St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until Monday, but don’t tell that to those who no doubt adorned the city streets with green puddles of dubious origin and even more dubious content on Friday night.
So it stood to reason that perhaps the team in Green would benefit from the luck o’ the Irish in the ECAC Hockey tournament opener for Union.
In fact, Dartmouth got a phantom call midway through the first period when Eric Neiley lost an edge and essentially tripped over the garnet “U” at center ice, leading to a penalty on Jeff Taylor.
In the end, though, it was the Dutchmen who were the lucky ones, because they let 10th-seeded Dartmouth hang around, took two bad penalties that led to a dangerous five-on-three in the third period and won by a misleading 3-0 score. With just under three minutes to play, it was still a 1-0 game.
As RPI painfully found out last week, Dartmouth has shown a tendency to not go away, so Union needs to start acting more like a No. 1 seed in the tournament and less like a team that believes it can coast for even a few minutes.
Head coach Rick Bennett interrupted many of his post-game answers with a rueful chuckle that bordered on disgust, and you got the sense that it wasn’t just for show.
“We’re coming in with all these accolades and everything else,” he said. “We’ve got to put that away. We’ve got to stop reading the press and all that jazz.”
Niskayuna native Colin Stevens was brilliant in goal for Union, and a sharp goalie can cover for dull edges.
Charles Grant was just as good for Dartmouth, keeping the Big Green in the game by making 18 saves in a scoreless first period.
Union got a quick one on the power play in the second, after which Dartmouth was at least equal to Union most of the rest of the way.
“We talked [during the first intermission] about if it was going to take 60 shots to get one by him, then it was going to take 60 shots,” Union left wing Daniel Carr said. “The second period, we let up a little bit and gave them some chances. Colin made some great saves that bailed us out.”
Carr was absolutely robbed twice by Grant in the first, but got it back with a penalty shot with 2:37 left in the game and an empty-netter to close it.
Up to that point, either team could’ve won.
Think how the stomaches — the Dutchmen’s — would be churning today if they were down a game heading into Game 2.
“It was a playoff type of feel to it. It’s not . . .,” Bennett said, stopping to chuckle, “. . . going to be easy. Dartmouth brings it every game. If we didn’t see that from last weekend, then we’re sadly mistaken.”
Both the penalties in the third were unnecessary, butStevens bailed his teammates out with his biggest save of the night, and the Union throats were finally able to relax when Carr beat Grant on the penalty shot.