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Union men's hockey needs comeback to tie Omaha

Union men's hockey needs comeback to tie Omaha

'I don't think we ever should've been down 2-0 in the first place'
Union men's hockey needs comeback to tie Omaha
Union tied 3-3 with Omaha Friday night in Schenectady.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — They talked about it all week.

They didn't talk about it when it mattered.

Having seen how Omaha likes to play in two lopsided losses in Nebraska last season — fast and furious, with quick transition from defense to offense — the Union College men's hockey team knew what it was facing Friday night at Messa Rink.

Then the Mavericks scored the first goal of the game in just that fashion, due to a lack of communication by the Dutchmen on defense. Union was able to salvage a 3-3 tie after falling behind 2-0 early in the second period, but the game revealed what head coach Rick Bennett considers his team’s glaring deficiency: lack of communication on the ice.

Cole Maier scored his third goal in two games for Union (1-0-1) to tie it at 3-3 at 9:47 of the third period, and goalie Jake Kupsky made two tough toe saves midway through overtime to help the Dutchmen avoid a loss.

"I don't think we ever should've been down 2-0 in the first place," said senior wing Ryan Walker, who assisted on all three Union goals. "We had a tough goal against us on the first one, no talking in the 'D' zone.

"We're never satisfied with a tie, but we are happy that we get to play them for another crack tomorrow [Saturday] night, so that should be a good game and a good battle."

"Parts were good, and parts were off," Bennett said. "I'm sure they want some pieces of that game back, too.  I know it's early in the season, but you can't try to stuff five to 10 minutes of average hockey in there against a team like that, because they'll make you pay. And we've got to be a little smarter in terms of penalties."

The Dutchmen had 18.1 seconds of power play at the end of overtime, but defenseman Vas Kolias’ hard slap shot from the point missed left with nine second left on Union's only good scoring chance in that short stretch.

Kupsky kept the Dutchmen in position for a tie midway through overtime when he stopped Steven Spinner barreling in on right wing and also got the toe of his skate on a rebound stuff attempt by Teemu Pulkkinen.

"The whole overtime is pretty nerve-racing, but we had a couple great chances in the third and overtime, and then our goalie made a good save to keep it tied, and we had a good kill to finish off the game," Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet said. "It's nervous time, but exciting for the fans, too, I'm sure."

Omaha got on the scoreboard at 10:57 of the first period on a quick transition play from defense to offense.

From the left faceoff circle, Zach Jordan centered to defenseman Dean Stewart motoring down the middle of the slot for a one-timer wrist shot that beat Kupsky.

"It was a great illustration," Bennett said. "It was a race back for the puck, a one-on-one battle, we lost the one-on-one battle. We had two guys back, we're not talking and it's in the back of the net. It's just that simple. 

"And those are those small things that good teams, that's what you get, a 3-3 hockey game. The great teams? You come out with a win, because you're doing those little things, which is talking. This is probably the biggest hurdle for this club, is talking. It just makes the game easier."

"It happens fast out there, and we certainly saw that first-hand tonight," Maier said. "I guess battling back is nice and everything, but we could use a better start [Saturday] night so we don't have to be clawing back all night."

The Mavericks almost made it 2-0 with just over four minutes left in the first, but defenseman Nate Knoepke's low wrist shot clanged off the left post.

Omaha did make it 2-0 at 4:33 of the second on a goal by Mason Morelli, then a big hit by Maier on Mavericks defenseman Lukas Buchta set the tone for the rest of what was by far Union's best period, as Maier's line with Walker and Liam Morgan came alive.

Morgan cut it to 2-1 at 10:11 after Walker slid to the ice to block a shot at the blueline, then got up and chipped it up the left wall. Morgan collected the puck, skated in on left wing and snapped a wrist shot past Evan Weninger.

Walker nearly tied it with a back-hand stuff shot in front of Weninger three minutes later, and Maier was able to get the rebound back to sophomore defenseman Taylor Brierley at the left point.

He skated left to right to find a shooting lane and shoved a long wrist shot inside the left post to tie it at 2-2 at 13:25 of the second for his first career goal.

"Whenever you go out on the ice, you're trying to come out with a 'W,' and when you don't, there's always a fire in your gut, and it doesn't sit well," Brierley said.

Senior center Brett Supinski returned to the lineup from injury after missing the season-opening win over Army, but his line with Sebastian Vidmar and Anthony Rinaldi did not register a point.

"I have no problem saying this: Cole's line has been our best line, hands down, for two games," Bennett said. "I know it was Brett's first game, and it takes time. That's a tough game to jump into for your first game. But some of his linemates, they need to pick it up."

Omaha    1 1 1 0 — 3

Union    0 2 1 0 — 3

First period — 1, Omaha, Stewart 1 (Jordan, Keck), 10:57 . Penalties — Galt, O (cross-checking), 5:15; Spinner, O (holding), 18:55.

Second period — 2, Omaha, Morelli 1 (Jordan, Olofsson), 4:33 (pp). 3, Union, Morgan 1 (Walker), 10:11. 4, Brierley 1 (Maier, Walker), 13:25. Penalties — Vidmar, U (interference), 4:05.

Third period — 5, Omaha, Galt 1 (Spinner, Stewart), 4:39 (pp). 6, Union, Maier 3 (Kolias, Walker), 9:47. Penalties — Adams, U (hooking), :56; Campbell, U (hooking), 3:44; Galt, O (interference), 5:11.

Overtime — None. Penalties — Morelli, O (double minor, hooking-roughing), 4:41; Campbell, U (roughing), 4:41.

Shots on goal — Omaha 8-5-13-3 — 29. Union 8-13-7-2 — 30.

Power-play opportunities — Omaha 2 of 3. Union 0 of 4.

Goaltenders — Omaha, Weninger 0-0-1 (30 shots-27 saves). Union, Kupsky 1-0-1 (29-26).

T — 2:28. A — 1,796.

Referees — Robert Cerilli, Chip McDonald. Linesmen — Matt Brady, Glen Cooke.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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