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Army gets over the hump to beat Union 3-2

Army gets over the hump to beat Union 3-2

Power-play goal in the third period is the difference in a 3-2 win for the Cadets
Army gets over the hump to beat Union 3-2
Union defenseman Ryan Sidorski (10) looks to move the puck from behind his net against Army at Tate Rink.

WEST POINT -- The Army slogan in big gold block letters behind the Union bench read "Duty. Honor. Country."

The way the Dutchmen played, it should have read "Crawl. Walk. Run."

Well, the "Walk" and the "Run" parts remain to be seen, but for now, the Dutchmen have crawled through a two-loss opening weekend, after Army scored on the power play midway through the third period to grind out a 3-2 victory in the Cadets' season opener at Tate Rink.

Special teams figured on four of the five goals in the game, with Union giving up one power-play goal early and one late while veteran defensemen were sitting in the penalty box.

Unlike the lopsided 7-3 loss to Boston University at Messa Rink on Saturday, when the Dutchmen were outshot 44-13, there were flashes of good things to come, especially a spectacular short-handed goal by freshman Christian Sanda.

But for the second game in a row, Union (0-2-0) gave up two goals while a man down, and has plenty of areas of the game to get straightened out besides that heading into next weekend's home series against Northeastern.

"It's going to be crawl-walk-run," head coach Rick Bennett said. "We're in that crawl stage right now. We have 20 hours a week now instead of eight, so now we can work on a lot of things that we couldn't before."

Colin Bilek tipped in a shot from the point to score the game-winner 32 seconds after a tripping penalty on senior co-captain Vas Kolias.

The Dutchmen had a good chance to tie it in the closing minutes, after the Cadets' Mason Krueger was whistled for tripping at 17:59, and Bennett pulled goalie Darion Hanson with 1:14 left in the game to skate 6-on-4.

The best chance came 10 seconds later, but Anthony Rinaldi couldn't stuff the puck past goalie Trevin Kozlowski while camped on the right post. The Dutchmen were outshot 11-3 in the third period.

"We worked on special teams, and like most games, it comes down to special teams," Army head coach Brian Riley said. "Our penalty kill had to kill some big minutes. We just put ourself in a tough spot by taking penalties at the wrong time."

You could say the same for Union.

For the second game in a row, junior defenseman Brandon Estes got the early heave-ho, going to the penalty box 38 seconds into the game, after being whistled for tripping 31 seconds into the BU loss.

This time, it cost Union, as Army's Eric Butte ripped a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle with 14 seconds left in Estes' penalty as Hanson was shifting from right to left for a 1-0 lead at 2:24 of the first period.

With Union on the power play late in the second period, Sean Harrison scored for the second game in a row to tie it, and the Dutchmen went up 2-1 on a short-handed breakaway by Sanda.

The lefty tipped a cross-ice pass at the blueline, pushed the puck to center ice, blew past an Army defender and shifted the puck to his backhand to slide it under Kozlowski at 18:26 of the second.

"Christian's got tremendous speed," Bennett said. "But it was an all-around play. That was a great effort by him. I liked how he settled down after his first one and really provided some value with that goal. But not only that, he provides energy, and I think he's going to be a very good player here. But like the rest of them, it's going to take some time."

The lead didn't last long, as the Cadets crashed the net and got a goal from Michael Wilson 1:17 later, just 17 seconds before the teams went to the lockerroom for the second intermission.

In the third, Kolias was called for holding at 10:32, and Bilek scored soon after.

The Dutchmen could be prone to penalties because of their freshman-heavy roster, but in fact it has been their veteran defensemen who have been spending the most time there. Estes has committed three penalties in two games, and Kolias and Joseph Campolieto have each been sent to the box in both games.

Ten of Union's 15 minor penalties were to defensemen this weekend, and all six of the regulars went to the box at least once.

"We ran into the penalty department again," Bennett said. "I just feel it's collective, not putting it on one class or another. We've had this issue before in the past.

"Hey, you don't want to say it, but you try to nip it in the bud during practice, and if it continues and I see it again into next weekend, there's going to be some unhappy older guys and some unhappy younger guys. Because I'll put you in the stands whether you're wearing a 'C' or not. I don't care."

Bennett pointed to one unnecessary penalty from the freshman side that he hopes will be a learning moment.

Forward Owen Farris was called for hitting after the whistle in the second period in retaliation for contact to Hanson by an Army player.

"As we talked to the first-year guy about it ... they just called about 62 penalties against West Point. We capitalized, which showed a lot of perseverance. [But] where do you think the next call's coming?" Bennett said. "That's what he's got to learn. Darion Hanson's a big boy. He can handle himself. And this is not pro hockey. He wasn't run over or anything like that. It was a nothing play, and we made it something."

"We've been practicing for seven weeks and practicing against each other, so you really don't know what you don't know," Riley said. "We do have a lot of guys who've played. You can't teach experience. I know, on the other side, Union has a lot of a young players. So the experience thing played into our hands."

Union 0 2 0 -- 2

Army 1 1 1 -- 3

First period -- 1, Army, Butte 1 (Wilson, Plunkett), 2:24 (pp). Penalties -- Estes, U (hitting from behind), :38; Krueger, A (interference), 3:17; Morton, U (tripping), 3:44; Dineen, A (hooking), 5:51.

Second period -- 2, Union, Harrison 2 (Schmidt, Seger), 14:20. 3, Union, Sanda 1 (ua), 18:26 (sh). 4, Army, Wilson 1 (Plunkett, Butte), 19:43. Penalties -- Bilek, A (cross-checking), 5:26; Franco, A (boarding), 8:28; Laurito, A (slashing), 12:33; Farris, U (hitting after whistle), 14:56; Campolieto, U (interference), 17:29.

Third period -- 5, Army, Bilek 1 (Zimmerman, Evancho), 11:04 (pp). Penalties -- Kolias, U (holding), 10:32; Robertson, U (high sticking after the whistle), 11:22; Laurito, A (high sticking after the whistle), 11:22; Wilson, A (cross-checking), 14:17; Farris, U (interference), 16:32; Krueger, A (tripping), 17:59.

Shots on goal -- Union 8-11-3 -- 22. Army 6-11-11 -- 28.

Power-play opportunities -- Union 1 of 7. Army 2 of 6.

Goalies -- Union, Hanson 0-2-0 (28 shots-25 saves). Army, Kozlowski 1-0-0 (22-20).

T -- 2:26. A -- 1,541.

Referees -- Kenneth Gates, Jared Waitt. Linesmen -- Bobby Griffin, Jared McMullen.

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

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