SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union coach Nate Leaman thought his team was outplayed for two periods by Merrimack. However, neither team was able to score. Then came the third period. The Dutchmen started working harder, and it paid off.
Scott Seney scored the game-winning goal and assisted on two others Saturday, lifting the Dutchmen to a 3-1 victory over Merrimack in the Messa Rink at Achilles Center opener.
“We were getting outworked,” said Leaman, whose Dutchmen improved to 2-0. “When we were on the power play, we weren’t generating a lot of speed. We adjusted our breakout all three periods. It just came down to the third period. We started to win a little more races to the puck when we were dumping it because they were forcing us to dump it, which was good by them.”
Seney helped break the scoreless tie in the first minute of the third period. With the Dutchmen shorthanded, he chipped the puck out of his zone.
Joel Beal picked it up and skated down the right wing with Merrimack’s Bryan Schmidt defending. Beal hung onto the puck and saw Brent Booth coming down the slot. Beal fed Booth a perfect pass, and the senior defenseman fired it past goalie Casey Guenther 35 seconds into the third.
“It seemed like we had our penalty killing working for us,” Booth said. “I saw an opportunity to jump up the ice, and Joel made a fantastic pass. I pretty much had an open net.”
A plethora of penalties on both teams resulted in a rare three-on-three situation, and Merrimack (1-2) scored. Schmidt one-timed a Brent Gough pass past goalie Kris Mayotte at 4:07.
But 51 seconds later, the Dutchmen scored a four-on-three power-play goal when Seney fired the puck past Guenther to regain control of the game.
“It’s big for the team,” Seney said. “Coach told us not to let down after their goal. We wanted to try and take their momentum right back.”
Jonathan Poirier, coming off offseason shoulder surgery, sealed Union’s win at 13:58 on a two-on-one break.
Olivier Bouchard skated down the left wing and fed a cross-ice pass to Poirier. It appeared Poirier waited too long to take the shot as he was about to cross the goal line. But before he got there, Poirier fired it over a sliding Guenther.
“Actually, I was just waiting,” Poirier said with tongue in cheek. “It started with Scott [Seney] and a nice dish to Bouchard. Then he flipped the puck over to me. I pretty much had the goalie down, so I went upstairs. Luckily, it went in.”
Mayotte made 23 saves. His biggest one came in the second period when he made a right pad save on Marco Rosa’s shorthanded breakaway shot.
“He’s a lefty. I gave him the blocker [right] side,” Mayotte said. “If he takes that, I can just react and kick it out. If he goes to his backhand, I would have to slide over. Those were basically the two things I was looking for. If he would have done something that wasn’t one of those, I would have been screwed.”
The Dutchmen, who are 10-3 in home openers, have played the Warriors in their first home game three times. Merrimack won both times previously, 9-6 on Nov. 1, 1991 (Union’s first Division I game) and 5-1 on Oct. 31, 1997.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.