SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union is getting more and more comfortable with its surroundings at Messa Rink. That is making it extremely difficult for opposing teams to earn a win.
The Dutchmen stretched their home unbeaten streak to 10 games Saturday when sophomore defenseman Michael Beynon’s power-play goal early in third period gave them a 2-2 ECACHL tie with Dartmouth.
Union (3-3-2 ECACHL, 10-8-4 overall) improved to 6-0-4 at home. It is the best start ever in the program’s 15 years at the Division I level. It was the Dutchmen’s second straight tie, having played to a 1-1 draw with Harvard on Friday. Overall, Union 1-0-2 in its last three games.
“When you have a young team, and we’re not overly young, but we have a lot of young players in key situations,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “I think they’re more comfortable at home. I think our power play performs better at home. Our freshmen have more poise at home. Just because they practice here, and they’re more comfortable here.
“And we’ve got a great crowd. That can’t be understated. When we score a goal, this place explodes. The guys know that, and they feed off of that.”
And with such a competitive league like the ECACHL, earning even one point is important for playoff positioning.
“At home, we feel we have an advantage,” said goalie Kris Mayotte, who made 25 saves. “We have to come out with some type of points when we play at home.”
Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet believes good teams become great ones when they can make it uncomfortable for the opposition to come into their building.
“You have to win games at home and earn points in order to be successful,” Gaudet said. “And if you don’t, it’s not going to be a successful year. We don’t lose too many, Harvard doesn’t lose too many, Cornell too many and St. Lawrence doesn’t lose too many. If you want to be a top-echelon team, you have to get points at home. [Union] got two points at home this weekend, and that’s a good job for them.”
The Dutchmen weren’t rattled over the final 25 minutes, which they played with just four defensemen — Beynon and freshmen Lane Caffaro, Mike Harr and Brendan Milnamow. Seniors Bryan Campbell and Scott Wheeler left the game after the second period with injuries. Junior defenseman Sean Streich missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.
“It was tiring, but we had a lot of support from our teammates,” Beynon said. “They got the puck out for us. It was a great team effort.”
Union also survived eight Dartmouth power plays. The Big Green (6-5-1, 7-8-1) scored on their first attempt when Grant Lewis beat Mayotte at 7:39 of the first period, which came 1:22 after Augie DiMarzo gave the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead. But the Dutchmen stopped the next seven opportunities.
“I was really happy,” Leaman said. “It’s one of the best, if not the best, power play in the league.”
Rob Pritchard scored an even-strength goal early in the second period to give Dartmouth a 2-1 lead.
Beynon’s second goal of the year came when he picked up the puck at the top of the slot, skated over to the right circle and beat goalie Mike Devine between the pads.
“I just put it on net,” Beynon said. “I tried to get it out of the shot lane. As soon as I had a lane to the net, I shot it.”
The Dutchmen got a break with 2:24 left in overtime. Nick Johnson made a pass from the right-wing boards to Eric Przepiorka, who was skating to the net. Przepiorka had Mayotte beaten with a backhand shot, but it hit the post.
“I wish I could say I made a great save,” Mayotte said. “[Johnson] feathered it to the net. I saw [Przepiorka] slashing down out of the corner of my eye. I slid over, and he made a great play. Lucky for us, he hit the post.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.