SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — So close, but yet another heartbreaking end to the season for Union.
Shawn Weller, who hadn’t scored a goal since his first college game, tipped in a Chris Brekelmans shot with 1:42 left in overtime Sunday, giving Clarkson a 4-3 victory over the Dutchmen in the deciding game of the best-of-3 ECACHL tournament first-round series at Messa Rink.
The Golden Knights (13-21-3) win the series, 2-1, and advance to a quarterfinal matchup at Cornell next weekend.
For Union (13-22-2), it was the third straight year in which its season ended with a home playoff loss. The Dutchmen were swept by Rensselaer in 2002, and by Clarkson last year.
But this series loss is the most painful of the three. All three of the games were decided in overtime.
“We worked hard that first game, and we thought we deserved to win,” said teary-eyed senior Jordan Webb. “They kind of got a lucky bounce in the neutral zone, and they took advantage of it. We kept working [Saturday] night. We finally got through to [goalie Dustin] Traylen. Tonight, we were confident going in, we worked we had our chances. I think that’s the most frustrating thing.”
Union coach Nate Leaman felt bad for his six seniors.
“They played like champions,” Leaman said. “They laid it on the line. That’s all you can ask for. They wore the jersey, and they made everyone proud of the jersey this weekend. It stings when you lay everything on the line. That’s the tough part about sports.”
Union had a power play in overtime, but couldn’t take advantage. At that point, it looked like the game was heading for a second overtime.
But then Nick Dodge won a faceoff from Scott Seney and drew the puck back to Brekelmans at the left point. Brekelmans fired a shot to the net. Weller, who had gone 29 straight games without a goal, cut in front of the net and tipped the puck past goalie Justin Mrazek to end the series.
“That’s playoff hockey,” Mrazek said. “Goals go in like that. They got three deflection goals tonight. It just [stinks].”
For Weller, scoring the goal brought him a sense of relief.
“It was a good shot by Chris Brekelmans,” Weller said. “I happened to get my stick on it. It’s been pretty frustrating going over the course of the year. I’ve been trying to contribute in other ways that I can.”
After the two teams combined for just four goals in the first two games, the offenses came to life in Game 3.
The Dutchmen nearly scored first, 5:40 into the game, when Scott Seney put in the rebound of a Torren Delforte shot. However, referee Alex Dell waved it off because Olivier Bouchard was in the crease.
The Knights got the game’s first goal, as well as the first in the series in the opening period, with 3:02 left. Brekelmans’ slapshot from the top of the slot deflected off of a Union stick and past Mrazek’s left shoulder.
But the Dutchmen tied it on a power-play goal with 55.6 seconds left in the first. Jonathan Poirier centered a pass from the left-wing corner to Bouchard in front of the net. Bouchard took two whacks at it, and got it past Traylen.
The Dutchmen took a 2-1 lead when Webb scored his 17th goal of the season 4:10 into the second period. But the Knights erased the Dutchmen’s lead on a Jay Latulippe power-play goal at 8:52, and an even-strength tally by Max Kolu less than two minutes later.
The score stayed that way until late in the third period, The Dutchmen got a power play with 5:02 left when Kolu hit Chris Konnick from behind.
Union made Clarkson pay. Webb’s left-point shot deflected off Bouchard’s knee and past Traylen to tie the score at 3-3 with 3:33 left.
“‘Webber’ saw there was a little scrum,” Bouchard said. “He shot right into it. It was a smart play.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.