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College Hockey:
Zajac’s three-point night propels Union over AIC

— It was hard not to think of Union as the favorite heading into this match-up. They had a 41-5-7 record against Atlantic Hockey opponents, and a 4-0 record against AIC, who came into the game with a 1-5 record. While Union did dominate in most statistical categories, they only led by one with a little over three minutes to go in the game. Ultimately though, the Dutchmen were too much for the Yellow Jackets and prevailed 5-2.

Union took control of this game at the drop of the puck, peppering AIC goaltender Ben Meisner with plenty of tough shots. At the end of the first, Union had 23 shots on net, a new record for shots in a period for the Dutchmen.

Meisner was up for the challenge for most of the game. It wasn’t until Union’s first power play opportunity that they were able to get on the board. At 13:36 Kyle Bodie knocked the puck in for Union, netting the goal only 20 seconds into the power play.

Later in the period, Union’s starting goaltender, Troy Grosenick, left the game, and freshman Colin Stevens made his first appearance in net at Messa Rink. Unfortunately, his team didn’t do him any favors, as a penalty gave AIC its third power play of the game shortly after he went in.

“I thought it was a great effort by Colin Stevens tonight; I couldn’t be happier for him, and for his first win,” said coach Rick Bennett. “It’s not easy, but he has the demeanor of a veteran, and I think he picks up on that from Troy. I think he deserved that win tonight.”

“Any time you’re on the bench, backing up, what any coach will tell you is always be ready to play; you never know what is going to happen,” said Stevens. “I try to live by that, and obviously Troy got sick there tonight, and I just tried to stay ready to play and got thrown in there.”

It took AIC only three shots to knock in the goal. Steve Mele was credited with the goal after lifting the puck over Stevens’ glove, tying the game up at one at 14:59.

With less than a minute left in the period, Union took back the lead. ON a second power play, Wayne Simpson scored his fifth goal of the season at 19:12 to give Union the 2-1 lead. Kelly Zajac and Kyle Bodie assisted for their second points of the night.

In the second, Union added to its lead. Given its third power play opportunity of the game, Union once again capitalized. Daniel Carr scored for Union with 11:27 remaining in the second. It was his first of the season after leading the team in goals last year.

“It was a really good play by Mat Bodie,” said Carr. “He hit the puck over [Welsh], and [Welsh] did what he always does and let a rocket go on the net, and the puck just kind of found my stick, and all I really had to do was put it in. Those guys did all the hard work.”

The third period started out slowly, but ended with a flurry of action.

With less than 10 minutes in the game, AIC started to look desperate. They picked up their attack, and cut Union’s lead to 3-2 with a goal at 13:24 in the third. Mele scored the goal for AIC, the second of the day for the junior.

The slim lead seemed to wake the Dutchmen up, as they tallied two more goals in the final three-plus minutes of play.

Freshman Daniel Ciampini got the first goal for Union at the 16:45 mark. The goal was Ciampini’s first of his Union College career, and the first even-strength goal Union scored in the game.

“That was a monumental goal for us; that was a veteran goal, right there,” said Bennett.

The goal came after AIC failed to clear the puck out of the zone. Ciampini picked up the loose puck, skating wide of the net before pulling up in front and sliding one past the goalie.

Max Novak scored the next goal for Union. On a four-on-four, Novak secured the puck behind the defense and skated toward the net on a breakaway. After deking to the right, Novak pulled the puck back and stuck it in just past Meisner’s pads on the left.

“We are definitely happy with the win,” said Bennett. “The process by how the win happened is something that we can work on. I think it is a win we needed going into league play. I think it came at a good time.”

Next weekend, AIC will travel to face Robert Morris in a two-game series. Union will start league play with road contests against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

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