Union hockey coach Rick Bennett recalled a game earlier this season when sophomore right winger Spencer Foo spoke up on the bench in an effort to light a fire under his teammates, and then went out and showed his leadership on the ice.
On Sunday, Foo did it again, and gave the Dutchmen a nice early Christmas present.
Foo scored with 2:06 left in sudden-death overtime, lifting the Dutchmen to a 3-2 come-from-behind non-conference victory over Vermont at Messa Rink.
The Dutchmen (7-6-4), who trailed 2-0, head into the Christmas break on a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1). It was Union’s second straight OT victory — the Dutchmen beat UMass 4-3 Dec. 11.
“I think it started a couple of months ago, probably about five games in,” Bennett said. “It was on the bench, and it was at home. He really rallied the guys through his play and on the bench. He was vocal, and then he brought it out on to the ice. I know he’s not wearing an ‘A’ or a ‘C,’ but he’s right up there with the leaders as far as that. It’s one thing to sound off on the bench, but it’s another thing to follow through on the ice.”
Dutchmen sophomore center and assistant captain Ryan Scarfo appreciates what Foo brings to the squad.
“He’s definitely a big part of our team, and he’s a huge leader” Scarfo said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a letter.”
Foo’s great individual effort sent the Dutchmen and the 2,105 fans home happy.
The game-winning play started when he chipped the puck from the Union left-wing circle off the boards and past Vermont defenseman Rob Hamilton, who pinched to try to keep the puck in the zone.
Foo stepped past Hamilton and started a 2-on-1 up the ice. He had Sebastian Vidmar on his left. Foo then cut to the slot and let defenseman Yvan Pattyn slide by. He then fired a shot over goalie Packy Munson’s left shoulder for his eighth goal of the season.
“The puck got rimmed around,” Foo said. “I was able to chip the puck past the guy. It was a good 2-on-1. ‘Viddy’ drew the guy over. When he came over, he slid a little too far. I was able to get around him and open up the goalie.
“I was going to try and pass it, but [Pattyn] was pretty far over on him. I just ended up keeping it and shooting.”
Bennett credited senior defenseman Sebastien Gingras with starting the play.
“I liked how, defensively, we were able to get it up to Spencer,” Bennett said. “The guys battled low. ‘Giggy’ got it up to him. From here, it was just a phenomenal one-man effort. If you’ve got the skill and the talent to do it, he certainly did it. That was a beauty.”
Foo’s goal ruined the homecoming for Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, who was Union’s assistant coach from 1993-98 and head coach from 1998-2003.
“Frustrating end,” Sneddon said. “We make one bad decision. Our defenseman pinches on a less than 50-50 puck, and we give up the 2-on-1. That was an unfortunate play.”
The Catamounts (5-12-2) scored a goal early in each of the first two periods. Conor O’Neil scored 2:49 into the first period for a 1-0 lead, and Brendan Bradley made it 2-0 54 seconds into the second.
But Scarfo and Ryan Walker got the Dutchmen back in the game.
First, it was freshman left winger Walker scoring his first collegiate goal at 9:18 of the second. Walker was on the doorstep when, after some nice work by linemates Tyler Hynes and David Roy, he put the puck past Munson.
Just over four minutes later, Scarfo got a much-needed power-play goal. Earlier in the period, Union had a two-man advantage for two minutes, but couldn’t generate a shot on goal.
“That was huge, especially because the guys were a little frustrated on the bench with that 5-on-3,” said Scarfo, who has a team-leading 10 goals. “We kind of let it slip there. We were able to stay with it and find the back of the net.”
Now, the Dutchmen can head into the Christmas break feeling good about themselves.
“It’s unreal,” Foo said.
Vermont 1 1 0 0 — 2
Union 0 2 0 1 — 3
First Period — 1, Vermont, O’Neil 2 (Shaw, Puffer), 2:49. Penalties — Coughlin, Ver (hooking), 4:11; Brassard, Uni (tripping), 18:44.
Second Period — 2, Vermont, Bradley 4 (Coughlin, Puskarich), :54. 3, Union, Walker 1 (Hynes, Roy), 9:18. 4, Union, Scarfo 10 (Foo, Supinski), 13:20 (pp). Penalties — Hamilton, Ver (interference), 1:32; Bowen, Ver (hooking), 1:32; Coughlin, Ver (high-sticking), 6:19; Hamilton, Ver (hooking), 13:10; J. Taylor, Uni (tripping), 19:39.
Third Period — None. Penalties — Brassard, Uni (hooking), 8:54; Scarfo, Uni (cross-checking), 15:52.
Overtime — 5, Union, Foo 8, 2:54. Penalties — None.
Shots on Goal — Vermont 10-5-18-3 — 36. Union 12-13-8-2 — 35.
Power-play opportunities — Vermont 0 of 4; Union 1 of 4.
Goalies — Vermont, Munson 1-2-0 (35 shots-32 saves). Union, Sakellaropoulos 6-4-4 (36-34).
A — 2,105. T — 2:11.
Referees — Kevin Curtis, Tom Steinel. Linesmen — Mike Emanatian, Jamie Colacino.