PRINCETON, N.J. — New Jersey native Matt Cook made it Union College’s night in a 3-2 come-from-behind win in an ECAC match-up with No. 7 Princeton University tonight before 1,429 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
“It feels great,” said Cook, a senior left wing and team co-captain from Belle Mead, N.J. who potted the game-winner midway through the third period. “It was a lot of fun to do in front of family and friends, and it was a great team win.”
Union (10-8-1, 3-4-0 ECAC) tallied two power-play goals and also got 29 saves from sophomore netminder Corey Milan.
“He’s the key to our team,” said Union coach Nate Leaman. “In this league your goalie has to be your best player, and I thought he was very good.”
Zane Kalemba made 23 stops for Princeton (13-4-0, 8-3-0 ECAC), which went just 1-for-8 on the power play and dropped its second straight contest following a four-game win streak.
“We’re making mental mistakes that we don’t normally make,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky. “We realize that, but right now we don’t know how to get out of it.”
The first half of the first period was played predominately in the Union end, but the Dutchmen threatened to jump out in front with just under six minutes remaining. Kelly Zajac centered from the left corner of the Princeton zone to Cook in the slot, but his one-timer was snared by Kalemba.
“I’ve been in a little bit of a scoring slump,” said Cook. “I felt like I let my teammates down, and I was glad to get another opportunity (later).”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead following another save by Kalemba. Princeton captain Brandan Kushniruk moved the puck up ice and fed linemate Kevin Lohry, who scored from the left circle off the rush at 14:27 for his fifth goal of the season.
The Dutchmen knotted matters at 13:06 of the second stanza on their third power play of the evening. Kalemba stopped Mario Valery-Trabucco from the slot on a one-timer, but Union kept the puck in the zone and Valery-Trabucco then beat Kalemba from the top of the left circle off a pass from Lane Caffaro.
“I thought we battled through adversity, and that’s what you have to do on the road,” said Leaman, who was in his first game back with the Dutchmen after serving as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Tournament in Ottawa.
Princeton though, regained the lead as Union got into some penalty trouble, including a pair of two-man disadvantages, and the Tigers cashed in on their second five-on-three power play. Jody Pederson partially fanned on a shot from the right point, but the puck slid all the way across to Dan Bartlett at the left post, where he rapped it in at 16:19 for his sixth of the year and second in three outings. Taylor Fedun garnered the other assist.
Union tied things up again just 3:19 into the final frame when the Dutchmen made the most of a giveaway in the Princeton end. Mike Schreiber intercepted a clearing pass and relayed it to Adam Presizniuk, who skated in with Stephane Boileau to his left in a short two-on-none situation. Boileau then converted Presizniuk’s cross-slot pass at the left post to make it 2-2 on his seventh score of the season.
“I thought we had the momentum in the second, and then with the penalties they took it back,” said Leaman. “I thought we captured it again in the third and got a couple by Kalemba, which is not easy to do.”
Union took its first and only lead of the night just 21 seconds after Princeton’s Derrick Pallis went off for tripping. Caffaro sent the puck from the left circle into the slot, where Cook corralled it and quickly put a backhander upstairs on the far side at 10:29. Jason Walters also assisted on Cook’s fourth goal and second game-winner of the campaign.
“I wanted to try and surprise him,” said Cook, whose father and uncle both played at Princeton and were in attendance tonight along with a slew of other family members. “I really had no time to pull it to my forehand, I just tried to get it off and catch him leaning.”
Princeton took a time-out with less than three minutes to go in regulation and then pulled Kalemba twice for an extra attacker in the final minute of play, but couldn’t come up with the equalizer.
“I thought they were the sharper team,” said Gadowsky. “I know we’re working hard, but we don’t look sharp mentally.”
“This was a good win in this league,” said Leaman. “Princeton is No. 5 and plays hard, and it’s tough to beat them in their own rink.”
Both teams return to league action tomorrow, as Union visits Quinnipiac and Princeton hosts Rensselaer in a matinee contest.