The Union coaching staff was impressed with the way junior right winger Daniel Ciampini was practicing leading into the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.
The hard work in practice paid off big time for Ciampini in Thursday’s semifinal against Boston College.
Ciampini recorded his first career collegiate hat trick in the 5-4 victory over the Eagles at the Wells Fargo Center, helping the Dutchmen advance to Saturday’s national championship game.
It was the first hat trick in the Frozen Four since BC’s Nathan Gerbe did it in the 2008 semifinal against North Dakota.
“During the week, he was practicing well,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It’s nice to see a guy who practices so hard get rewarded with three goals. It was just a nice effort.
“It was just one of those feel things that you can see when guys are going well in practice, and they carry it over to the games.”
Ciampini scored his first goal midway through the second period. A Shayne Gostisbehere right-point shot was sailing over the net, but Eagles goalie Thatcher Demko reached up to try and catch it. The puck hit the tip of his glove and fell to his left, and Ciampini was there to knock it home and give Union a 2-1 lead.
“The main focus was getting pucks to the net and hope for rebounds,” Ciampini said. “We executed that pretty well. It took us a while to get into it. Once we got there, we started to realize that he was letting a couple of rebounds go, and I got lucky and put it back in the net.”
Ciampini snapped another tie, this time in the third period. He was in front of the net when he deflected a Gostisbehere rocket from the high slot past Demko for a power-play goal with 13:29 left.
Before that goal, the Dutchmen were struggling just to get the puck into the BC zone.
“I think he kind of got fed up with just passing it around,” Ciampini said. “He took liberty and shot it. I didn’t really see it. I thought my stick hit [BC defenseman Steve] Santini’s stick, and it went in.”
With the Dutchmen clinging to a 4-3 lead late in the game and BC having pulled Demko for an extra attacker, Union defenseman Mat Bodie lofted the puck from the right-corner in Union’s zone down the ice. It would have been icing on Union, but Ciampini won the race to the puck. The puck caromed off the backboards right to the front of the net. It was an easy goal for Ciampini.
“That was him reading the play,” Bodie said. “He knew that I was going to get that puck out. That’s not something you necessarily plan on doing and him winning, but that was a great read by him.”
Ciampini had a hand on Bodie’s goal early in the second period that tied the score, 1-1. Ciampini screened Demko, and Bodie’s shot from the top of the right circle sailed over the goalie’s right shoulder.
“He goes to the dirty spots,” Bodie said. “It’s not a fun spot in front of that net.”
Ciampini has 22 goals this season, joining Daniel Carr as one of the team’s 20-goal scorers.
Ciampini scored just three goals his freshman year. He had 11 last year.
“It’s pretty special when you can contribute and be one of the top guys and relied on a little bit more every year,” Ciampini said.