SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — After going 0-7-0 all-time against Maine, Union College finally got their first win against the Hockey East power, 4-1, on Friday night at Messa Rink. The Dutchmen prevailed behind a game-winning goal from freshman forward Jeremy Welsh and some superb penalty killing in the third period.
“It was a hard fought hockey game,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. The difference was Union’s ability to fight off penalties and block shots.”
The first period had very little stoppages as there was fast paced end-to-end action. Neither team, however, was able to score. Union applied early pressure in the first two minutes led by freshman speedster Wayne Simpson. The younger Simpson seemed to be in the middle of all the Dutchmen offensive opportunities in the first frame.
After Union controlled most of the period, Maine was finally able to create some pressure on their second power-play opportunity with 2:07 to go. After Dutchmen defenseman Brock Matheson was called off for a tripping penalty the Black Bear power-play unit was able to work the puck around but were denied by Union goaltender Corey Milan.
The second period looked like it was going to be a mirror image of the first as neither team was able to score on power-play opportunities or get much offensive pressure. But after 16 minutes of uneventful and scoreless play the floodgates instantly opened.
After Union’s Travis Zajac was called for a hooking penalty with 4:04 left in the period, Maine capitalized when freshman Adam Shemansky scored the first goal of his career. The goal came when Brian Flynn took a shot from the right point, which was tipped by Spencer Abbott. The tipped puck went right to Shemansky waiting on the right post where he knocked the puck in past Milan.
“It was a great play all around,” said Shemansky. It was one of my easiest goals but I’ll take it as my first goal.”
Maine looked to have the momentum late in the frame, but this didn’t discourage the Dutchmen as just 17 second later junior John Simpson tipped a shot taken by senior assistant captain Mike Schreiber past Maine netminder Dave Wilson. After Simpson won the face-off back to Schreiber, he situated himself perfectly at the right face-off circle where he was able to redirect the puck for the goal to tie the score heading into the final period.
Maine controlled the majority of the third frame as they outshot Union 10-4, and had four power-play opportunities. It was Union, however, who controlled the scoreboard as they scored three goals in the decisive period.
Welsh scored his first career goal 6:20 into the period when a shot from Schreiber at the right point deflected off Adam Presizniuk and went right to Welsh in front of the net where he put the puck into a wide open goal.
“It’s pretty exciting. I was trying to wipe the smile off my face,” said the forward from Bayfield, Ontario.
After Welsh’s eventual game-winning goal, Maine got back-to-back power plays when Stephane Boileau and Greg Coburn received minor penalties. The Black Bears were able to work around the puck nicely, but the Dutchmen penalty kill was stellar as they were able to block shots, including three in the penalty to Coburn.
Then with just under 25 seconds left in the man advantage, Union captain Mike Wakita sent a clearing pass off the left boards. It looked like Dave Wilson was going to come out and knock the puck away, but at the last second he skated back into the net allowing Justin Pallos to pick up the puck where he deked left to right and lifted the puck over Wilson on the backhand.
“It was lucky I guess,” said the junior forward. The goalie hesitated and I just took advantage of it.”
With 2:39 left in the contest, Union’s Mario Valery-Trabucco was called for a tripping penalty to give Maine their eighth and final power play of the night. Whitehead called a timeout to devise a plan to try and crawl back into the game, which included pulling the goalie. The Union penalty kill, however, did what they did the entire night as they did not allow the Black Bears to get any closer.
“The guys did a great job sacrificing their bodies,” said Union head coach Nate Leaman, “but we’re pretty fortunate to win a game where we were shorthanded for half of the third period.”
Boileau sealed the deal for Union with 3.5 seconds left when he scored from mid-ice into the empty Black Bear net to make it 4-1.
The two teams will conclude their weekend series tomorrow night at Messa Rink. The puck will drop at 7 p.m.
“The weekend is not over,” said Leaman. Tomorrow night is going to be even tougher.”