-man advantage, it wouldn’t waste it.
That time came Tuesday night in the third period against Harvard. And the Dutchmen made the Crimson pay.
Wayne Simpson scored on the two-man advantage to give Union a 2-0 lead. That goal proved to be the game-winner as the 19th-ranked Dutchmen earned their second straight ECAC Hockey victory, a 4-1 decision over the Crimson at Messa Rink.
The two-man edge was set up at 7:36 of the third when Luke Greiner was called for high-sticking and Marshall Everson got a hooking penalty. It was two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
The Dutchmen, who have the nation’s top power play at 25.4 percent (29-for-114), showed patience, working the puck around the perimeter until they got the opening they needed. Mat Bodie, who was in the high slot, saw an open Simpson at the goal line to the right of goalie Raphael Girard. Simpson took Bodie’s pass, whirled to his left and fired a shot over Girard’s glove 36 seconds into the power play.
“Not many players can make the play that ‘Matty Bods’ did to get it to me,” Simpson said. “He drew two of the guys out, so it was pretty much me. I was looking for the pass initially, but I found a spot to put it in. Luckily, it just snuck in the corner there.”
It was the second power-play goal of the game for the Dutchmen (6-4-3 ECACH, 12-8-4 overall), but it was the most important. After what happened in the 3-2 loss at Quinnipiac on Jan. 12, Union needed to score on its chance against Harvard (3-9, 5-11-1).
“It was huge,” Simpson said. “We watched tape on that. Those are big turning points in the game. They could be momentum shifts for either team.”
By not getting fancy, the Dutchmen were able to score.
“The difference between tonight and Quinnipiac was the fact that we stuck with the process,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We weren’t overzealous. We stayed with it, and that’s what you have to do. When you play a team like Harvard, they’ve very good defensively, and it’s a very good team, so you’ve just got to keep battling when it’s 0-0, or whether you’re on a five-on-three and it doesn’t come the first three seconds. You’ve got to stay with it.
“They didn’t pass through sticks, and they just kept it simple.”
Bennett was pleased not only with the second power-play goal, but the first one the Dutchmen got late in the second period.
With center Josh Jooris out because of an upper-body injury, Max Novak got playing time on the power play. He was in the slot when Bodie slid the puck to him. Novak calmly turned and fired a shot between Girard’s pads with 2:23 left in the second.
“The unit that was thrown together because Josh Jooris was out did a great job,” Bennett said. “I thought they came out with a little sense of urgency. Max Novak, Mat Bodie and [Sebastian] Gingras did a great job. Matt Wilkins screened the goalie, and that’s something we’ve been preaching. [Novak] did his job, and [the puck] was in the back of the net. That really got us going.”
It did get a little hairy for the Dutchmen with 9:06 left. A faceoff win by Colin Blackwell in the Union right circle led to a goal by Jimmy Vesey. It conjured up thoughts that maybe Union was going to have trouble again with holding a third-period lead.
But the freshman forward Wilkins, who was the top scorer in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season with the Brooks Bandits but has been struggling to produce at Union, restored the Dutchmen’s two-goal cushion with 6:25 left. He was at the top of the slot when he one-timed a pass by Bodie from the left point and beat Girard past his right pad.
It was Wilkins’ second goal of the season and his first at Messa.
“Like my first goal, [it’s] a weight off the shoulders,” Wilkins said. “It’s not like I’ve been lacking opportunities. It just seems like it’s not going in right now. Hopefully, this one will get me rolling.”
It not only got the Dutchmen rolling, it took the life out of a Harvard team that is 1-9-1 in its last 11 games.
“When they got their first goal there, we instantly said on the bench, ‘Just keep going at it. Let’s get another one here,’ ” Bodie said. “Matty made a great shot on that play. It was huge. It was a big goal for us. That’s the one where we felt like we’ve got this one under control.”
Daniel Carr scored an empty-netter with 19 seconds left. . . .
Bennett said it doesn’t look good for Jooris to play in Saturday’s Mayor’s Cup game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the Times Union Center. Jooris was hurt early in the third period of Saturday’s game against Colgate when he took a stick to the facemask. He did return later in the game.
Harvard 0 0 1 — 1
Union 0 1 3 — 4
First Period — None. Penalties — Union bench, served by Wilkins (too many men), 8:11; Coburn, Uni (interference), 14:16; Rempel, Har (cross-checking), 17:55.
Second Period — 1, Union, Novak 4 (M. Bodie, Gingras), 17:37 (pp). Penalties — Ford, Har (slashing), 8:04; McGregor, Har (holding), 16:19.
Third Period — 2, Union, Simpson 12 (M. Bodie, Gostisbehere), 8:12 (pp). 3, Harvard, Vesey 7 (Blackwell), 10:54. 4, Union, Wilkins 2 (M. Bodie, Carr), 13:35. 5, Union, Carr 9 (Simpson, K. Bodie), 19:41 (en). Penalties — Greiner, Har (high-sticking), 7:36; Everson, Har (hooking), 7:36; Vesey, Har, minor-misconduct (hitting after whistle), 19:19; Roy, Uni (slashing), 19:58.
Shots on Goal — Harvard 6-8-9 — 23. Union 11-14-13 — 38.
Power-play opportunities — Harvard 0 of 2; Union 2 of 6.
Goalies — Harvard, Girard 5-10-1 (38 shots-35 saves). Union, Grosenick 8-6-4 (23-2).
A — 1,624. T — 2:04.
Referees — Mike Baker, Peter Feola. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Glen Cooke.