BURLINGTON, Vt. — Union hung with sixth-ranked St. Cloud in their Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup semifinal at Gutterson Fieldhouse. But the Huskies fourth-ranked power play in the nation proved to be the difference against the Dutchmen.
Power-play goals by Dan Kronick in the second period and Andrew Gordon in the third lifted the Huskies to a 4-2 victory over the Dutchmen.
St. Cloud (11-3-3) won its ninth straight and is unbeaten in last 12. The Huskies advance to tonight’s championship game against Vermont at 7.
The Dutchmen (7-8-2), who had a two-game winning streak snapped, play in the 4 p.m. consolation game.
Earlier this week, the Dutchmen talked about staying disciplined and keeping out of the penalty box. But, for the 12th straight game, they gave up at least one power-play goal.
“The positive thing is the fact that we can play with the sixth-ranked team in the country,” Union acting head coach Rick Bennett said. “The negative is, just like we talked about, you can’t take penalties, especially in the third period. We can blame the ref and say they were soft penalties, but the referee did a good job tonight.”
Kronick’s goal, scored at 10:11 of the second with Brendan Milnamow serving a slashing penalty, came 3:04 after Union’s Mario Valery-Trabucco got his team-leading ninth goal of the season that tied the score, 1-1.
Union took three straight penalties early in the third. The second one, an elbowing call against Jake Schwan, enabled Gordon to get St. Cloud’s second power-play goal at 5:19. Gordon was in the mid-slot when he tipped Grant Clafton’s left-point drive past goalie Justin Mrazek.
“We have to stop taking penalties,” Valery-Trabucco said. “We hurt our team.”
Meanwhile, Union’s power play was 0-for-6, although Valery-Trabucco’s goal came four seconds after a Casey Borer interference penalty expired.
“Our penalty killing was strong,” St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko said. “When we win our special teams battle, we usually can win some games.”
Despite giving up four goals, Mrazek was sharp. He was perfect on stopping breakaways, stoning Andreas Nodl and Nate Raduns on backhand attempts in the second period, and Nate Day on a wrist shot late in the third.
“I had a feeling they were going to try a different move every time, and they did” said Mrazek, who made 24 saves. “Other than that, I was just trying to stay focused, and try to stay calm.”
Craig Gaudet beat Mrazek from the left point, a shot that appeared to deflect off of a Union player and knuckled past the glove side. Matt Cook scored Union’s final goal with 3:53 to go.
“It’s just a moral victory,” Bennett said. “We’ll look our team in the eye and say, ‘All it is is a moral victory.’ But the bottom line is it’s a 4-2 loss. It should hurt, and it does hurt.”
NOTEBOOK The last time the Dutchmen held a team without a power-play goal was against RPI in the Governor’s Cup Oct. 28…Union fell to 0-14-1 against WCHA teams…Gary Houseman had a goal and an assist for the Huskies.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.