If Union expects to beat third-ranked Boston University tonight when the Terriers visit Messa Rink for the first time, it will need to play the kind of defensive game it played for most of Friday’s game against Sacred Heart.
That said, the Dutchmen also must do a better job of burying their offensive opportunities to have a shot of beating the national runner-up.
Union came within 1:20 of starting its 25th NCAA Division I season with a win. Instead, the combination of missing its scoring chances and a late goal by Sacred Heart forced Union to settle for a 1-1 non-conference tie at Messa Rink.
Freshman right winger Cole Maier scored the Dutchmen’s only goal late in the first period. It stood to be the game-winner before Jacob Brightbill tied it with 80 seconds remaining in regulation with the goalie pulled.
“We have a lot of things that we can learn from, and we’ll take of that [this] morning so we’re ready,” said Maier, who missed most of the third period after hurting his right knee. Maier said he felt fine.
The Dutchmen, who outshot the Pioneers 32-18, could only lament the missed chances. They will need to capitalize on those opportunities against a BU team that reached the national championship game last season.
“Hopefully, we’re better tomorrow night than tonight with it,” said Union coach Rick Bennett, who was denied his 100th career win. “You have to look at the positives, [and] that is you get those chances. The negative is you didn’t put it in the back of the net. But to get chances, that’s a good thing because chances are hard to come by here.”
Junior center Mike Vecchione missed a couple. He had a wide-open net in the first period when he shanked a shot. He also misfired on one in the second.
The biggest one came with 59 seconds left in overtime when, after Pioneers goalie Brett Magnus stopped a Sebastien Gingras shot from the left side, the puck trickled to Michael Pontarelli in the slot. He had an open net to shoot at, but the puck rolled off of his stick.
“I thought, overall, we played pretty good,” Vecchione said. “We just need to bury our chances, obviously. We let them hang around the whole game, and they capitalized in the end. . . . It’s unfortunate to get tied in the last minute. We had so many chances that we didn’t bury. It kind of bit us in the end.”
Union will have to bring the same kind of defensive effort against BU that it did against Sacred Heart.
For most of the game, junior goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos wasn’t tested. That was especially the case during a five-minute power play Sacred Heart received after Matt Wilkins was given a major for contact to the head of Pioneers forward Zach Luczyk and a game misconduct at 4:59 of the second period. The Dutchmen killed off the major, and didn’t allow a shot on goal.
“I thought the defense and the forwards did a great job,” Sakellaropoulos said. “They were communicating back there. Everyone had their man. It was really a solid game. We always got the puck out if we ever got in trouble. I really credit them a lot for the game today. They played great, especially with the shots that I saw.”
When he was tested, he came up with big saves. He stopped a Justin Danforth breakaway with 3:45 remaining in the second period. With 2:32 left in the third, he kicked out the right pad to stop a Evan Jasper shot.
Sakellaropoulos played in last season’s Jan. 3 game at BU. He made 33 saves in the 3-3 tie.
“We have to play like how we played today,” Sakellaropoulos said. “Take the positives that we got today and put them into tomorrow’s game. We’ll look back at the video and see what we can capitalize on, and just come out tomorrow and play that kind of hockey.”
Even though BU doesn’t have Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel, who had 26 goals and 45 assists last season and is now with the Buffalo Sabres, it still has plenty of firepower. Senior forward Danny O’Regan is the top returning scorer with 23 goals and 27 assists. Senior forward/defenseman Ahti Oksanen had 25 goals and 13 assists last year.
“Last time I checked, that’s an excellent hockey club, just like Sacred Heart was tonight,” Bennett said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but that’s exactly what we wanted here.”
The game featured referee Katie Guay. It’s believed to be the first time a female has refereed a men’s game at Messa Rink. . . .
Union freshman forward Brett Supinski was scratched because of illness. . . .
The Dutchmen wore replica uniforms of that were worn by the first Union Division I team in 1991-92. The word Union was on an angle inside of a white “U.”
Sacred Heart 0 0 1 0–1
Union 1 0 0 0–1
First Period–1, Union, Maier 1 (Vecchione, Wilkins), 17:01. Penalties–Luczyk, SH (hooking), 5:19; Scarfo, Uni (hooking), 9:47; Union bench, served by Pontarelli (too many men); 14:19.
Second Period–None. Penalties–Wilkins, Uni, major-game misconduct (contact to head), 4:50; Graboski, SH (tripping), 15:20; Carroll, SH (roughing), 16:31; Scarfo, Uni (slashing), 16:31; Butcher, SH (hooking), 18:52.
Third Period–2, Sacred Heart, Brightbill 1 (Graboski, Doherty), 18:40. Penalty–Nylen, SH (tripping), 13:15.
Overtime–None. Penalties–Doherty, SH (hitting after whistle), 2:41; Vecchione, Uni (hitting after whistle), 2:41
Shots on Goal–Sacred Heart 7-3-5-3–18. Union 8-8-10-6–32.
Power-play opportunities–Sacred Heart 0 of 3; Union 0 of 4.
Goalies–Sacred Heart, Magnus 0-0-1 (32 shots-31 saves). Union, Sakellaropoulos 0-0-1 (18-17).
Referees–Katie Guay, Scott Wheeler. Linesmen–Matt Brady, Michael Emanatian.