A puck fluttered ever-so-close to the goal line, but didn’t cross it. Another found the back of the net, only to be reviewed and ruled not a goal.
St. Lawrence couldn’t penetrate the mystical wall in front of Union’s net, losing 2-0 to start ECAC Hockey play.
It was No. 13 Union’s night, admitted most adamantly by its new coach, Rick Bennet.
“We had puck luck tonight,” he said. “(St. Lawrence) deserved a better fate.”
Union (4-1-3 overall, 1-0-0 ECAC) gave the Saints (0-5-0, 0-1-0) eight power plays. Dutchmen goalie Troy Grosenick, who mentored under ECAC goalie of the year Keith Kinkaid last season, stopped all 27 shots he faced.
When he didn’t, like when Patrick Doherty appeared to tie the game late in the first period, replay review confirmed that there was no legal way to score against him: Doherty had kicked the puck.
“Our goaltender was our best player tonight,” Bennet said. “Quite honestly, that’s why we won this hockey game.”
The Saints didn’t play poorly. They had only one horrendous defensive lapse while on a penalty kill that resulted in a goal against them.
Wayne Simpson took the puck off the faceoff, turned and skated untouched into the slot before flicking a wrist-shot over SLU goalie Matt Weninger’s left shoulder. It proved to be the game-winner at 10 minutes, 12 seconds of the first period.
Other than that, and giving Union two 5-one-3 chances in the third period, St. Lawrence played as well or better than the Dutchmen.
“I think there were a lot of good things,” SLU forward Kyle Flanagan said. “We made one of the best teams in our conference take a timeout with 10 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, they regrouped and we didn’t cash in on our chances.”
The Saints had two power plays — their sixth and seventh of the game — in the third period down just 1-0. Flanagan, alone in the crease looking at only open netting, tried to control a rebound. He struck the puck solidly, but sent it wide to the right. It would have evened the score.
“It was bouncing and I got enough on it,” Flanagan said. “I was pretty disappointed I didn’t finish. The guys were looking to me and my power-play unit to get a goal. We had a great power-play unit all night, we just didn’t get a goal.”
Greg Carey, who found the goal 11 times on the man-advantage last year, took six swipes against Union on Friday. Grosenick saw and stopped them all.
“We’re getting tons of chances, we’re just not getting any bounces,” Carey said. “We’re spending two minutes in their zone on the power play and they’re not even touching the puck. We have to find a way to score goals.”
The Saints grew frustrated as the third period progressed and Grosenick racked up save after save. St. Lawrence took four penalties in the period, including a 10-minute misconduct.
Jeremy Welsh appeared to seal the win for Union with a 5-on-3 goal with eight minutes to play. But the Dutchmen took a penalty with two minutes to play and St. Lawrence associate head coach Mike Hurlbut opted for the extra attacker.
For two frantic minutes, the Saints peppered Grosenick. He was unflappable in recording the second shutout of his career.
“It all comes down to the defense,” Grosenick said. “They were blocking shots and we were making it tough on their power play. Our d-men and forwards were filling in lanes and a lot of credit goes to the guys in front of me as well.”
nNotes: St. Lawrence alum Rich Peverley, who won the NHL Stanley Cup last year, returned and dropped a ceremonial puck before Friday’s game. He also signed autographs for hundreds of fans who lined up two hours before game time.