SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The last thing Union’s beleagured penalty-killing unit needed was to kill off two consecutive five-minute major penalties early in the third period of Friday’s game against Princeton.
The Dutchmen, who had a 4-2 lead at the time, killed off just 73.4 percent of opponents’ power plays entering the game. They had already given up two second-period power-play tallies to the Tigers. The situation didn’t look good.
But the Dutchmen’s penalty kill came through at the right time. They stopped the Tigers on the two majors, and then scored a five-on-three goal of their own later in the period to take a 6-2 ECACHL win at Messa Rink. Consecutive hitting from behind majors to defensemen Lane Caffaro and Bryan Campbell in the first 3:46 of the third put the Dutchmen in a bind, including a 2:06 span of five-on-three play.
“Basically, the game was on the line,” said forward Jason Visser, who helped kill off the penalties. “I feel like everybody who was on the penalty kill had confidence, and we knew we were going to kill it.”
The Dutchmen (1-2 ECACHL, 4-4-1 overall), who had killed a five-on-three early in the first period, remained tough. They held the Tigers to four shots on goal during the majors. Union even drew a penalty during the second major, eliminating two minutes of power play time.
“It was a big step up by our guys,” said defenseman Sean Streich, who was another key player on the kill. “Yeah, our kill has been on and off. But it was big when it counted. In the third period, everyone sacrificed themselves, and we got the job done.”
Limiting Princeton’s chances to shoot proved to be the difference.
“The key is staying in shot lanes, and blocking those shots,” Union coach Nate Leman said. “You have to make them move the puck one station at a time. If they can move it better than one station at a time, meaning if they can hit seams, then you’re in trouble. You get running around.
“But if you’re in the shot lane, and you force them to move the puck one station at a time, it’s a lot easier for your goalie. He can track the shot.”
Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky praised Union’s effort.
“That was our opportunity to get back in the ballgame,” Gadowsky said. “I don’t think we were hungry enough to get pucks on net, but they did an excellent job of killing it.”
Inspired by the kill, the Dutchmen put the game away. Visser scored at 10:35 to make it 5-2. Josh Coyle, who assisted on Visser’s score, added his second goal of the game 2:47 later, during a two-man advantage, to make it a four-goal lead.
“The penalty kill was huge,” said Coyle, who has a point in every game this season. “It gave our whole team a lift.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in