The Union hockey team did a good job focusing on an injury-riddled Princeton team last Friday rather than look ahead to a Saturday showdown with ECAC Hockey-leading Quinnipiac.
Now, the 10th-ranked Dutchmen have a similar situation. They have a big two-game non-conference series this weekend at the nation’s newest No. 1 college hockey team — St. Cloud State.
But before they can look forward to those games, they need to take care of some ECACH business against a team they blew out last month. Union (7-1 ECACH, 10-3-2 overall) looks to extend its winning streak to eight games when it hosts Dartmouth (2-7, 2-9) tonight at 7 at Messa Rink.
“I’ll say the same thing as I said last week, we’ll worry about Wednesday [first],” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We shouldn’t take anybody lightly. I hate to use the word ‘should’ because it’s a very dangerous word. We have to focus on ourselves, and not worry about Dartmouth.”
The Dutchmen rolled to a 7-2 victory in the conference opener for both teams Nov. 1 in Hanover, N.H. They outshot the Big Green, 31-17, and scored four second-period goals to take a 5-0 lead.
“They’re going to be looking for some payback,” said Union junior center Max Novak, who scored a goal in that game. “I don’t think anyone’s going to be looking too far past it.”
This is the last ECACH game for the Dutchmen until January. They are tied for first place with Quinnipiac for first place, and have two games in hand on the Bobcats. So, it’s important for Union to take advantage of that.
“Just knowing what’s on the line,” Union senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. “Win this game and we can go into the [Christmas] break in sole possession of first in our conference, which is something to strive for. I don’t think anybody’s looking ahead at all.”
The Big Green lost their first eight games. In addition to the Union contest, Dartmouth allowed seven goals against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Nov. 2 and eight to St. Lawrence Nov. 9.
Since then, Dartmouth has gone 2-1, and probably should have a three-game winning streak. The Big Green ended their eight-game slide with a 2-1 win over Harvard last Saturday. On Friday, they rolled to a 4-1 win at defending NCAA champion Yale. Dartmouth had a 2-0 lead against Brown after the first period Saturday, but lost, 3-2, in overtime.
“Dartmouth is playing much better, from what I hear,” Bennett said. “Bob Gaudet is a veteran coach, and one of the best coaches going. It’s going to be a great test Wednesday.”
The Dutchmen also have to be wary of suffering a letdown after the emotional 6-4 win over Quinnipiac. Union saw three one-goal leads disappear, then fell behind, 4-3, before rallying to take the victory.
“It’s a high-emotion game,” Novak said. “But we have to look toward Dartmouth. They’re not
doing as well as they like to be right now, but they’re still a good team. They’ve got a lot of skill. They have a good transition team. We’ll be focused.”
Bennett isn’t worried about a letdown. It starts with practicing hard.
“It’s through your practices and holding everybody accountable that it when it comes Wednesday, everyone’s plugged in,” Bennett said. “If we, as coaches, let off the gas pedal, [a letdown] is exactly what’s going to happen.”
Union’s Colin Stevens was named ECAC Hockey goalie of the week Tuesday.
Stevens, a Niskayuna native, made 20 saves to earn his second shutout of the season in the 3-0 win over Princeton. He stopped 20 of 23 shots he faced in the victory over Quinnipiac. . . .
Union is 2-0-1 in its last three home games against Dartmouth. Both wins came in last season’s ECACH tournament quarterfinals. . . .
The Big Green lead the all-time season series, 24-19-7.
One unusual aspect of the all-time series is that the teams have played a pair of scoreless ties. The first one was Feb. 9, 2008, at Messa. The other was Nov. 6, 2010, at Thompson Arena. . . .
Junior forward Eric Neiley leads the Big Green in scoring with seven goals and two assists in 11 games.