SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — In recent years, when Union College didn’t play well and struggled to create offense, chances are it would lose.
But there is something different about this season’s Dutchman squad: they are finding ways to win games. Not only has that translated into the Dutchmen’s best start in six years, it has put them in sole possession of first place two games into the ECAC season.
Doug Christiansen broke a scoreless tie late in the third period, and goalie Brandon Snee made 31 saves to lead the surging Dutchmen to a 2-0 win Friday over Cornell at Achilles Rink.
“The only thing I said to the boys is that it’s a pretty good sign that we’re a growing hockey club,” Union coach Kevin Sneddon said. “We don’t play real well for two periods, and we come out with a real gutsy effort in the third period and played to win. That’s what we’ve been trying to teach for a couple of years now. The signs are there. We just have to keep it going.”
Jeff Wilson scored an empty-net goal with 17.5 seconds left to seal the win for the Dutchmen (4-1 overall, 2-0 ECAC). The game was marred at the end by several skirmishes, including two fights. Union’s Alex Todd and Bryan Yackel, and Cornell’s Stephen Baby and Greg Hornby, were given game disqualifications. They are suspended for Saturday night’s games — Union hosts Colgate while Cornell visits Rensselaer.
It was a tight-checking game between the Dutchmen and the Big Red (0-2, 0-1 ECAC). Neither side was giving much room in the offensive zones. And that made for lackluster play at times.
“We weren’t playing our best hockey in the first couple of periods,” Christiansen said. “We came in between the second and third and regrouped ourselves. It was the same situation as RPI [last Saturday]. We were tied at the end of the second, we have one period to go and we’re going to do it.”
With the puck in the Cornell zone, Union was in the midst of a line change. The 6-foot-4 Christiansen hopped over the boards and headed to the zone.
Seamus Galligan had the puck at his feet in the slot. He also had two Big Red defenders on him.
“The puck got caught up in my skates,” Galligan said. “I saw Doug streaking down, and tried to kick it to an open area.”
Christiansen got the puck, and had an open lane down the left side. He fired a hard wrist shot over Cornell goalie Matt Underhill’s glove.
“Seamus made a great play,” Christiansen said. “He chipped it back to me. Underhill gave me the whole upper corner far side, and I was able to put it there.”
Cornell coach Mike Schafer said a breakdown in communication between Underhill and his defense cost them the goal.
“He rang the puck around, and we had three of our players behind the net to pick it up,” Schafer said. “There was a little bit of miscommunication. One of our guys tried to poke it out. But [Christiansen] was in the right spot at the right time.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.