When he was looking at colleges where he could play hockey, Max Novak applied to Brown. The university said thanks, but no thanks.
Novak also applied to Union. The school said yes. And Novak has made Brown pay ever since.
The junior center scored the tiebreaking goal 1:01 into the third period Friday night, lifting the ECAC Hockey-leading and fourth-ranked Dutchmen to a 4-3 victory over the Bears at Messa Rink.
Union (12-3 ECACH, 18-6-3 overall) maintains its one-point lead over second-place Quinnipiac, which beat Clarkson, 6-3.
Novak burned the Bears in last year’s ECACH tournament championship game, scoring twice, including the game-winner, to lead the Dutchmen to a 3-1 win and their second consecutive Whitelaw Cup.
“Max has always been a kid, since his freshman year, that the bigger the game, the better he is,” Union acting head coach Joe Dumais said. “He’s scored big goals since his freshman year. Obviously, tonight was no different.”
In six games against Brown (6-8-1, 9-10-3), Novak has four goals and one assist.
“He seems to be pretty good against us,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said.
Novak denied that he is seeking revenge every time he faces Brown.
“I was looking at Brown as I was looking at Union, too,” said Novak, who has scored three goals in his last two games. “I applied, and I didn’t get in. It wasn’t the best situation. Everything happens for a reason.”
Novak surprised everyone with his goal. After taking a Shayne Gostisbehere pass, Novak skated down the right wing, with a Brown defenseman on him. As he got to the right circle, Novak suddenly snapped a wrist shot. Brown goalie Tyler Steel was deep in his net, and was caught off guard as the puck beat him to his left side.
“It was a pretty normal set breakout,” Novak said. “Shayne gave me a nice pass. I just took it wide. I don’t think the goalie was really expecting me to shoot it from where I was. It caught him short side.”
Even Dumais, who was in his third game running the team in place of suspended head coach Rick Bennett, was caught off guard by Novak’s goal.
“I was talking to one of the players on the bench, and I heard the [puck hit] the post,” Dumais said. “I said, ‘That must be a good sign,’ ”
Union saw its streak of killing off power plays end at 23 when Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin scored 15 seconds apart during a major power play midway through the first period after Dutchmen defenseman Charlie Vasaturo was thrown out of the game for a contact-to-the head penalty.
But the penalty unit came through at the right time in the third period. It was even dicier because Gostisbehere was in the box for elbowing at 11:20, leaving Union just four defenseman during the penalty kill.
“We probably had a 45-second lapse on the penalty kill, and it cost us two goals,” said defenseman Mat Bodie, who gave Union a 1-0 lead on a first-period power-play goal. “Other than that, I thought the guys really battled hard. With ‘Ghost’ going into the box, other D-men stepped up, getting some PK time they normally don’t get it. That’s what it takes to win. You have to have guys step up in tough spots.”
Daniel Ciampini and Sam Coatta had the other Union goals, both coming in the second period. . . .
Dutchmen goalie and Niskayuna native Colin Stevens made 34 saves. ...
Union hosts defending NCAA champion and 13th-ranked Yale tonight at 7. The last time the two teams met, the Dutchmen beat the Bulldogs, 5-0, in the ECACH tournament semifinals.
Brown 2 1 0 — 3
Union 1 2 1 — 4
First Period — 1, Union, Bodie 4 (Pontarelli, Carr), 6:18 (pp). 2, Brown, Narclerio 15 (Lappin, Lamacchia), 11:14 (pp). 3, Brown, Lappin 10 (Lorito, Robertson), 11:29 (pp). Penalties — Wahl, Bro (holding), 5:05; Hathaway, Bro (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:57; Vasaturo, Uni, major-game misconduct (contact to head), 6:57; Robertson, Bro (tripping), 7:08.
Second Period — 4, Union, Ciampini 11 (Taylor, Carr), 1:15. 5, Union, Coatta 3 (Lichtenwald, Wilkins), 18:53. 6, Brown, Pryzbek 2 (Hathaway), 19:29. Penalties — None.
Third Period — 7, Union, Novak 8 (Gostisbehere), 1:01. Penalty — Gostisbehere, Uni (elbowing), 11:20.
Shots on Goal — Brown 12-13-12 — 37. Union 9-11-11 — 31
Power-play opportunities — Brown 2 of 4; Union 1 of 2.
Goalies — Brown, Steel 7-5-3 (31 shots-27 saves). Union, Stevens 15-4-1 (37-34).
A — 1,921. T — 2:15.
Referees — Peter Feola, Mike Baker. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Ryan Knapp.