NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It may not have been one of the prettiest games Union has played this season, but ugly wins still count the same as the beautiful ones.
That is all that matters to the Dutchmen right now, who are on the verge of a first-round ECAC Hockey tournament bye.
John Simpson and Michael Beynon scored, goalie Corey Milan stopped one of 28 shots with his head and the Dutchmen survived an awful third period to post a 2-1 victory over Yale on Friday at Ingalls Rink.
The Dutchmen (10-6-5 ECACH, 15-11-6 overall) find themselves in a unique situation heading into tonight’s regular-season finale at Brown. Union is in a three-way tie for third place with Cornell and Harvard. Cornell trounced Dartmouth, 6-0, while Harvard tied Colgate, 3-3.
Cornell and Harvard play tonight at 7 at Lynah Rink. Union’s game starts at 7:30. The Dutchmen have the tiebreaker on Cornell, while Harvard has the edge over Union.
A Union win or tie against Brown clinches the bye. The worst the Dutchmen can finish is fifth, which means the Dutchmen would host a first-round series next weekend.
The pressure of getting that bye will be enormous.
“We talked about it after the game,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “It’s a young team that, to be quite honest, it’s the first time going through this stuff. As much you would like the guys to act like veterans, sometimes we don’t. In the past two games, we’ve taken bad penalties at real key times in the game. It’s something we’ll discuss again [in the] morning.
“The positive is we found a way to win the game.”
For the second straight game, the Dutchmen gave up the first goal. Chris Cahill gave the Bulldogs (8-8-4, 12-11-4) a 1-0 lead at 8:22 of the second.
However, like last Saturday against St. Lawrence, Union came right back 75 seconds later. On a delayed penalty against Yale, Simpson redirected a Mike Harr shot past goalie Billy Blase.
“It’s a wake-up call when you see you’re going down, 1-0,” Simpson said. “We’re playing in our zone the whole time, and you know that’s got to change. When we get that change, we’re going down low, going hard, trying to forecheck hard, and that’s when you get your chances.”
Beynon snapped the tie on a power play with 7:32 left in the second. With Matthew Thomey serving a tripping penalty, Beynon skated to the front of the net, took a pass from Mario Valery-Trabucco and ripped a shot over Blase.
That capped an outstanding effort on that power play. The Dutchmen had the puck in the Yale zone the entire time. Union had seven shots on Blase during that man advantage.
“Everyone was moving the puck well,” Beynon said. “It was good to see.”
However, Union’s third-period effort didn’t look good. The Dutchmen struggled to clear the puck from their zone, treating it like a hot potato. They only had three shots on Blase
“We got a little tense there,” Beynon said. “We can play better.”
The Dutchmen dug themselves some deeper trouble with under eight minutes to go when Andrew Buote was called for holding, and Valery-Trabucco got caught slashing Mark Arcobello. Yale had a two-man advantage for 1:21.
The Bulldogs looked good passing the puck around, but didn’t generate a shot on goal until Buote left the box.
The first shot, a left-circle blast by Sean Backman, Milan made the save with his facemask.
“I just came over, and saw it at the last second,” Milan said, “about four inches from my face.”
Yale generated just two shots on those advantages.
“You like to think that the five-on three would be automatic,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “But it’s not, at any level.”
Blase was pulled for an extra attacker late in the game, but the Bulldogs didn’t mount a threat.
“I thought we were able to pull off an ugly road win,” Leaman said. “We bent, but we didn’t break there. We’ve got to learn from it.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.