Sophomore goalie Colin Stevens came through in an emergency situation. Junior forward Kevin Sullivan was clutch.
Thanks to them, Union can take a break next weekend.
Stevens, a Niskayuna native, stopped 24 shots, and Sullivan scored twice as the Dutchmen earned their fourth straight ECAC Hockey tournament first-round bye with a 4-0 victory over Clarkson in the regular-season finale Saturday before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,371 fans on Senior Night at Messa Rink.
The Dutchmen (10-8-4 ECACH, 17-12-5 overall), who started the day in a three-way tie with Dartmouth and St. Lawrence for sixth, end up with the fourth seed and final bye slot for the tournament. They got some help, too — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute beat St. Lawrence, 4-1, and Quinnipiac downed Dartmouth, 4-1.
Union will host the best-of-three quarterfinals starting March 15.
Stevens got the start because Troy Grosenick wasn’t healthy enough to go. Grosenick was injured midway through the third period of Friday’s 5-1 win over the Saints.
When the line charts were released Saturday afternoon, Grosenick was listed as the starter. But Stevens led the team on the ice for the pregame warmup.
“Colin was going right from the get-go,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “He played a pretty great game tonight, and we’re happy for him.”
Stevens was tested early as the Golden Knights (8-11-3, 9-18-7) had a 10-3 shot advantage in the first 10 minutes of the opening period.
“That’s always good when you can see a few shots early,” said Stevens, who improved to 5-3 with his third shutout of the season. “It helps you get into a rhythm, Obviously, that’s huge, especially when you’re not playing all the time.”
Then Stevens went a stretch of the final 10 minutes of the first and the first 151⁄2 minutes of the second without seeing a shot on goal. The Knights got some chances on Stevens late in the second, but he shut the door. The biggest save came on a Jarrett Burton shot from the slot. Stevens got a piece of the shot, and the puck rolled in the crease before it was cleared away.
“One of the things that makes the position tough is there are going to be games like that, especially with a team as good defensively as we are,” Stevens said. “There’s going to be times when you’re not really being tested a whole lot. Part of the process is you have to stay focused and be ready when you have to step up and make saves.”
It was during that stretch when Wayne Simpson tipped home a Shayne Gostisbehere shot past goalie Greg Lewis for a power-play goal to give Union a 1-0 lead.
Sullivan, who seems to always pick up his game late in the season, came through with his goals to help the Dutchmen take a 3-0 lead.
His first goal came just under 51⁄2 minutes into the second period. Matt Hatch came out from behind the net and sent the puck to Sullivan at the right of the net. Lewis stopped the first shot, but Sullivan backhanded the rebound home.
“Basically, it was all ‘Hatchie,’ ” Sullivan said. “He used his speed coming in. He just threw it in front. Luckily, it went on my stick. I took a couple of whacks, and it went in.”
Sullivan got his second goal on the power play at 6:24 of the third. He put home the rebound of a Daniel Carr shot.
“Carrsie and [Josh] Jooris were working it pretty well up top with [Mat Bodie],” Sullivan said. “I just got a lucky bounce on my stick.”
Jooris sealed the deal late in the third, ripping a wrist shot from the left circle over Lewis’ glove. Carr got an assist on the goal, giving him 100 career points. He is the 10th Union Division I player to do that, and just the second to accomplish it in his junior season. Jeremy Welsh did it last year.
Clarkson 0 0 0 — 0
Union 1 1 2 — 4
First Period — 1, Union, Simpson 15 (Gostisbehere, K. Bodie), 17:13 (pp). Penalties — Sexton, Cla (roughing), 11:35; Wilkins, Uni (facemasking), 11:35; Pokilok, Cla (interference), 16:41.
Second Period — 2, Union, Sullivan 2 (Hatch, Novak), 5:27. Penalties — Roy, Uni (boarding), 7:06; Pokulok, Cla (slashing), 10:57.
Third Period — 3, Union, Sullivan 3 (Carr, K. Bodie), 6:24 (pp). 4, Union, Jooris 8 (Wilkins, Carr), 17:20. Penalties — Christian, Cla (boarding), 5:41; Ikkala, Uni (tripping), 14:43; Burton, Cla, minor-misconduct (roughing), 18:17; Roy, Union, major-game misconduct (grasping facemask), 18:17; Himelson, Cla (tripping), 19:17; Frederick, Cla (tripping), 19:2.
Missed penalty shot — Ikkala, Union, 19:17 third.
Shots on Goal — Clarkson 10-6-8 — 24. Union 9-21-16 — 46.
Power-play opportunities — Clarkson 0 of 2; Union 2 of 4.
Goalies — Clarkson, Lewis 9-16-6 (46 shots-42 saves). Union, Stevens 5-3-0 (24-24).
A — 2,371. T — 2:23.
Referees — Peter Feola, Tim Kotyra. Linesmen — Justin Prusak, David Brown.