SCHENECTADY -- It was an odd sight, to see freshman goalie Josh Graziano lead the Union men's hockey team onto the Messa Rink ice first for warmups 40 minutes before the puck drop, signifying that he would start Saturday night.
It was even odder to see the Union men's hockey team dominate an opponent, at least for two periods.
The Dutchmen were fast, hard on the puck, organized and patient, which added up to a 4-1 lead through two periods, and although Dartmouth made it interesting in the end, Union held on for a badly needed 4-3 victory, just the seventh of the season in 28 games.
Junior Darion Hanson had started the previous 27 and had played 98.3% of the minutes of goalie ice time this season. And the Buffalo native Graziano didn't join the program until mid-season, from the New Mexico Ice Wolves of the NAHL juniors.
During an 8-5 loss to Harvard Friday, head coach Rick Bennett pulled Hanson for Graziano when it was 5-1, and stuck with the freshman on Saturday. While he was saving 19 of 22 shots for his first college win, the lively offense cranked out four goals in the first two periods as the Dutchmen improved to 5-10-1 in ECAC Hockey and 7-18-3 overall.
"We talked about it last night after the game, as a staff, threw it around, and then said we'll talk about it the next morning, see if we feel the same way," Bennett said of the goalie switch. "We all felt the same way and made the call.
"Darion was very professional about it. We didn't expect anything different."
"Before the game, he [Hanson] kept it pretty simple, it's the same game of hockey, just have fun out there, and I think I tried to do that," Graziano said. "It's nice to be able to contribute to the win column. It's a little scarce, but we're working through that."
"There was complete trust there, just play our game, he'll stop the puck, and I don't think there was a mindset change," said senior Vas Kolias, who assisted on goals by Christian Sanda and Sean Harrison. "Same game, different guy in net."
Graziano may have been the story to open the game, but his counterpart for Dartmouth (7-6-2, 10-8-4), Adrian Clark, played spectacularly, and needed to, especially in the first period, when Union went up 1-0 and easily could have had more.
Union peppered him with 30 shots, many of them of high quality, through the first two periods, taking a 4-1 lead when Harrison was able to rip the puck past Clark with one-tenth of a second left before the second intermission.
Quin Foreman scored two goals for the Big Green in a span of 4:33 midway through the third period, and Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet pulled Clark for an extra skater with 2:16 left.
The Dutchmen didn't get any good looks at an empty-netter, but did well to pin the puck deep to kill time in the final minute.
"I loved the third-period play, I thought we played really hard," Gaudet said. "The one that killed us was the one at the end of the second period. That one hurt."
The Dutchmen came out flying from the opening puck drop and very well could have been up by two or three goals after the first period.
They settled for 1-0, as the all-freshman line of Owen Farris centering Matt Allen and Colin Schmidt slammed one past Clark at 15:27.
Allen skated away from the goal line through two defenders and found Farris unchecked between the circles for a wrist shot that beat Clark cleanly.
The Big Green tied it at 7:17 of the second when Will Graber stole the puck from Ryan Sidorski at the blue line, skated in and deked Graziano to the ice for a slick backhander off the underside of the crossbar.
Union came back 21 seconds later with Sanda's fourth goal of the season, ripping a wrist shot from the left circle after Kolias made a nifty move stickhandling past a defender into the left circle and found a lane to pass cross-ice.
Gabriel Seger made it 3-1, popping the puck into an empty net after a Union shot banged off the glass behind Clark's net right to Seger at the left post.
Harrison snuck one more in with one-tenth of a second left in the second period, from the same spot Sanda had scored from for a 4-1 lead, as Kolias skated into the high slot and found Harrison calling for the puck in the right circle.
"We were going four lines deep," Kolias said. "Everyone was going hard on the puck."
Dartmouth played much of the second period without its best player, Drew O'Connor, who was sent to the penalty box at 5:22 for an unsportsmanlike misconduct after the Big Green fumbled the puck trying to enter the offensive zone and was called offsides. He threw the puck down the ice after the whistle and didn't get back on the ice until a play stoppage at 17:43.
"It hurts. He's a young player," Gaudet said. "I don't know what happened, quite honestly. Evidently, he slid a puck down the ice, but I didn't hear anything and I didn't see it. And Drew's a really good kid and a really good player. If we can keep him another year, he's the future of the league. I think that kid's going to play in the National Hockey League. I always side with our players, but he has to learn."
Dartmouth 0 1 2 -- 3
Union 1 3 0 -- 4
First period -- 1, Union, Farris 2 (Allen, Schmidt), 15:27. Penalties -- Palocsik, D (hooking), 1:17; Baker, D (slashing), 11:47; Strong, D (tripping), 17:35.
Second period -- 2, Dartmouth, Graber 7 (Foreman), 7:16. 3, Union, Sanda 4 (Kolias, Harrison), 7:37. 5, Union, Seger 4 (Emelifeonwu, Kosack), 12:46. 6, Union, Harrison 5 (Kolias, Rinaldi), 19:59. Penalties -- Gallant, D (tripping), 1:33; O'Connor, D (10-minute misconduct, unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:22.
Third period -- 6, Dartmouth, Foreman 9 (Graber, O'Connor), 8:20 (pp). 7, Dartmouth, Foreman 10 (Graber, Baker), 12:53.
Penalties -- Kolias, U (hooking), 2:12; Han, D (holding), 5:06; Ryan, U (holding), 8:14; Graber, D (cross-checking), 19:51.
Shots on goal -- Dartmouth 8-8-6 -- 22. Union 16-14-8 --- 38.
Power-play opportunities -- Dartmouth 1 of 2. Union 0 of 6.
Goalies -- Dartmouth, Clark L, 10-7-3 (38 shots-32 saves). Union, Graziano W, 1-0-0 (22-19).
A -- 1,791. T -- 2:21.
Referees -- Anthony Kenney, Tom Steinel. Linesmen -- Ryan Knapp, Mark McGinnis.