SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — There were sluggish moments for Union. But you expect that in your first game of the season.
The Dutchmen were able to shake out the cobwebs and show off some good plays in their 4-1 non-conference victory over Army on Saturday at Achilles Rink, one that kicked off their 10th year of Division I hockey.
The 1,399 fans who felt hockey was more important than the Subway Series saw the Dutchmen score two power-play goals. They also witnessed Union killing off all eight Army power plays. They also saw goalie Brandon Snee come within 2:45 of his second career shutout. And they caught junior Seamus Galligan scoring his first career goal as he weaved his way through the Black Knights defense and put a backhand shot over goalie Scott Hamilton’s glove late in the third period.
It made Union coach Kevin Sneddon a happy man.
“I was impressed with how we looked at times,” said Sneddon, who is 2-1 in season openers. “That’s going to happen in your season opener. You take the little things for granted. You’re trying to plan and make sure they know every little X’s and O’s. By the time you get to the game, sometimes you think, ‘Oops, we didn’t go over that.’ ”
Despite playing a tentative first period, the Dutchmen came out of it with a 1-0 lead.
They scored the goal on the power play at 7:50. Freshman defenseman P.J. Byrne sent the puck from the high slot to the front of the net. The puck hit an Army defender’s skate, and caromed to 6-foot-4 Dutchmen forward Doug Christiansen, who had his back to the net. With Hamilton out of position, Christiansen had time to gather the puck, turn around and slide it past Hamilton’s left leg.
“It was kind of lucky,” said Christiansen, who scored three power-play goals last season. “I went to the net. That’s my job, to put the garbage away.”
Two goals in a 52-second span early in the second period gave the Dutchmen a three-goal lead.
Bryan Yackel started it at 3:31. Taking a Jason Kean pass, Yackel skated into the Black Knights zone. He took two strides to the high slot and fired a wrist shot past Hamilton.
“Anytime you can get the puck on the net, you’re doing yourself a favor,” Yackel said. “Shots are hard to come by, regardless of who you’re playing. We preach around here to get it on net.” The Dutchmen scored their second power-play goal of the game at 4:23 when Jeff Hutchins beat Hamilton from five feet out.
Union’s penalty killing was sharp. Last season, the Dutchmen allowed 45 power-play goals in 192 attempts. They want to cut down on that this season.
“We talked a lot about keeping our sticks active,” Union penalty killer Alex Todd said. “We’ve got guys like Doug Christiansen, Paul Kilfoy and Bryan Yackel, who’s got a tremendous reach. If they can keep their sticks on the ice, it looks like they’re taking up twice as much space as they are. That intimidates a lot of players from shooting.”
Ken Schott is a writer for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.