PHILADELPHIA—The heart of a small school overwhelmed a giant one. The Union College Dutchmen scored four goals in the first, with three in the third, finishing with an empty netter to defeat the top seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers 7-4, winning their first NCAA hockey championship. Seven players from the Union College squad scored at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday to become the second straight school to win their first hockey title.
The Union Dutchmen came into their first final going for the school’s second title, since winning the NCAA lacrosse championship in 1929. With a lineup of great players that have knocked off some of the best teams in the tournament, their final challenge stands against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Minnesota had the chance to win its sixth title in what some consider being a game that they will dominate, but Union College is one not to underestimate. It took the Dutchmen 2:08 to dig out of a two goal deficit to take the game away from Boston College to get this far. They hold a 15-0-1 record in the last 16 games. Minnesota fought a lengthy battle against North Dakota to get a miraculous goal with 0.6 seconds left to make their twelfth appearance. In three meetings between both teams, Union has one just once during a non-conference tournament where they outlasted them three years ago.
Union opened the game with a power play 19 seconds off the faceoff. They took three shots on Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, but worked on the terrific defense to turn the tide of the game. On an unfortunate mistake, Union goaltender Colin Stevens thought he stopped a shot from Justin Kloos who saw the puck that stopped Condon’s drive, slipped away from him to give an open shot to Kloos for 16 on the year.
The Gophers put Union back on the power play in a chance to tie the game where they nearly frightened the Minnesota defense with a shot that didn’t go in. It didn’t stop the Dutchmen as they drove the puck nine times on the play where their attack looked unstoppable. The Gophers successfully knocked down the second chance on the man advantage giving time for them to recompose. It helped for the time being as they went on their power play. but the relentless Dutchmen made the penalty kill. It helped pay off for Union as they made a charge into the Minnesota zone where Shayne Gotisbehere sent a high wrist on the high slot to tie the game.
The Gophers made it a 2-1 lead where Jake Parenteau sent a 60 foot stretch pass to Sam Warning on the far stick side of the net where he sent a very difficult shot behind Stevens to score his 14th just 37 seconds later. Time wound down to the first intermission with Minnesota holding ground on the game as a whole. Union tried their hardest to get back in the game and on a play that took the five on the ice that won the battle. A shot from Daniel Ciampini flew into traffic only to be stopped by Wilcox. The puck stayed in play where the Dutchmen battled it around the crease where their fifth try went on a lift on Mike Vecchinone’s stick to tie the game once again.
Union continued to hold on to an amazing run of dominance where another close fight near the crease left Eli lIchtenwald to score his ninth and first in the tournament. Ciampini scored his fourth goal in three days where their strength came on a rebound spree where he stood out front to score his 23rd.Minnesota took a timeout to regroup as the team was falling apart in front of a majority of Gophers fans. Tensions rose between Minnesota and Union as they shoved each other in front of Stevens where a four on four concluded the period. Union outshot them 20-15, but Minnesota still had time to recover from a bad start to the game.
Recovery worked for the Golden Gophers as they cut Union’s lead in half 1:13 into the second period playing the same game against them where Taylor Cammarata scored over the leg pad of Stevens to give him his 10th. To make matters worse for the Dutchmen, the Gophers went on their second power play where a fight to get into the zone turned into four shots that nearly put them back into contention for the championship. The Gophers took one last chance while up a man to end the period, but the Dutchmen made blocked shots which were their key to hanging on to their lead with 20 minutes to go.Minnesota outshot Union 17-14, but history stood on the side of the underdog as they are 23-2-1 when leading after two periods.
Minnesota started the third period rushing the Union net to even the game and fight hard to the end. It was hit back by Union’s defense that worked all night against some of Minnesota’s best. They were rewarded later on an even strength play where Union’s Max Novak scored the Dutchmen’s fifth goal of the game. A deflection on Kevin Sullivan’s drive gave Novak a perfect moment to lift his stick just right to give Union a two goal lead with 14 minutes left.
The Gophers dealt with the constant barrage of shots from the Dutchmen with Wilcox struggling to keep up. With four minutes left in regulation, Travis Boyd had a wide open net on the Union net where he nearly scored a goal, but Mat Bodie flew out front to block the shot with his upper body. Despite the amazing save, it didn’t faze Minnesota as they took another chance where it made the difference. The change of composure came when Hudson Fasching scored on the power play giving him 15 and turning the margin down to a single goal.
The margin changed for the last time against the Golden Gophers as Kevin Sullivan scored on a 2 on 1 defense where he and Bodie made a huge takeaway for Sullivan to go on a breakaway and score his second of the night. “Both teams are better defensively than a 7-4 score shows,” the captain said. “It’s just one of those games where crazy bounces happen. We just wanted to stick with our process. We thought we were playing pretty well and great things happened.” Minnesota went for the extra man pulling Wilcox, but failed just 10 seconds later as Union scored on the net where Bodie became the seventh different player to score for the team.
Union adds their names along with Yale University as teams to win their first hockey championship back to back. “I don’t think anyone will call us Cinderella anymore,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who had a goal and two assists. “These guys, my brothers, they do everything for me. I don’t care about anything else, we’re national champions.”