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No. 10 Union Battles Back to Defeat Resilient Big Green, 3-2

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By Mark Washburn

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Tenth-ranked Union scored twice in the third period to defeat the Dartmouth men’s hockey team, 3-2, Wednesday night at Messa Rink in an ECAC Hockey contest.

The Big Green (2-10-0, 2-8 ECAC) led for long stretches of the game, but was unable to hold off the opportunistic Dutchmen (11-3-2, 8-1-0 ECAC) forwards in the final period as the home team won its eighth straight.

“I thought we played a very good, tough game against a good opponent,” head coach Bob Gaudet said. “It came down to a few bounces of the puck at the end, and unfortunately for us, they just didn’t happen to go our way.

Sophomore goalie Charles Grant stopped 27 shots and was a major reason for Dartmouth’s ability to hang with No. 10 Union for 60 minutes. At the other end of the ice, Colin Stevens had to make 37 saves as the Green put 39 shots on goal, the most allowed by the Dutchmen this year.

“Chuck is a really strong young goaltender, just now coming into his own,” Gaudet added. “He has been really strong for us as of late and tonight was another example of his gritty play in goal.”

It was captain Tyler Sikura getting things started early, netting his first of the season just 3:22 into the game with Dartmouth on the power play. Snapping the longest stretch of his career without a goal, the junior finally got on the scoresheet with a perfectly placed shot over the glove from the top of the slot.

The second period began in a wild manner before both teams finally settled back into the play. Just 17 seconds in, Daniel Carr evened the score with Union’s first tally of the night, beating Grant between the pads.

However, classmate Ryan Bullock wasted little time in picking up his netminder, scoring his first of the season on a one-timer at the side of the net to finish off a beautiful passing play just 39 seconds later. The play started with tape-to-tape passes in the offensive zone from juniors Brandon McNally and Eric Neiley before the latter sent a centering feed across to Bullock for the quick response.

With 10:21 remaining in the third, Dutchmen right winger Nick Cruice once again tied things up as he was able to slide a backhander under Grant’s pads after skating out of the corner with a Big Green defender draped on his back.

The home team would take its first lead of the night as Michael Pontarelli scored a power-play goal with 3:46 left in regulation, knocking in a loose puck through a sea of bodies in the slot.

“We were a different team tonight than the one that played in the first match-up between these two,” Gaudet said. “This is a good young hockey team headed in the right direction. Others may not see that, but I do and so does everyone in the locker room.”

Both teams were 1-for-4 with the man-advanatge.

The Big Green concluded the first half of the 2013-14 season with the mid-week game and will head into the winter break for 17 days off. The team returns to action on Dec. 29-30 in Hanover as it plays host to Providence, Air Force and Northeastern in the 2013 Ledyard Classic at Thompson Arena.