SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union coach Nate Leaman couldn’t find the right words for his team to describe how bad he was feeling for them. Moments earlier, however, he had plenty to say to referee Scott Hansen.
Leaman was ejected with 12.9 seconds left in the game after Jason Fredricks’ empty-net goal sealed Colgate’s 3-1 ECACHL victory over the Dutchmen on Saturday at Messa Rink.
Leaman was screaming at Hansen because, seconds before Fredricks’ tally, he believed defenseman Lane Caffaro was tripped by a Colgate player as he was coming down the slot trying to score the tying goal. The tirade got Leaman an early trip to the locker room for the first time in his career.
“I’m just disappointed,” Leaman said. “I didn’t know what to tell the players. I’m disappointed for our team because we worked so hard. I can say I haven’t been that disappointed in a referee in my career. To me, it’s disheartening. I feel like [Maine coach] Timmy Whitehead right now. Now, I know what Timmy Whitehead went through two weeks ago.”
Leaman was referring to Whitehead’s criticism of Hansen’s performance in Maine’s 3-0 Hockey East loss to Boston University on Jan. 13. Hansen handed out three 10-minute misconducts and a game disqualification to Maine. Whitehead later apologized for his remarks.
What makes the loss even more hurtful for the Dutchmen (6-11-1 ECACHL, 13-14-3 overall), is that they lost ground in the race for home ice in the first round of the ECACHL tournament. Union trails Princeton, 3-0 winners over Dartmouth, by three points for the final home-ice berth. There are four games left in the regular season.
The Dutchmen outshot the Raiders (7-8-3, 13-15-4), 36-28. Union has lost nine straight to Colgate, none probably more disheartening to Leaman than this one.
“I thought the guys played a great game,” Leaman said. “I was proud of them, and they got robbed a little bit. I would hope that the league would sit down and watch the tape. That would be my goal, that our commissioner [Steve Hagwell] and our [supervisor] of officials [Luke Galvin] would watch that. At this time of the year, in these important games. I know they will because I know Luke Galvin watches a lot of tape, I know Steve Hagwell will. I’ll be on the phone to him tonight.
“That’s my hope that they do it. And I hope Scott Hansen watches the call.”
Hansen left the building and was unavailable for comment. A message left for Hagwell wasn’t returned.
Caffaro was unhappy with the non-call.
“I don’t know what other league that they wouldn’t call a penalty like that, a guy walking in alone with 10 seconds left in the game to tie it up, and decides not to call it,” Caffaro said. “Everybody’s seen it, except for him.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan had the best view of the play, but he only shrugged his shoulders and said little about it.
But he was pleased with his team’s power play, which scored the game’s first two goals in the second period. Nick St. Pierre tipped Marc Fulton’s left-point drive between goalie Justin Mrazek’s pads 1:41 into the period, and Jesse Winchester one-timed a Tyler Burton pass past Mrazek at 7:09.
“Our power play came through for us, which has been a little bit anemic here the last little while,” Vaughan said.
Goalie Mark Dekanich was outstanding for Colgate. He made 35 saves.
The only one he didn’t stop was defenseman Sean Streich’s slap shot from the top of the slot with 38 seconds left in the second. That was Union’s first goal against Colgate at Messa since Jan. 18, 2003, when Nathan Gillies scored an empty-net goal with one second left a 4-1 Dutchmen win. Streich’s tally ended a goalless drought of 219 minutes, 23 seconds. Union went 1,484 days between goals against Colgate at Messa.
The Dutchmen had numerous scoring opportunities against Dekanich in the third period. But nothing got by the league’s defending Ken Dryden Award winner.
“We’ve been working hard,” Streich said. “If we keep playing this way, keep playing with the heart and passion we’re playing with, those bounces and the calls are going to go our way.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.