SCHENECTADY -- The point was not ... the point.
The Union men's hockey team tied Princeton 2-2 at Messa Rink on Friday night, gaining a point in the ECAC Hockey standings that didn't otherwise amount to much in the grand scheme of things, since the Dutchmen were officially removed from consideration for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
No, the point the Dutchmen made to themselves with the tie and how it was obtained -- two goals in the final 4:35 of regulation -- was that they can score when it is desperately needed, a fleeting concept for a team averaging less than two goals a game through 31 games.
Head coach Rick Bennett used the word "celebrate," then qualified and clarified it to report that there was no music in the locker room and the reaction from the players was muted. If it was a tie that seemed like a win to those who were staring at a 2-0 deficit in the closing minutes, that's because the Dutchmen showed signs of life at a time of the season when it could be natural to play out the string.
"It's a good tie, is what I'm getting after," Bennett said. "There wasn't one happy guy in that locker room. That's a good sign. It's a good sign for the future, too. They weren't celebrating at all. There was no music. There's fight in there."
The Dutchmen are 5-12-2 in ECACH and 7-20-4 overall and will be hitting the road for the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.
They'll play their final home game against Quinnipiac, which fell into fourth place with a 4-0 loss to RPI at Houston Field House, at 7 p.m. Saturday, which is Senior Night.
Senior forward Anthony Rinaldi got Friday's comeback started with his sixth goal of the season at 15:25 of the third on assists from freshman Gabriel Seger and junior Parker Foo, and Seger tied it at 2-2 with his sixth just 59 seconds later.
The offense finally woke up when Rinaldi scored on a shot from the high slot that got past some traffic and slipped inside the left post and by Princeton goalie Jeremie Forget.
Moments earlier, Rinaldi had been in the penalty box on matching roughing calls with the Tigers' Adam Robbins. With apparent it's-about-time body language, Rinaldi barely registered a reaction to his goal at first.
"Probably a little frustration," he said. "I got in a huge battle a couple minutes before that, so I sat in the box, kind of just reflected a little bit. I honestly didn't see it go in because the 'D' was in front of me, so until the noise came, I was just in shock like, 'Wow. I got one.'"
"It's nice to see him get a goal," Bennett said. "He's had a lot of chances lately and kept with it. Nice to see him rewarded."
Seger tied it on a tip of Brandon Estes' flip from the point at 16:24, and the celebration was a little more demonstrative for that one.
Goalie Darion Hanson played a big role in the tie, especially when he stopped a breakaway by Matthew Thorn to preserve the 2-2 tie with 35 seconds left in the third.
Thorn jumped on a loose puck and skated in alone, but Hanson kicked his left toe to the post to thwart that bid.
While Union's penalty kill was effective, the power play was ineffective all night and also gave up short-handed 2-on-1 breaks to Princeton (2-13-4, 4-17-5) in the first and second periods.
Princeton scored on the first one, as Finn Evans shot instead of passing and beat Hanson with a high wrist shot for a 1-0 lead at 10:47 of the first period.
The Tigers capitalized on a power play of their own in the second period, when Liam Grande redirected a centering pass from Jake Paganelli at 12:47.
Princeton had a good chance to make it 3-0 with another short-handed 2-on-1 late in the second, but Union's Vas Kolias got a stick on the cross-ice pass.
After tying it at 2-2 in the third, Union had several good scoring chances, but had to settle for that final score.
"We decided to bring it and played a great last 10 minutes," Seger said. "We need a full 60, though. If we bring that tomorrow, that energy and speed, we're pretty damn good."
"The enemy has a say in every battle; they want to win, too," Bennett said. "The dam broke for us. I credit our guys for just sticking with it. That's not easy. These guys came back from a two-goal deficit. I hope they celebrate it tonight and come back tomorrow and get ready for Quinnipiac."
"After the way we played the last game [4-0 loss at Colgate] -- not that we played any better the first two periods [against Princeton] -- but it's very important to get a point and just keep the momentum going," Rinaldi said. "We're trying to play playoff [caliber] hockey."
Princeton 1 1 0 0 -- 2
Union 0 0 2 0 -- 2
First period -- 1, Princeton, Evans 2 (Topatigh, Germain), 10:47 (sh). Penalties -- Campolieto, U (tripping), 1:12; Kellenberger, P (holding), 4:41; Yochim, P (hooking), 10:17.
Second period -- 2, Princeton, Grande 7 (Paganelli, Keenan), 12:47. Penalties -- Campolieto, U (tripping), 4:01; Cressey, P (cross-checking), 7:26; Allen, U (tripping), 11:04; Kellenberger, P (hooking), 13:41; Keenan, P (tripping), 19:39.
Third period -- 3, Union, Rinaldi 6 (Seger, Foo), 15:25. 4, Union, Seger 6 (Estes, Rinaldi), 16:24. Penalties -- Anhorn, U (holding), 3:51; Forman, P (cross-checking), 7:54; Allen, U (cross-checking), 9:28.
Overtime -- None.
Shots on goal -- Princeton 11-9-10-3 -- 33. Union 6-10-10-1 -- 27.
Power-play opportunities -- Princeton 1 of 6, Union 0 of 6.
Goalies -- Princeton, Forget T, 3-7-2 (27 shots-25 saves). Union, Hanson T, 6-19-4 (33-31).
A -- 1,981. T -- 2:23.
Referees -- Joe Carusone, CJ Hanifin. Linesmen -- Rick Lembo, Matt Wyld.