A three-point weekend in the North Country wasn’t going to satisfy Union. The Dutchmen wanted to leave with four points.
It was a happy bus ride back to the Capital Region for the Dutchmen. They got their first-ever North Country sweep. The Dutchmen had to work a little overtime Saturday against St. Lawrence to earn the sweep. Joel Beal scored on a rebound of a Nathan Gillies shot with 52.4 seconds left in overtime, giving the Dutchmen a 4-3 ECAC win over the Saints at Appleton Arena.
“I’m just happy for the seniors,” said Union coach Kevin Sneddon, whose team beat Clarkson, 5-3, on Friday. “I’m happy for the guys who have been through the tough times. To see a guy like Nathan Gillies, who’s trying to help the young players along, have a smile on his face and for him to have some taste of success is real special.”
The win was the Dutchmen’s fifth straight. The have all come in ECAC play, which sets a team record for consecutive league victories. Union (8-5-2 ECAC, 12-11-4) now stands alone in third place, two points ahead of Yale after it lost to Dartmouth.
Union had come close the last three seasons in sweeping the North Country trip. Instead, the Dutchmen ended up splitting the games.
“Words can’t even express what our team is feeling right now,” said Gillies, who scored twice. “We’re not cocky, but confident. We have the winning attitude right now.”
After getting outshot, 39-24, through regulation, the Dutchmen came out flying in overtime. Chris DiStefano nearly won it 13 seconds into overtime, but goalie Mike McKenna made a spectacular glove save off his wrist shot. Twenty-three seconds later, McKenna robbed Gillies of a potential game-winner. Sneddon took a timeout with 1:13 left.
“I just told them, `Play to win,’ ” Sneddon said.
And that’s what they did.
Gillies took a pass from Jordan Webb and fired a shot from the left circle. McKenna made the save, but kicked the rebound on to Beal’s stick. Beal made no mistake, firing it into the net.
“I saw `Webber’ get the puck, and I saw Gillies busting through,” Beal said. “I knew Webb was going to give it up. I just took off hard for the net. Gillies [made] a great shot. It came off the pad and right to me. I just had to bury it.”
That goal made up for a turnover Beal committed in the second period that led to John Zeiler’s short-handed goal.
Despite getting outshot, 20-6, in the first period, Union was fortunate to be tied, 1-1. Jim Lorentz scored for the Saints (4-8-2, 7-15-4) at 6:17, but Gillies tied it 1:07 later.
After Zeiler’s goal, Webb tied the score at 13:03 of the second. Gillies gave Union a 3-2 lead 3:26 later with his third short-handed goal of the season. T.J. Trevelyan tied it 5:03 into the third period.
“We found a way to win,” Sneddon said. “We didn’t play our best hockey, but we had key plays at key times by key players. That was the difference in the game.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.