SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union assistant coach Bill Riga had a meeting with the Dutchmen penalty killers prior to Friday’s ECACHL game with Dartmouth.
On the board, he put up an ugly statistic: the Dutchmen had allowed a power-play goal in 13 straight games. It was time for the players to end that streak.
They did just that. The Dutchmen killed off all 10 of the Big Green’s power plays, sparking them to a 4-1 victory at Messa Rink.
The last time Union (2-5 ECACHL, 9-8-2 overall) didn’t allow a power-play goal was Oct. 28 against RPI. Ironically, Union killed off 10 power plays in that game.
Since then, Union allowed 25 power-play goals in 105 chances during the last 13 games.
“The guys kind of took that to heart tonight,” Union acting head coach Rick Bennett said about the streak. “It was a great motivational tool by Coach Riga.”
Dartmouth (4-5-2, 5-7-2) had its own streak entering the game. It hadn’t scored a power-play goal in five straight games.
The Big Green had 20 shots on goal during the 10 power plays, including 14 shots on four opportunities in the third period. But they couldn’t get anything past goalie Justin Mrazek, who got some help from his teammates in front of him by blocking shots, or throwing ferocious hits like the four defenseman Michael Beynon did in the third.
“That was the game right there,” said Mrazek, who made 37 saves overall. “We still took a few penalties and were a little undisciplined, but the PK stepped up. I saw guys block shots that probably never blocked a shot before in their life on the PK.”
It got especially hairy late in the game. With Sean Streich serving an elbowing penalty, Dartmouth goalie Mike Devine was pulled for an extra skater, giving the Big Green a six-on-four advantage.
They peppered Mrazek with shot after the shot. But the steadily improving junior netminder stopped everything that came his way.
“I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie,” said Mrazek, who allowed an even-strength goal to J.T. Wyman in the first period.
Still, the Dutchmen know they can’t continue to take penalties and expect to kill them all off every game. But killing off all of Dartmouth’s power plays gives them some confidence.
“It’s one game,” forward Jason Walters said. “Hopefully, we can do it again tomorrow night.”
While the Dutchmen stopped the Big Green’s power play, they got two man-advantage goals on seven opportunities.
Lane Caffaro scored the first one, firing a shot from the right point over Devine’s right shoulder, giving Union a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game. Olivier Bouchard got the other one with 4:40 left in the game, which put Union up, 3-1.
“We’ve been trying to get the power play going,” Caffaro said. “We’ve struggled a little bit this year. We outworked their penalty kill. We got shots on net, and guys were doing their job screening the goalie.”
Josh Coyle scored the game-winner for Union with 3:01 left in the second period. Matt Cook added an empty-net goal with two-tenths of a second left in the third.
Union hosts Harvard Saturday at 7 p.m., while Dartmouth visits RPI at the same time.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.