BOSTON — Baseball players are notoriously superstitious.
It took just one game for Union’s Kelly Zajac to become the same.
The Dutchmen senior scored the final goal in Union’s 2-0 win over Harvard before 8,981 at Fenway Park Friday night. And he wasn’t in any hurry to get rid of his eye black, which is more commonly warn by baseball players in sunny conditions.
“I might not even wash it off,” he said with a laugh.
Superstitions aside, Union took care of what they had to and avoided last week’s result when they saw a 2-0 lead over the Crimson evaporate into a 2-2 tie.
“When you’re out there, you try to keep the game between the glass,” Union defenseman Mat Bodie said. “It’s the same sheet no matter what, but now that you’re done playing, you can step back and appreciate it.”
Harvard, too, tried to push aside the distraction of playing outside in America’s oldest ballpark, but was hurt by its top-ranked power play, which was 0-for-2 on the night.
“We held them to just two shots on the power play,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said. “We’ll take that.”
The Crimson’s scoring opportunities dwindled in general as the game progressed, as they had seven shots over the final two periods, including just two in the third.
“It can be a strange game in this atmosphere,” Harvard head coach Ted Donato said. “Things seemed to be a little slower and scoring chances don’t come as often. We just talked about focusing what we could control.”
Up 1-0 following a Bodie score late in the second period, Union made it 2-0 at 5:37 in the third when Zajac poked a loose puck past Harvard’s Steve Michalek (30 saves) amid traffic.
Nolan Julseth-White took the initial shot from the point that rattled around a crowd of bodies in front of the net, hitting teammate Wayne Simpson before Zajac pounced on it.
“Wayne made a good forechecking play and threw it up in front,” Zajac said. “I just went swinging away at the puck and tried to create any havoc. I think I slipped it just under [Michalek's] pad.”
Harvard appeared to have a goal early in the second when Ryan Grimshaw skated around the net and found a waiting Peter Starrett camped in front of the goal, but the senior’s first career goal was waved off as the net had come loose several seconds earlier.
A slashing call against Daniel Carr sent Harvard on their second power play in under 10 minutes at 17:33 of the second.
The Crimson controlled the puck in the Dutchmen zone and had a solid scoring chance when Patrick McNally threaded a pass from the point to a waiting Alex Kilhorn on the opposite post, but Troy Grosenick (18 saves) slid over to deny the backdoor play by preventing Kilhorn from getting off a shot.
McNally’s offensive zone trip at 18:14 wiped out the Crimson power play and gave Union 40 seconds of the man advantage once Carr came out of the box.
They took advantage, going up 1-0 when Bodie scored at 19:57 in the second.
The sophomore took a pass from Zajac and had his initial shot blocked the skate of a diving Eric Kroshus before swiftly grabbing the loose puck and firing into the back of the net from the left point.
“Coach said between the first and second periods that the first goal was going to be a greasy goal,” Bodie said. “It was a lucky bounce, but we’ll take it.”
Harvard pulled Michalek on three separate occasions during the final three minutes, but couldn’t break through.
Neither team could maintain sustained pressure though the opening period, although Union recovered after the Crimson opened with a strong offensive zone presence. Harvard’s Colin Blackwell provided the first oomph of the game when he when leveled a jarring check on Union’s Mark Bennett near the Dutchmen bench.
“The first period was a little scrambled,” Bennett said. “I think the best thing for us was to get out of it with the score 0-0.”
Both teams are back in action at 7 p.m. EST Saturday. Harvard hosts Hockey East opponent Boston University, while Union returns to Messa Rink to face Rensselaer.