In the end, the team that was supposed to win, did win. The Union Dutchmen led from start to finish to capture the Bridgeport Regional championship over the Providence College Friars, 3-1, before 6,655 fans at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Saturday.
It didn't take very long for Union to get its engine revving. The Dutchmen opened the scoring just 2:42 into the contest when Matt Bodie ripped one past Provience goalie Jon Gillies from just outside the circle to put Union up 1-0. Daniel Carr and Daniel Ciampini assisted on Bodie's sixth goal of the season.
The Dutchmen took an early 1-0 lead at 2:42 of the first period off a slapper by Mat Bodie that he ripped under the crossbar. Daniel Carr fed Bodie a cross ice pass and Bodie finished from just outside the circle high past Gillies. Union out-shot Providence 15-7 in the first period.
The Friars had what would prove to be their best scoring opportunity of the game late in the first period. After Union goalie Colin Stevens stopped a shot by the Friars' Mark Jankowski and couldn't control the puck, Jankowski and Connor MacPhee poked frantically at the rubber biscuit to no avail with Stevens out of position. But Union defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere guarded the crease until Stevens was able to recover and make three highlight-reel stops.
If that doesn't take the wind out of your sails, what does?
“Last night, I said he was their best forward. Tonight, he might be their best goalie,” said Providence head coach Nate Leaman about Gostisbehere, Union's Hobey Baker Award finalist—the only blueliner in the final group. “He’s a big-time player. People are going to be talking about that kid for a long time. If we get that, it’s 1-1, and we have a little more jump in us.”
Woulda, shoulda, coulda...
Union doubled its lead less than a minute into the second stanza when Kevin Sullivan through a backhanded shot on goal from the corner. Gillies made the stop, but Max Novak, crashing the goal, pushed the puck past the Friars netminder to make it 2-0 Dutchmen just 58 seconds into the middle frame.
Union maintained its two goal advantage until the Friars made a game of it midway through the third period on a goal by Nick Saracino that cut the lead to 2-1 at the 14:55 mark. But the Dutchmen struck back just 68 seconds later when Novak found Matt Hatch from behind the net. Hatch, a 5-11 senior from Massena, NY, one-timed it past Gillies, who had 28 saves, to break the Friars' spirit and seal the deal for Union with 3:47 left in the game.
With the win, Union, which improved to 30-6-4, extended its unbeaten streak to 14-0-1—the longest in the country—and reached the No. 1 spot in the national USCHO.com poll for the first time in school history this past week. The Dutchmen now advance to the Frozen Four, which will run from April 10-12 in Philadelphia, for the second time in three years. Indeed, Union's last run to the Frozen Four in 2012 went through Bridgeport.
"Nobody's an individual on this team," said Union forward Kevin Sullivan, who grew up in nearby Darien. "You look at some of the best players—Mat Bodie, Dan Carr, Shayne Gostisbehere—they all sacrifice their bodies to get the puck out of the zone."