SCHENECTADY -- During the week, Anthony Rinaldi and Vas Kolias agreed that their most memorable and favorite moment in four years of hockey at Union College was senior Mike Vecchione's penalty shot in overtime to beat Princeton in his final Messa Rink game in 2017.
They were both freshmen then.
This was the opposite of that.
With Rinaldi in the penalty box in overtime, Quinnipiac's Odeen Tufto bounced the puck off Union defenseman Ryan Sidorski's stick with 27 seconds left in Rinaldi's penalty and 44.8 seconds left in overtime for a 3-2 Bobcats victory at Messa Rink.
It was a gut-wrenching final home game and Senior Night for the three graduating players on the team, Rinaldi, Kolias and Zach Emelifeonwu.
Rinaldi had given the Dutchmen a 2-0 lead at 4:08 of the second period with a hard-charging rush at the Quinnipiac net, but the Bobcats answered 10 seconds later, then tied it on Tufto's goal midway through the third period.
Tufto seemed to be in the middle of everything after having taken a scary headfirst crash into the endboards in the second period. It was Tufto who was tripped by Rinaldi at center ice in overtime as the Union senior skated hard at a loose puck trying to make another rush into the offensive zone.
Rinaldi, who also had an important goal in Friday's 2-2 tie with Princeton, could only sit and watch as the visiting team celebrated a victory on his home ice.
"My original thought was I hope they don't score, obviously," Rinaldi said. "You don't want to be the reason for a loss. I had a lot of faith in the PK. They played fantastic throughout the whole game. I couldn't see what happened. It hit a stick, just a bad bounce."
"If you were thinking you lost that game for us, I hope you don't," Kolias said, as both players sat in full gear, including skates, in the post-game interview room. "You did not lose that game for us."
"I do feel for him," Union head coach Rick Bennett said. "He had a terrific goal. It's too bad it had to end like that, but it's far from over. He's a big boy. He's still in college hockey, he's having fun. He's not playing for food just yet."
Union junior goalie Darion Hanson made a single-game career-high 50 saves, including robbing William Fallstrom twice, on a breakaway and the ensuing penalty shot, with Union up 2-1 and 4:44 elapsed in the third period.
His previous single-game high was 39.
The Bobcats (12-6-2 ECAC Hockey, 19-11-2 overall) got the 2-2 tie less than five minutes after the penalty shot when Tufto was able to jam in a rebound during a goalmouth scramble.
"I thought a lot of their shots were very save-able, I'll say, and the ones that were difficult, I thought Hanny came up big and kept us in the game," Bennett said. "I like how, at times, we could really turn it up against a very good team."
The Dutchmen (5-13-2, 7-21-4) did not get on the power play during the game, while Union's penalty kill, sparked by the shot-blocking of junior Josh Kosack stayed steady throughout the weekend.
"Josh Kosack was a warrior all weekend long, and that's what we need," Bennett said. "You see our bench, every time he does it, he is doing something that a lot of hockey players do not like to do. It hurts, and you know it's going to hurt when you see it coming. Some people make themselves small; he makes himself big, like he wants to be hit by it. I was really impressed with him this weekend and the sacrifice he made for this team."
So it made sense for Bennett to call timeout during Rinaldi's penalty in overtime, to give the top penalty a rest so they could stay on the ice.
But after cycling the puck around the perimeter, Quinnipiac got it to Tufto at the bottom of the left circle, and he whistled the puck through the front of the crease, and it happened to hit Sidorski's stick and angle into the goalmouth as Hanson desperately tried to adjust and flail at the puck with his glove.
"We get a little bit of a bounce in overtime," Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. "I think we also got lucky that Union used the timeout, we got to rest our first power play and put them back out there. Union was really good tonight. They battled, Hanson was excellent, and it felt like a playoff game tonight. We found a way, and move on."
"The fact that the boys came out and played tonight really meant a lot to us [seniors]," Rinaldi said. "It just didn't work out the way we wanted it to."
"We all battled," Kolias said. "That's all we can ask for. I loved the effort, and I think we proved that we can play with anyone.
"Us three [seniors] never wavered, and it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I wouldn't have done it any other way. It was an electric game."
Despite being outshot 19-9 during a lively first period, Union took a 1-0 lead on Chaz Smedsrud's fifth goal of the season, in transition at 7:39.
Colin Schmidt carried the puck over the blueline and dished it to Kolias on left wing. Kolias charged ahead to the bottom of the left circle and found Smedsrud in the slot for a wrist shot inside the right post.
The game got even livelier in the second, featuring one scrum that resulted in matching roughing and hitting after the whistle penalties; end-to-end play and some well-sustained forecheck in the Union offensive zone.
Rinaldi made it 2-0 for the Dutchmen at 4:08 when he barreled down right wing on a solo mission and fired a shot from in close that hit goalie Keith Petruzzelli and flipped over him and into the net.
The goal was reviewed because Rinaldi rammed into Petruzzelli outside the crease and the right post, but was called a good goal.
The public address announcement of the goal was still in progress when Quinnipiac answered back 10 seconds later.
The Bobcats came up with the puck off the faceoff and skated in 2-on-1, with Michael Lombardi flipping it over goalie Darion Hanson after Union defenseman Dylan Anhorn tried to lay his stick on the ice but couldn't stop the pass from Skyler Brind'Amour. (Brind'Amour is the son of 20-year NHL veteran and current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour.)
"Our response after goals has to be better," Bennett said. "It's very deflating. Yeah, I watched it. We just weren't plugged in. We were too busy celebrating a two-zip lead there."
Quinnipiac 0 1 1 1 -- 3
Union 1 1 0 0 -- 2
First period -- 1, Union, Smedsrud 5 (Kolias, Schmidt), 7:39. Penalties -- Emelifeonwu, U (hitting after whistle), 8:51.
Second period -- 2, Union, Rinaldi 7 (Anhorn), 4:08. 3, Quinnipiac, Lombardi 4 (Brind'Amour, Fletcher), 4:18. Penalties -- Ryan, U (tripping), 1:28; Britt, Q (roughing), 5:20; Kosack, U (roughing), 5:20; Cukste, Q (hitting after whistle), 5:20; Emelifeonwu, U (hitting after whistle), 5:20; Emelifeonwu, U (cross-checking), 14:32.
Third period -- 4, Quinnipiac, Tufto 6 (Jermain, DiLiberatore), 9:13. Penalties -- Sidorski, U (hooking), 4:44.
Overtime -- 5, Quinnipiac, Tufto 7 (Whelan, DiLiberatore), 4:15 (pp). Penalties -- Rinaldi, U (tripping), 2:42.
Shots on goal -- Quinnipiac 19-8-21-5 -- 53. Union 9-12-6-0 -- 27.
Power-play opportunities -- Quinnipiac 1 of 4. Union 0 of 0.
Goalies -- Quinnipiac, Petruzzelli W, 19-10-2 (27 shots-25 saves). Union, Hanson, L, 6-20-4 (53-50).
A -- 1,790. T -- 2:47.
Referees -- Tory Mazzola, Cameron Lynch. Linesmen -- Patrick Dapuzzo, Matt Brady.