SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Friday’s 2-2 tie with last-place Brown could have been a major setback for Union. Instead, the Dutchmen put the memory of that game, in which the Bears scored with one-tenth of a second left in regulation, out of their minds Saturday against Harvard. The result was an impressive win that moved the Dutchmen closer to clinching a playoff berth.
Randy Dagenais and Jason Ralph scored 22 seconds apart midway the third period to erase a one-goal deficit and give the Dutchmen a 3-2 ECAC victory over the Crimson in their Achilles Rink finale.
The win, coupled with Vermont’s 2-1 overtime loss to Princeton, moves Union (12-14-4, 8-10-2 ECAC) into sole possession of ninth place. The Dutchmen have a two-point lead over Vermont (7-11-2 ECAC), which is in the final playoff spot, and three over Colgate (7-12-1 ECAC).
Union faces Colgate on Friday in Hamilton, N.Y. The Dutchmen can clinch a playoff spot with a win or tie over the Red Raiders. The Dutchmen put themselves into that position by learning a painful lesson about playing hard for the entire game. They didn’t do that when they were protecting a 2-0 lead in the third period against Brown.
“I was pretty hard on the guys throughout the [Brown] game,” Sneddon said. “I really challenged them going into tonight’s game. We had a point to prove that we want to be a part of the ECAC playoffs, and continually climb up the standings. Sometimes, tough love works.”
Union co-captain Clark Jones said the players got too comfortable against Brown, and that hurt them.
“It was a wake-up call for us,” Jones said. “What was nice about tonight was that we were able and play a solid game on a Saturday night. If we’re going to play well and continue to have success, we have to play 120 minutes every weekend.”
The Dutchmen had the better of the play against the Crimson (12-14-1, 10-8-1), outshooting them, 35-21. But Harvard took a 2-1 lead into the third period.
However, Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni wasn’t happy with his team’s effort.
“I thought [the Dutchmen] were the better team tonight,” Mazzoleni said. “They wanted it worse. It looked like they had more urgency to their game.”
That urgency turned a 2-1 Harvard lead into a one-goal Union advantage.
Dagenais tied it at 7:16 when he took a Bryant Westerman pass and fired a wrist shot over goalie Oliver Jonas’ right shoulder.
“It’s definitely the biggest goal of my career, and I’ve only had three of them,” said Dagenais, a sophomore. “‘Westy’ saw me. It was the best pass I ever had. I had time corral it, I saw the top corner [open] and I shot it.”
Ralph snapped the tie at 7:38. Jones brought the puck down the right wing into the Harvard zone. He pass the puck back to Ralph at the top of the right circle, and Ralph fired it by Jonas.
“Clark was going wide to the net, and ‘Goody’ [Kris Goodjohn] was with him,” Ralph said. “I yelled for ‘Goody’ to go the net. I think he caused a lot of confusion by going to the net. Jones looked right at me, passed it to me and I one-timed it.”
With Jonas out for an extra attacker, Union was called for icing with 3.9 seconds left. But any Harvard hopes of getting the tying goal ended when Goodjohn won the face off in the Union left circle, and drew the puck back into the corner. Alex Todd killed off the remaining time.
“We’re in the driver’s seat,” Ralph said. “[The playoffs] are in our hands.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.