SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Union is on the verge of something amazing, thanks to a pair of seniors who will have at least two more home games to play.
Goalie Justin Mrazek made a career-high 46 saves and Sam Bowles had a goal and an assist Saturday, leading the Dutchmen to a 3-1 ECAC Hockey victory over St. Lawrence in the final regular-season home game at Messa Rink.
The win, coupled with Cornell’s 2-1 loss to Princeton, puts the Dutchmen (9-6-5 ECACH, 14-11-6 overall) in a fourth-place tie with the Big Red. However, the Dutchmen have the tiebreaker over the Big Red, which means, with two games left in the regular season, Union is in great position to get its first-ever ECACH tournament first-round bye. The Dutchmen, who clinched a home-ice berth Friday, conclude the season next weekend at Yale and Brown.
Quinnipiac, which is a point behind Union and Cornell, could move ahead of those two teams if it beats Colgate today.
“Obviously, we have to wait for the Colgate-Quinnipiac game,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “I thought Justin and Sam played a great game. We needed it. We were struggling there.”
Mrazek made 21 saves in the first period, keeping the game scoreless for the Dutchmen, who showed the effects of the previous night’s feisty 3-3 tie with Clarkson. The Dutchmen were very sluggish, and were outplayed by the Saints (5-13-2, 10-18-4).
“The way I like to play is the more shots, the better,” said Mrazek, whose previous career high for saves was 43 at Providence on Dec. 7. “We started off slow, but in the second period, we picked it up. After that, it was a back-and-forth game.”
The Dutchmen, who were outshot, 47-26, got a wake-up call at 6:18 of the second period when Saints’ defenseman Zach Miskovic ripped a one-timer past Mrazek from the right circle. Union tied it 52 seconds later when John Simpson scored a power-play goal.
Bowles, who missed the last two games because of an injury suffered against Cornell last Friday, snapped a 1-1 tie with his third goal of the season with 5:37 left in the second. He was a little off balance in the Saints’ left circle when he got a pass from Jason Shaffer. Bowles regained his balance and fired a turn-around wrist shot past goalie Justin Pesony.
“[Defenseman] Brock Matheson made a great play coming up the ice, and he head-manned it to Shaffer,” Bowles said. “Shaffer made an unbelievable play fighting off a [St. Lawrence] guy. I was calling for it, and he dropped it. I just turned around and shot it. I don’t how it went in, but somehow, it went in.”
Bowles then made an outstanding play on the Dutchmen’s third goal.
He skated with the puck into the St. Lawrence zone, went around the net from the left side, and came out on the right. Bowles went to the right circle before backhanding a pass to Chris Potts in the slot. Potts fired a wrister past Pesony’s right pad.
“I was just trying to drive it wide because I know they’ve been playing with a couple of forwards back on [defense],” Bowles said. “I tried to take advantage of that. I came around the net, and looked up. First, I was thinking about going to the lane, but ‘Pottsie’ did a great job calling for it. He was cocked and ready to go. I just put it over to him, and he did the rest.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.