SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — If Union had played the way it did Saturday against Clarkson, then the Dutchmen would have advanced to the ECACHL tournament quarterfinals last March instead of the Golden Knights.
The Dutchmen weren’t looking for revenge. They just wanted to show the Knights that the playoff sweep was a fluke.
Mission accomplished. Goalie Justin Mrazek stopped 28 shots, and Olivier Bouchard, A.J. Palkovich, Jonathan Poirier and Jordan Webb scored goals to lift the Dutchmen to a 4-1 victory over the Knights at Messa Rink.
It was a far different effort than the one Union (2-0 ECACHL, 3-5 overall) had against Clarkson (0-2, 2-6) eight months ago. The Knights ran roughshod over the Dutchmen, sweeping last year’s best-of-three first-round series at Messa by a combined score of 13-5.
“Last year, they got on top of us early,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “And tonight, we got on top of them, and that helped us.”
The victory was pleasing to Bouchard, but he stopped short of saying it was a revenge win.
“They’re a good team, but we know we can beat them,” Bouchard said. “It feels good to go back here. We have a quicker team, we have a better team and just to show them this year that it won’t be the same.”
For the first time this season, the Dutchmen scored the game’s first goal.
Clarkson defenseman Chris Brekelmans had trouble controlling the puck at the Union blue line. Bouchard picked up the puck and skated down the ice.
Brekelmans tried to get back and catch Bouchard, but he kept stumbling. He finally fell down at the Clarkson blue line, and that allowed Bouchard to go in alone on goalie Dustin Traylen. Bouchard faked a forehand shot and put a backhander past Traylen’s left pad at 7:09 of the first period.
In a similar situation Friday against St. Lawrence, Bouchard didn’t score.
“As soon as you have a chance … you just go,” Bouchard said.
The Knights tied it 39 seconds into the second period. Chris Blight carried the puck into the Union zone. Using Union defenseman Sean Streich as a screen, Blight fired a wrist shot from the slot past Mrazek.
The Dutchmen regained the lead over six minutes later. Traylen stopped a Phil McDavitt right-point shot, but the rebound went to A.J. Palkovich, who fired it home.
“Coach basically tells us every day, you have to crash the net,” Palkovich said. “Phil shot it, and it happened to kick right off of [Traylen's] pad. It was just lying there. I pretty much put it into an empty net.”
After the goal, the Knights turned up the pressure in the Union zone. But the freshman Mrazek didn’t wilt, stopping 11 shots in the period as Union clung to the lead.
“With everyone playing well around me, the game wasn’t too difficult because everybody cleared everyone in front of the net,” said Mrazek, who earned his first collegiate win. “I got to see every puck. It was a great team effort.”
The Dutchmen protected the lead well in the third period. Poirier gave them some breathing space with a power-play goal at 16:06. Webb sealed it with an empty-net tally at 19:53.
“The third period, we just talked about calming down, having poise in [the defensive] zone and sorting things out,” Leaman said. “I was really proud of the way guys did that in the third period.”
The Dutchmen play Capital Region rival RPI next weekend. Friday’s game is at RPI, Saturday’s at Union. … Clarkson hosts Dartmouth and Vermont next weekend. … After playing in penalty-filled games Friday, Clarkson and Union were called for just five penalties each. The Knights had 15 penalties in Friday’s 5-3 loss to RPI, while the Dutchmen were called for 12 in their 6-5 win over St. Lawrence. … Clarkson was 1-for-14 on the power play over the weekend.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.