Union College takes NCAA hockey crown with 7-4 win over Minnesota

By DJ Powers

Union College - 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey National Champions

Photo: The Union College hockey team poses with the NCAA trophy after notching a 7-4 win over the University of Minnesota in the title game at the 2014 Frozen Four in Philadelphia, PA (courtesy of Elsa/Getty Images)

For the second consecutive year, an ECAC team has won the college hockey National Championship. Last year, it was Yale that took home the trophy, but this year it was the Union College Dutchmen who claimed their first-ever NCAA title on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Junior defenseman and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere was named the Most Outstanding Player, posting a goal and two assists to lead Union College to the 7-4 victory over the University of Minnesota.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s happened, I’ll tell you that,” Gostisbehere said after the win. “It really hasn’t sunken in yet. I can’t say enough about this team. They’re all my brothers, and when you win that last game of the season with your brothers, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. We took the experience of 2012 and I think that fueled our fire. It’s amazing to see the poise that our team has had all season and how we’ve been able to bounce back whenever we were down. I think we were able to do that again here (in the Frozen Four).”

The game opened with a wild first period that saw a combined six goals scored. Freshman Justin Kloos got Minnesota on the board first at the 2:37 mark. Senior Nate Condon (COL) fired the initial shot that was stopped by Union junior netminder Colin Stevens. Stevens left a rebound, however, and Kloos was Johnny-on-the-spot, skating to the loose puck just outside the crease before putting it home for the score.

The Dutchmen generated some good pressure early with several good scoring opportunities, but all failed to beat Minnesota sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox (TBL).

Junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere tied the game for Union at the 6:42 mark on a great individual effort.  He skated up the middle of the ice and fired a laser from the blueline that glanced off of Wilcox’s glove before winding up in the net. Freshman defenseman Jeff Taylor and sophomore Matt Wilkins drew the assists on Gostisbehere’s goal.

Just 37 seconds later at the 10:03 mark, the Golden Gophers would answer and regain the lead. The play began with junior Kyle Rau (FLA) skating up along the boards and attempting a wraparound shot. Stevens made the stop but again left a juicy rebound that was picked up by junior Sam Warning, who was standing to the side of the net. Warning fired it home from a strange angle for the score. Rau and senior defenseman Jake Parenteau drew the assists.

Freshman Mike Vecchione tied the game for Union at the 15:09 mark. After taking several whacks at the loose puck in front of a sprawling Wilcox, Vecchione was able to finish it for the score. Senior Daniel Carr and junior Daniel Ciampini drew the assists, tying the score at 2-2.

The tide began to turn in the Dutchmen’s favor. At the 16:06 mark, they gained the lead for good courtesy of towering freshman Eli Lichtenwald, who put home a rebound chance to give Union a 3-2 lead. Gostisbehere drew the lone assist on the goal.

Just over a minute later at the 17:03 mark, Ciampini extended the Dutchmen’s lead to 4-2. It all started with a shot that ricocheted off the backboards behind Wilcox. The puck pinballed around before junior Max Novak was able to corral the puck and get a shot off. Wilcox made the save but left a rebound that was picked up and put home by Ciampini. Novak and senior Matt Hatch drew the assists.

As the period was drawing to a close, Union College was clearly in charge.

Tempers began to flare near the end of the period when Union senior Kevin Sullivan and Minnesota senior Tom Serratore were sent off on matching minors for hitting after the whistle at the 18:44 mark.

The second period began four-on-four as each team had a player in the penalty box.

Shortly after the matching minors expired, the Golden Gophers cut the Dutchmen’s lead at the 1:13 mark. The play began with a great individual effort by Kloos, who attempted to score on a nice wraparound chance. Stevens was able to deny him, but again left a rebound. Freshman Taylor Cammarata (NYI) came in to pick up the rebound, taking a couple of swipes at the puck before finally getting it by Stevens to make it 4-3. Kloos and Parenteau drew the assists on the goal.

Minnesota played a much better second period, generating some good scoring opportunities and getting some solid goaltending from Wilcox.

Union continued to play well in the second period, but allowed the Golden Gophers more quality chances. That forced Stevens to come up with a number of key saves to preserve the Dutchmen’s lead. While both teams stepped up their intensity in the middle frame, which included taking several penalties, the play remained relatively civil.

The final stanza saw both teams come out with some intensity. Minnesota created some good early offensive zone pressure but could not get anything by Stevens.

At the 5:31 mark, junior Max Novak netted what would become the game-winner, extending Union's lead to 5-3. He received a nice pass from sophomore defenseman Sebastian Gingras as he was skating up the ice. Novak then made a pass to Sullivan who proceeded to fire a shot on goal. Novak, who had gotten to the net by this time, tipped in Sullivan's shot for the score.

Union’s strong forechecking and relentless puck pressuring was most evident in this period as they continued to dominate play. But it was their lack of panic and great composure that was most evident throughout the game.

At the 15:25 mark, Union junior defenseman Charlie Vasaturo took a hitting from behind penalty, giving Minnesota the power play.

At the 16:20 mark, the Golden Gophers cashed in on their opportunity, cutting the Dutchmen’s lead to 5-4 when freshman Hudson Fasching (BUF) got a stick on an airborne puck to put it home. Junior Travis Boyd (WSH) and sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly (CBJ) drew the assists.

While the goal drew Minnesota within one, Union continued to stay with their game plan. At the 18:38 mark, the Golden Gophers saw their national championship hopes dashed when Sullivan beat Wilcox through the five-hole to make it 6-4 Dutchmen. Gostisbehere and senior Mat Bodie drew the assists.

At the 19:16 mark, Bodie put the frosting on the cake with an unassisted empty-netter to make it 7-4 for Union College.

“Winning this (championship) is a great ending to our careers for us seniors,” Bodie said about he and the rest of the senior class after the National Championship game. “When we all first came into this program, we truly believed that we were coming in to win a national championship. It was a tough four years but the end result has made it all worth it. It’s just awesome.”

“I honestly can’t believe what just happened,” Daniel Ciampini added. “It feels awesome, but I just can’t believe it. I think we earned this win because we had to beat two great teams in Boston College and Minnesota to get here. Coach Bennett kept saying that this is the seniors’ team. And it was. We wouldn’t be celebrating a national championship right now if it weren’t for the seniors on this team.”

All-Tournament Team

G: Colin Stevens – Union College
D: Mat Bodie – Union College
D: Shayne Gostisbehere – Union College
F: Sam Warning – Minnesota
F: Kyle Rau – Minnesota
F: Daniel Ciampini – Union College
Most Outstanding Player: Shayne Gostisbehere – Union College

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