Union hockey scores twice in third to win Game 1 of playoffs over Princeton

SCHENECTADY — It will be a short but restful night for the Union College hockey team after the ECAC playoffs kick off Friday night.

The Dutch scored twice in the third period and held off a late challenge from Princeton to register a 3-2 victory over the Tigers at Messa Rink, taking a 1-0 lead in the first-round best-of-three series.

Game 2 is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, which means Union (13-17-4) can advance to the first round in 24 hours. If Princeton rebounds, Game 3 will take place at the same time on Sunday.

“We’re home,” said Gabriel Seger, who scored the go-ahead goal. “We can recover here in our place and go home, get food, gather at our ice rink. This is an advantage for us.

Seger scored on the power play at 10:32 of the third to break a 1-1 tie. Brandon Estes got an insurance marker at 17:26, allowing the Dutch to resist a late goal from the Tigers (8-20-2).

“A game for your life right now,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “You get ready and you rest. Both have the same amount of rest. We’ll make some adjustments and get ready to go.

“It’s a short time for them too,” said Union coach John Ronan. “We’ve played a handful of afternoon games this year. We are more than comfortable with the 4 p.m. departure.

Union, who won both regular season meetings with Princeton, also looked comfortable in the third period, which wasn’t always the case. The Dutch had been outscored 37-28 in the third period of the season, but they got aggressive and limited the Tigers to four shots on goal in the period.

“In the second half, towards the end, we were a bit overpowered there,” Estes said. “A lot of the talk in the locker room in third was that we have to be a lot smarter in our decisions. It wasn’t that we weren’t playing hard and we weren’t playing fast, but the spirit started to slip a bit.

The reward came while Princeton’s Spencer Kersten was absent for cross-checking. Union kept control in a scrum in front of the net, and Seger was there to grab a loose puck and score his seventh of the season.

“The message off the bench was that we wanted a wolf pack goal there,” Ronan said. “We were moving around a lot in the offensive zone and we wanted to have that second chance. I give credit to these guys fighting, and Seges (was) right on the doorstep.

Estes apparently put the game aside for Union with 2:34 remaining. Owen Farris dragged the puck down the right wing boards and got a shot off goaltender Jeremie Forget, who made the save, but Estes got the rebound.

“I only saw two of their guys and two of ours, so I thought I’d join them and get some numbers there,” Estes said. “Farris did a great job beating this guy wide and taking him to the net. It’s a tough game to defend. I figured I was just going to go to the net, stop, and that was it.

With the deficit at 3-1, Princeton retired Forget, and the move paid off when Noah De La Durantaye scored with 1:15 left. The Tigers also had a chance in the final five seconds, but Seger managed to block Adam Robbins’ goal attempt.

Catherine J. Martinez