PRINCETON, N.J. — Despite wasting a 3-1 lead, taking too many penalties and losing its top goaltender for 10 minutes, Union found a way to clinch another ECACHL tournament home-ice berth on Saturday.
Defenseman Sean Streich scored with 47 seconds left in overtime, giving the Dutchmen a wild 5-4 victory over Princeton at Hobey Baker Rink.
The victory means Union (9-7-4 ECACHL, 16-12-6 overall) will be at Messa Rink for at least the first round of the tournament. The sixth-place Dutchmen still have a shot at a first-round bye because they trail St. Lawrence by three points for the fourth and final spot. But there are two games remaining, and Union closes out the regular season at home next weekend against Colgate and Cornell, who are battling for the regular-season title.
“This team has faced so much adversity this year,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “I’m proud of the way the guys keep coming back and playing. We needed these two points. We were fortunate enough to get them. The team battled.”
Unlike previous seasons, Union won’t have to wait until the final weekend of the season to clinch home ice, thanks to Streich and Jonathan Poirier, whose goal with 1:22 left and backup goalie Justin Mrazek out for an extra attacker tied the score 4-4.
“The past two years that I’ve been here, the last weekend has come down to whether we’ll be home or away,” said Streich, a junior whose left-point wrist shot beat a screened Eric Leroux to the left side. “But it’s still a huge weekend (next week). There’s points on the line. There’s still a possibility of fourth place, and there are teams chomping at our tail, too.”
The Dutchmen took a two-goal lead in the second period on tallies by Augie DiMarzo and Scott Wheeler. DiMarzo later left the game with a right knee injury. Union outshot Princeton 24-9 in the period.
But Bryan Campbell’s interference penalty with 56 seconds left in the second led to Kevin Westgarth’s power-play goal 19 seconds later that made it 3-2.
Then, the Dutchmen fell apart. With Torren Delforte penalized for tripping, Brett Wilson tied the score at 5:56 of the third period.
Finally, with Olivier Bouchard already in the box for tripping, Jake Schwan was called for elbowing at 10:48 on a play that looked like a clean check. Goalie Kris Mayotte complained something to referee Mike Baker about the call, and Baker gave him a 10-minute misconduct. Mrazek came in and gave up a power-play goal to Grant Goeckner-Zoeller that gave the Tigers (6-12-2, 9-16-2) a 4-3 lead.
With 1:22 left in regulation, Delforte was behind the net when he centered a pass to Poirier in the slot. Poirier ripped shot past Leroux’s glove.
“It was pretty much Torren Delforte making a great play around the net,” Poirier said. “I just happened to be there. I just tried to put a stick on it, and it went in.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.