SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Were it not for the near-perfect play of Dartmouth’s sophomore goaltender Charles Grant, Friday night’s opening game of the ECAC Hockey Championship Quarterfinals could’ve had a much different result.
Grant finished with 39 saves, one off his career high, but top-seeded Union (25-6-4) defeated the 10th-seeded Big Green (10-19-4), 3-0, in Game 1 at a sold-out Messa Rink to take a one-games-to-none lead in the series.
Union got goals from Michael Pontarelli in the second period and two from Daniel Carr in the third. Carr scored on a penalty shot and an empty net in the final minutes to seal the victory.
At the other end of the ice from Grant, Dutchmen netminder Colin Stevens turned aside 32 in the shutout bid, his sixth of the season.
Dartmouth had a chance late in the third to tie things up, but was unable to covert on power-play opportunities on 4-on-3 and 5-on-3.
“That’s a big point in the game for us,” head coach Bob Gaudet said. “He (Stevens) made some big-time saves to keep it 1-0 at that point.
“I like how we defended tonight,” Gaudet continued. “Both goalies were outstanding, but I really thought we played well and if we get a few bounces, this might be a different game.”
Union dominated play in the first, but Grant stood on his head to keep it scoreless, turning aside all 18 shots he faced. However, a Brandon McNally penalty at the end of the opening frame carried over to the second where Pontarelli was able to knock in a rebound and give the home team a 1-0 advantage at the 1:12 mark.
Carr was hauled down on a break and beat Grant with a wrist shot high blocker side on the ensuing penalty shot at 17:23 to make it a two-goal game and iced it 1:11 later into the empty net.
Dartmouth was 0-for-4 on the man-advantage, while Union’s first of the night was it’s lone power-play tally in five chances. The Dutchmen outshot the Big Green, 42-32, but only led in shots within a period once (1st).
The Big Green dropped their opening contest at Rensselaer last Friday night, 4-1, before rattling off victories the following two days to win the series and advance.These same two teams will play Game 2 of the series Saturday night. Puck drop is once again set for 7 p.m.