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Union better, but not good enough against Huskies

Union better, but not good enough against Huskies

Lack of third-period offense continues to be a problem in a 2-1 loss to Northeastern
Union better, but not good enough against Huskies
Union's Anthony Rinaldi (8) looks to skate past Northeastern's Ryan Shea.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- For the third game in a row, the third-period door was slammed shut on the Union men's hockey offense.

The Dutchmen showed improvement overall from opening weekend, but managed just four shots on goal in the third against No. 15 Northeastern, which took advantage of one mental lapse to score what proved to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Union at Messa Rink on Friday night.

In an even game that gradually leaned the Huskies' way as the night wore on, Union was outshot 16-4 in the third to push the combined total to 35-10 in three games to start the season, all losses.

Seconds after Union had killed a third-period penalty, Grant Jozefek got behind defenseman Ryan Sidorski on a missed line change and beat goalie Darion Hanson at 3:16 for the 2-1 lead, and the Huskies (1-0-0) weathered two good scoring chances in the closing moments to hold on.

"It was better. So that's a start," Union head coach Rick Bennett said. "But we've got a lot of work ahead of us."

"That was us playing fast," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said of the winning goal. "We needed to play fast all three periods, and I thought in the third period, we really did. We thought fast and played fast."

Bennett pulled Hanson for an extra skater with 1:02 left in the game, and Anthony Rinaldi had a good chance from the left circle, but his shot was blocked by defenseman Jordan Harris, who scored Northeastern's first goal at 13:48 of the second period to tie it at 1-1.

With six seconds left, Union defenseman Brandon Estes had an open slap shot from just about the same spot, but the puck sailed inches high and wide to the far side.

"We had a glorious chance at Army, and we had a glorious chance tonight," Bennett said. "And you can't ask for more than that. We've just got to execute and put it in the back of the net. I'm not saying Ess wasn't trying ... because he was trying."

"Jordan Harris is a tough kid, and he ate that puck and it was a great play," Madigan said. "We expect that from all our players, but it's nice when an upperclassman leads the way that way. You've got to find a way to win, and you've got to do whatever you can in those last waning minutes."

Union took a 1-0 lead at 6:47 of the first period when freshman Liam Robertson, a 6-foot-5 forward from Courtice, Ont., scored his first collegiate goal.

He benefited from a Northeastern turnover, as Huskies captain Ryan Shea passed it out of the right corner right to Robertson's stick blade at the bottom of the right circle, and he made no mistake, burying a wrist shot off the left post without stopping the puck.

"That's what I look to do, I don't want the other guys to come towards me, I want as much space as I can," Robertson said. "I found the dot, the puck just squirted out to me and I shot it far side, where the goalie wasn't, and it went off the post and went in."

The speedy Rinaldi got behind the Northeastern defense twice, breaking out short-handed after a good poke check in the defensive zone by Estes and going in alone later in the period, only to be stuffed by goalie Craig Pantano.

The Huskies had the Dutchmen back on their heels for stretches of the second period and tied it at 13:48 when Harris picked up a loose puck off a scramble to the right of Hanson and flicked it into an open net.

Otherwise, it was another even period, with Union leading in shots 15-14.

Then, the third.

"Last weekend, we were struggling a bit on that department, but as we saw today, a lot of improvements," Rinaldi said. "We just can't hesitate to shoot the puck."

"It starts in the defensive zone," Robertson said. "We get pucks out, it means more 'O' zone play, it means we need to bear down in the 'O' zone, get pucks to the net, get bodies to the net. We'll figure it out, though."

"It's going to show up on video, because I have a lot of ticks of it, but one thing is being harder on the puck," Bennett said. "I think we make it easier on the other team to get in our zone. So we're not spending enough time in our 'O' zone and are so gassed in our 'D' zone coverage that we don't have much energy for 'O' zone play.

"We have to play hard for 60. Teams in the past here could get away with it. We have moments, I guess you could say, where we're not engaged. Our margin of error is nil."

Union and Northeastern will play again at 4 on Saturday.

Last season, the Dutchmen swept two games at Northeastern.

"Thanks for the reminder," Madigan said with a laugh. "I didn't talk about it. I heard the players talking about it. They knew. Our older guys have a lot of pride. They've won a couple of Beanpots, a Hockey East championship, a couple NCAA appearances. Yeah, there was a little bit of that. And, hey, we're also representing Hockey East, and when you get into these non-conference games, you want to do well for your own league. And there's always Pairwise, right?"

Northeastern 0 1 1 -- 2

Union 1 0 0 -- 1

First period -- 1, Union, Robertson 1, 6:47. Penalties -- Madden, NE (slashing), 1:25; Harris, NE (interference), 8:19; Robertson, U (holding), 13:12; Kosack, U (boarding), 19:38.

Second period -- 2, Northeastern, Harris 1 (Solow), 13:48.|

Third period -- 3, Northeastern, Jozefek 1 (Bucheler, Pantano). Penalties --Cohen, U (tripping), 1:06; Bucheler, NE (tripping), 4:57.

Shots on goal -- Northeastern 6-8-16 -- 30. Union 8-7-4 -- 19.

Power-play opportunities -- Northeastern 0 of 3. Union 0 of 3.

Goalies -- Northeastern, Pantano 1-0-0 (19 shots-18 saves). Union, Hanson 0-3-0 (30-28).

T -- 2:18. A -- 1,740.

Referees -- Kyle Allen, Matt Wyld. Linesmen -- Fraser McIntyre, Jordan Patarino.

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

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