ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — After taking advantage of numerous opportunities Friday, namely a multitude of Colgate turnovers that led to three goals, it was Union’s inability to convert through the first two periods against Harvard that stood out Saturday in the ECAC Hockey Championship.
The Dutchmen pelted Harvard goalie Rapheal Girard with 27 shots through the first two periods, including 15 in the first.
But the Harvard sophomore was up to task, sliding effortlessly across the crease to deny the best-laid plans of the Dutchmen and keep the game scoreless.
“It was plain and simple; stick to the process,” Union coach Rick Bennett said when asked what he told his team after the first two periods. “Stick to our game plan and it’s going to come through.”
That approach worked for Union, which scored three unanswered goals after Alex Killorn gave Harvard a 1-0 lead at 4:52 in the third.
The late outburst helped Union win its first ECAC Hockey playoff title with a 3-1 win, two years after losing to Cornell in its first title game.
“It means that we get to walk around like champions,” an emotional Bennett said when asked what the win meant for the Union program. “That’s something we’ll always remember.”
The Dutchmen have a good chance at getting one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament when the pairings are announced at noon EDT Sunday.
“They have a good blend of special teams and goaltending and they seem to be pretty healthy, which is not that easy to do at this time of year,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “We’ll be pulling hard for them and I think they can do some damage.”
Grosenick versus Girard
It was Union’s Troy Grosenick, not Girard, who entered the game as a Hobey Baker Award finalist. But the Harvard sophomore was every bit up to the task through the first two periods, holding Union scoreless. Grosenick, meanwhile, didn’t face a Crimson shot in the second until there were just under three minutes left.
When Killorn fired a shot pass Grosenick off an odd-man rush at 4:52 in the third, that seemed to be enough given the way Girard way playing.
“I definitely thought we could win [after Killorn scored],” Girard said. “Even though I made some good saves, guys were getting sticks in front of me and getting rebounds in corners.”
Still, it was a strong way to end the year for Girard, who took over for Steve Michalek in mid-February, and helped the Crimson grab a first-round playoff bye and home ice with a third-place finish.
Harvard and Union dominated the all-tournament team, as Grosenick, Killorn, Union forwards Jeremy Welsh and Daniel Carr, Union defender Shayne Gostisbehere and Harvard defender Danny Biega made up the team. Welsh was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, while Killorn finished leading the league in playoff scoring with 10 points on five goals and five assists.