Getting to the NCAA hockey tournament Frozen Four is never easy. And with top-ranked Union trying to hold on to a two-goal lead in the third period against Providence, the pressure mounted.
When the Friars’ Nick Saracino scored with 5:05 left to cut the Dutchmen’s lead to a goal, it appeared Providence was on the verge of a big comeback.
But the Dutchmen’s Matt Hatch ended any notion of that. He scored 1:08 later, sealing Union’s 3-1 win that put the team in the Frozen Four for the second time in three seasons.
The Dutchmen (30-6-4), who extended their unbeaten streak to 15 (14-0-1), will face the winner of the Northeast Region in the semifinals April 10 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Northeast final will be played today.
Union reached the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., losing to Ferris State, 3-1, in the semifinals.
“You can’t really put it into words,” said Dutchmen senior defenseman Mat Bodie, who gave the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead with a left-circle blast 2:42 into the game. “I’m so proud of how hard the guys battled. The one thing I remember about the last time is it’s a whirlwind of how quick it all went by, and then sitting after the game, just realizing how hard you have to work. I think we worked just as hard in that year.”
The Dutchmen worked hard after Bodie’s goal. Goalie Colin Stevens made a rapier-like glove save on a Derek Army shot from about 10 feet with 6:19 left in the first. It came off a rebound of a wraparound shot by Noel Acciari.
A few minutes later, Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere played the role of Stevens. With Stevens caught out of position during a scramble in front of the net, Gostisbehere hugged the left post to stop a pair of Conor MacPhee shots.
“I saw the puck bounce in the air, and I saw ‘Steveo’ a little out of position there,” Gostisbehere said. “The biggest focus there was I didn’t want to close my hand on the puck. I didn’t want that puck to go across that line. I thank ‘Steveo’ for making that glove save three minutes before, and I thought we owed him one. I’m glad it worked out.”
Max Novak gave the Dutchmen a 2-0 lead when his backhander rolled off goalie Jon Gilles and between his pads 58 seconds into the second.
“At first, I thought [Gillies] had it, too,” said Novak, who was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. “I think it just went under his arm and fell into his pads. At that point, Matt [Hatch] was just swinging. I’m not sure if he got a piece of it, or a piece of the goalie. When it fell in between his legs, it looked like it clipped his pad and got momentum and just rolled in.”
The Dutchmen didn’t attack much in the third period. The Friars seemed to seize the momentum on Saracino’s goal.
But a TV timeout with 4:05 left gave Union a chance for a breather. Eighteen seconds later, Novak set up Hatch for the insurance goal.
“That was a couple of fist-pump goals,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “That was pretty special.”
Bennett thought his team played a little too conservatively in the third.
“It’s human nature,” Bennett said. “But at the same token, it’s nice to have those timeouts to reiterate [to be] relentless and let’s keep attacking and keep up that theme. The guys stuck to it, and came back. When you’re up there, you’re going to have those ebbs and flows, and I thought we balanced it out at the end.”
Providence 0 0 1 — 1
Union 1 1 1 — 3
First Period — 1, Union, Bodie 6 (Carr, Ciampini), 2:42. Penalty — Mauerman, Pro (hooking), 18:21.
Second Period — 2, Union, Novak 14 (Sullivan), :58. Penalties — None.
Third Period — 3, Providence, Saracino 10 (Mauermann), 14:55. 4, Union, Hatch 13 (Novak, Sullivan), 16:13. Penalty — Vecchione, Uni (interference), 1:13.
Shots on Goal — Providence 7-7-12 — 26. Union 15-7-9 — 31.
Power-play opportunities — Providence 0 of 1; Union 0 of 1.
Goalies — Providence, Gillies 19-9-5 (31 shots-28 saves). Union, Stevens 26-4-2 (26-25).
A — 6,665. T — 2:36.
Referees — Todd Anderson, Joe Sullivan. Linesmen — Andy Dokken, Justin Hills.