SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The chances were there for Union against Yale Friday night in Game 1 of the ECACHL tournament
The Dutchmen had 41 shots on goal. They had 11 power-play chances, and had 20 shots on those opportunities. The Dutchmen even had a five-minute power play.
But the Bulldogs, thanks to goalie Alec Richards and defenseman Matt Cohen, have put the Dutchmen on the verge of yet another first-round elimination.
Richards made 40 saves, and Cohen scored 9:21 into overtime, giving 11th-seeded Yale a 2-1 victory over sixth-seeded Union at Messa Rink.
The Bulldogs (9-18-3) can clinch the best-of-three series with a win in Game 2 at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Dutchmen (16-15-6), who played in their fourth straight overtime game in the playoffs, now must figure out a way to win on Saturday and force a deciding game Sunday. Union has never advanced past the opening round of a series in nine postseason appearances.
“The goalie made some great saves. We had 41 shots, and only one goal,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “We’re going to watch tape, and find a way to put some goals against him.”
Richards made two amazing stops in overtime to keep the scored tied. First, after stopping a Brendan Milnamow right-point shot, Richards robbed Torren Delforte by kicking out his right pad on the rebound 31 seconds into the extra period.
“That was a spectacular save on Delforte,” Leaman said. “Torren had a wide-open net. The kid made the save.”
Then, with 16:16 left, Jonathan Poirier sent a pass from behind the net to Matt Cook in the slot. Cook’s one-timer was turned aside by Richards.
“Richards made two saves in overtime that were out of this world,” Yale coach Tim Taylor said. “They were unbelievable saves.”
Just under six minutes later, Yale won the game. After Union goalie Kris Mayotte stopped a David Germain shot, Robert Burns got the rebound and sent the puck to Cohen at the right point. Cohen was about to shoot when Scott Brady collided with a Union teammate in the right circle. That opened a lane
for Cohen to go to the net, and he put the puck between Mayotte’s pads to end the fourth-longest game in Union’s Division I history.
The Bulldogs grabbed a 1-0 lead on David Meckler’s power-play goal late in the first period.
Union, which failed on four power-play attempts in the first period that extended its futility to 28 straight chances without a goal, ended that skid with a fluke goal by Delforte midway through the second. His shot from the right side hopped past Richards’ stick.
“It was just over the blue line,” Delforte said. “I put a backhander in, and it just bounced and went in.”
Union had other great chances on the power play, particularly early in the third period when Jean-Francois Boucher was given a five-minute major for kneeing Scott Seney. The Dutchmen had eight shots on Richards. But, their bad luck continued as none of the shots got past Richards.
Now, just like last year, and the five previous playoff appearances before that, Union has to try and rally to win the next two games.
“We were here last year, . . . and I felt we came back and played a great game,” Leaman said. “We have to do that again [tonight]. We have to be better, though. I don’t think we played with enough urgency in the first period.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.