BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Whether on the ice or in the NCAA record books, Union has been plenty efficient the last few seasons.
The top-seeded Dutchmen beat No. 3 Providence 3-1 in the East Regional final Saturday before a crowd of 6,655 at the Webster Bank Arena.
2014 NCAA East Regional
Mat Bodie, Max Novak and Matt Hatch scored for the Dutchmen, while Colin Stevens made 25 saves.
Providence’s Jon Gillies had 28 saves and Nick Saracino scored the Friars’ lone goal.
Novak finished with three goals on the weekend and was named the region’s most outstanding player.
It was Union’s 10th win in a row and pushed its unbeaten streak to a national-best 15 games.
“It’s a little bittersweet, I guess, because of my ties at Providence,” said Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett, who played for the Friars from 1986 to 1990 and was an assistant there from 2000 to 2005 before working as a Union assistant with current Providence coach Nate Leaman.
“I do appreciate [Providence] President [Brian] Shanley coming down to see me after, and Bob Driscoll, their athletic director, coming down as well,” Bennett said. “I’ve been really fortunate. When you have a chance to work at two places and have the president from both places back you, it’s really special.”
With Union up 1-0 late in the first, the Friars had a wide-open net and a chance to tie the score.
But Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had other ideas, diving in the crease to swat a loose puck away with Stevens tangled up on the opposite post and a crowd of Providence skaters trying to shove it past the goal line at 14:01.
“My biggest focus there was that I didn’t want to close my hand on the puck,” Gostisbehere said. “[Assistant coach Jason Tapp] told me I was better than some of our goalies with positioning and it made me laugh a little bit.”
That’s how it went for the Friars, as several other chances from close in didn’t result in goals.
“It just seemed like we had a lot of those tonight with some pucks around their net,” Leaman said. “They had two guys playing goalie there. Last night, I said [Gostisbehere] was their best forward and tonight he might be their best goalie.”
Providence (22-11-6) got on the board when Saracino shoved a rebound through a crowd into the net 14:55 into the third period to make it 2-1.
But the Dutchmen have shown a knack recently for answering opponents’ goals with a score of their own, and they continued that trend against Providence.
Novak beat a defender deep in the Friars’ zone, swung around behind the net and found Hatch for a quick one-timer to make it 3-1 at 16:13.
“I think we’ve kind of been doing that all playoffs, and that’s kind of been a statement of our team: Never get down after a goal and we kept attacking,” Hatch said.
“It was a tough one to let up, but we knew weren’t out of it until the final buzzer,” Saracino said.
The Dutchmen (30-6-4) led 2-0 entering the third thanks to a goal in each of the first two periods.
After several attempts to get the puck out of its own zone failed, Union finally broke away and went up 1-0 on Bodie’s goal early in the first. Dan Carr sent a pass to Bodie in the left circle, and Bodie ripped a high shot past Gillies at 2:42.
A sloppy sequence by Providence in its zone helped the Dutchmen go up 2-0 in the opening minute of the second period.
Kevin Sullivan jumped on a Friars’ turnover along the boards, and then passed to Novak near the left circle. Novak skated toward the net and backhanded a harmless looking shot that snuck through Gillies 58 seconds in.
Union will face the winner of the Northeast Regional in the Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday, April 10.
“I think last time, you kind of get caught up in a lot of things,” Hatch said of the Dutchmen’s 2012 Frozen Four appearance. “We’ve got a lot of experience in the locker room and I think that’s going to help us going forward.”
Bodie, Gostisbehere, Stevens and Novak made the all-tournament team, along with Providence’s Mark Jankowski and Vermont’s Chris McCarthy. … Providence finished with 22 wins, the school’s most since the 2000-2001 season.