And so ended an interesting, agonizing and ultimately exhilarating 24 hours for Union senior forward Matt Wilkins.
Friday night, the co-captain spent over half the game against Sacred Heart watching from the stands, after he was ejected for a major contact-to-the-head penalty against the Pioneers’ Zach Luczyk.
On Saturday, against third-ranked Boston University, Wilkins got to play the hero instead of spectator.
Wilkins put in the rebound of a Brett Supinski shot with 2:49 left in the third period to snap a 3-3 tie and spark the Dutchmen to a 5-3 upset of the Terriers before a standing-room only crowd of 2,354 at Messa Rink.
The win was significant for a number of reasons. It was the 100th career victory for coach Rick Bennett. It was the Dutchmen’s first win against a highly ranked opponent at Messa since a 3-2 win over top-ranked Yale on Jan. 28, 2011. And on a personal level, it was redemption for Wilkins.
Wilkins loves to play a physical game. Sometimes, he goes over the edge, and he said he realizes he can’t do that.
“I know I put the team in a tough spot last night,” Wilkins said. “I just didn’t want to put our team in a position like that. Being a leader, I wanted to contribute. I was lucky enough to get the game-winner tonight.”
There was no need for Bennett to discuss with Wilkins about toning down his play. In fact, after Friday’s game, Bennett questioned the call because Luczyk was back on the ice during the power play.
“He knows I play the game hard,” said Wilkins, who assisted on Spencer Foo’s empty-net goal with 46 seconds left. “I watched it on video, and I’m not going to say what I thought about the hit, but just move forward from it. I thought it was gutsy today.
“Unfortunately, I put the team in tough spots some- times. But that’s kind of my game. That’s what I do. I try to help the team out that way. Sometimes, I do hinder it. But, for the most part, it helps the team out.”
Bennett respects the game Wilkins plays.
“We know one thing, he was rested,” Bennett said. “That’s a sign of a good captain, coming back [like that]. He didn’t hang his head after it happened. He was good in the locker room when he did get kicked out last night. I think that really did help us last night, as well.
“Tonight, he played the usual Matt Wilkins’ grind-it-out [style], and he added some skill to his game, which he has. He’s a good, all-around player, and that’s what we needed tonight.”
Bennett has seen Wilkins mature over his time at Union.
“He came in a little bit older,” Bennett said of the 24-year-old senior. “I think he’s seen a lot of the previous captains and leaders here, and he’s taken that to heart because he’s probably our emotional leader.”
On Wilkins’ goal, Mike Vecchione began the play by sending the puck to Supinski, the freshman who missed Friday’s game because of illness. Supinski put a shot on goalie Sean Maguire, who stopped it. But Wilkins came barreling in and jammed the rebound home.
“ ‘Vecchs’ made a great play down low and passed it out to Supinski, who got one whack at it,” Wilkins said. “I just came in hard and found a way through.”
Bennett becomes the third coach in Union history to win 100 games. The others are Nate Leaman (138) and Charlie Morrison (122). Bennett down-played the accomplishment.
“Honestly, I’d rather talk about the game,” Bennett said. “I guess it’s special in the fact that I get to spend it with two of the guys that I’ve been with in [associate head coach] Joe Dumais and [assistant coach] Jason Tapp. That means a ton to me.”
The game was fast-paced, and both teams had plenty of scoring chances. The second period was played at a breakneck pace, with numerous scoring chances.
“It was one of the best games I’ve been associated here in this rink,” Bennett said. “It was just a heck of a hockey game. It was actually fun to watch as a coach, but more as a fan.”
Boston U. 2 0 1 — 3
Union 1 1 3 — 5
First Period–1, Union, Scarfo 1 (Pontarelli, DeSimone), 6:03 (pp). 2, Boston U., Lane 1 (Somerby, Carpenter), 15:20. 3, Boston U., Cloonan 1 (Moran, Somerby), 17:42. Penalties–Greer, BU (slashing), 4:27; McAvoy, BU (holding), 9:35; MacLeod, BU (roughing), 19:05; Dufor, Uni (roughing), 19:05.
Second Period–4, Union, Pontarelli 1 (Vidmar, Scarfo), 18:02. Penalties–Somerby, BU (cross-checking), 5:45; Wilkins, Uni (holding), 6:00; Henry, Uni (slashing), 13:14; Forsbacka Karlsson, BU (interference), 15:08; Olsson, BU (kneeing), 18:21.
Third Period–5, Union, Lichtenwald 1 (B. Taylor, Light), 2:47. 6, Boston U., McAvoy 1 (Olsson), 15:24. 7, Union, Wilkins 1 (Supinski, Vecchione), 17:11. 8, Union, Foo 1 (Wilkins), 19:14 (en). Penalty–Diffley, BU (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:22.
Shots on Goal–Boston U. 16-9-9–34. Union 10-12-9–31.
Power-play opportunities–Boston U. 0 of 3; Union 1 of 7.
Goalies–Boston U., Maguire 0-1-0 (30 shots-26 saves). Union, Sakellaropoulos 1-0-1 (34-31).
Referees–Brad LeBlanc, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen–Jim Briggs, Stephen Drain.