ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — In a Hobey versus Hobey hoe down, Union and ECAC goaltender of the year Troy Grosenick skunked Colgate and superstar Austin Smith in a 6-2 rout Friday evening.
The Dutchmen scored once on the power play, once more shorthanded and four times at even strength to strong-arm the Raiders and advance to their second ECAC championship game.
Union’s motor was fueled by its high-octane second line of Daniel Carr, Jeremy Welsh and Josh Jooris, who combined for four goals and five assists. Carr led the way with two tallies, Jooris posted a goal and three assists and Welsh contributed a goal, his team-best 24th. Rookie Max Novak also lit the lamp for the Dutchmen (23-7-7), as did junior Shawn Stuart. Grosenick – one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award – made 28 saves for his 19th win this year.
“They had a whale of a game tonight,” said Union coach Rick Bennett of his power-packed second line. “They executed what they had to execute, and they did what we asked as a coaching staff – get pucks to the net and good things will happen.”
Senior Matt Firman and freshman Joe Wilson scored for the Raiders (19-16-3) and Hobey frontrunner Smith registered an assist in the hard-to-swallow loss. Sophomore Eric Mihalik stopped 24 shots before being replaced by senior Alex Evin, who stopped eight.
“Obviously, I wish we had brought the game we played last Sunday against Quinnipiac (a 4-0 series-clinching win),” said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. “We had our moments, I thought we played well at times – I thought we had a decent start to the game, we had our opportunities to score, but I just can’t deny the fact that I’m extremely disappointed at some of the mistakes we made tonight. We haven’t made that many mistakes that resulted in goals in a long time.”
Carr opened the action not two minutes in, sniping Mihalik cleanly from atop the left-wing circle for his 17th goal of the year. The shot was the first of the game for the Dutchmen and was one of nine in the period for the league’s top seed.
The Dutchmen struck again a dozen minutes later when Novak picked defenseman Thomas Larkin’s pocket at the right-wing dot and wristed a wire over Mihalik’s glove.
Colgate’s ‘keeper faced fewer shots in the period than his opposing counterpart, but he was called upon to make some critical saves to keep his team from falling out of contention. One came with under two minutes to go, as Union rookie Sam Coatta made a nifty drag across the top of the slot with the puck on his forehand. He got ahead of Mihalik and had a lot of net to shoot at, but the goalie got the tip of his glove on the laser to maintain the manageable two-goal deficit.
The “other” member of the vaunted Austin Smith-Chris Wagner line, Wilson buried a rebound past Grosenick only 26 seconds into the second period to invigorate what had been a sluggish Raiders attack.
Jooris re-established Union’s two-goal cushion early on the team’s first power play, after Colgate was caught with an extra pair of blades on the ice. The Ontario right wing found himself on the left boards on the advantage and ripped a blast by Mihalik’s glove with 6:03 to go in the middle frame.
“I thought we started off a little sluggish, but then we settled down a little bit after our power-play goal and I thought we took off from there,” said Bennett.
The pace picked up for each side as the minutes ticked away, culminating in a pile-up on top of Grosenick with four minutes to play when Colgate senior Mark Nasca plowed into the netminder on an energetic up-ice rush by the Raiders. Both Nasca and Union defenseman Mat Bodie were shown to the bin for roughing, but that did little to diminish the increasingly physical play.
The Raiders had a golden opportunity to draw nearer early in the third period when Union winger Matt Hatch was assessed a deuce for boarding, but instead Welsh nicked a sloppy defensive-zone turnover by Colgate. He swiftly left it to Carr, who roofed it over Mihalik’s pad on the backhand to give Union its biggest lead of the game.
The Dutchmen put the Raiders away in the game’s 48th minute, as yet another Colgate turnover landed on Jooris’ stick. He fired a tricky shot on net that Mihalik knocked down, but could not cover and Welsh was there to pop the rebound over the flailing netminder. That was the end of Mihalik’s night, as Evin took over with Colgate’s hopes rapidly fading.
“You can create a lot of offense with your forecheck,” said Bennett. “I thought some of our dumps were executed just perfectly and our guys had the energy, once we got our feet, and it creates turnovers.”
Firman gave Raiders Nation a reason to cheer with six and a half minutes to play in the third, racing in alone on Grosenick and beating him with a patient five-hole deke. Stuart killed all remaining hope for the Raiders with 1:41 to go however, picking his spot on Evin for his first goal of the season and fourth of his career.
Union advances to play the winner of Harvard and Cornell on Saturday night, while Colgate will end its season against the loser in a matinee affair.