SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — It was a history-making day for the Union College men’s hockey team Sunday afternoon. For the first time in the Dutchmen’s Division I history, they have won their first three games.
But it wasn’t easy. A pesky American International team played the Dutchmen tough, but thanks to Joel Beal and Scott Seney, the Dutchmen prevailed for a 6-3 victory at Messa Rink at Achilles Center.
Beal scored the game’s first two goals, and team scoring leader Seney added a goal and two assists.
“I think it’s great, not only for the team, but for everyone all around us,” said Seney, who has three goals and five assists. “Last year was kind of a turbulent start for us. Now, we’re starting to play with confidence, and it’s really helping the team.”
Beal sparked Union to a 2-0 lead in the opening period. He opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 9:43. AIC goalie Frank Novello stopped a Seney shot from the left side of the net and the rebound kicked out to Beal on the right, and he fired it home.
Just over two minutes later, with the Dutchmen shorthanded, Beal struck again. He stripped AIC defenseman Ben Ellsworth of the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the right side into the Yellow Jackets zone. Beal rifled a shot over Novello.
“The [defenseman] had me beat to the puck,” Beal said. “I just put a little hook on him, and the puck squirted free. I happened to get by him. I took a look and the goalie gave me a little room short side.”
Beal had a couple of other chances to score in the first, but was stopped.
“It felt good,” Beal said. “My teammates got me the puck, and it was just me and the goalie. It would have been nice to put it in a couple more times.”
The Dutchmen, who were playing less than 24 hours after their 3-1 win over Merrimack, came out lazy in the second period. The Yellow Jackets (0-4) took advantage to tie the score on goals 40 seconds apart by Jeremy Leroux and Andy Walbert early in the period.
“I thought we won the first and third period. They won the second period,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “I give them credit. They kept coming at us. We just weren’t real sharp mentally. We kind of chasing the puck quite a bit in our defensive zone and leaving guys open.”
Seney snapped the tie at 8:34 of the second as a puck squeezed past Novello. Referee Pete Feola initially called it a no-goal, but after consulting with the goal judge, the goal was awarded.
Brian Kerr made it 4-2 with a power-play goal 1:17 into the third period before Leroux cut Union’s lead to a goal at 10:45. But Matt Vagvolgyi scored Union’s second shorthanded goal of the game, converting a Glenn Sanders pass on a two-on-one break with 7:52 left. Jonathan Poirier scored an empty-net goal with 33 seconds remaining.
“It’s good to get off to a good start,” Leaman said. “I didn’t think we brought our ‘A’ game. That’s a tough schedule. That’s a pro schedule where you play two games in 24 hours. I’m not making any excuses whatsoever because I don’t believe in them. I’m happy to get the win.”
Notes: Union’s best start to a season was in 2000-01, when it opened 6-1-2. … The Dutchmen head to Ohio next weekend for a two-game series against Bowling Green. … Union forward Brent Williams, who transferred from Iona, had six goals and an assist in six games against the Yellow Jackets during his days with the Gaels.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.