An Imperfect Union
Historic Run Ends in Semifinal Loss
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
TAMPA, Fla. Following a scoreless first period, Union came out strong in the second, dominated play for several minutes, and then took a 1-0 lead at 7 minutes, 56 seconds. After that, though, the Dutchmen didn't play their game, and they wound up with a season-ending 3-1 loss.
They didn't shut down Ferris State's offense, but instead saw the game open up more than they would have liked. They didn't keep it simple on offense, but instead made one too many passes a few times. Perhaps most importantly, they started turning the puck over, something they've avoided for most of the season.
"We didn't take care of the puck like we normally do," said senior captain Nolan Julseth-White. "We kind of got away from our game. We had our moments. Ferris State played a hell of a game, and they deserved it."
Union coach Rick Bennett said he didn't think his team so much got away from its game as it never found it in the first place. He said the Dutchmen didn't start the way they wanted, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.
"I think it started in the first period," Bennett said. "We wanted to get our dumps on the glass because you never know with the bounces, and I don't think we ever did that. Our forecheck never caught up to their breakout, and I think that was a key tonight."
The Dutchmen did generate some offensive pressure after the goal and had several chances to make it 2-0, but they twice passed up open shots in order to make the one extra pass that failed to connect.
"I thought we were pretty confident with the puck tonight, but unfortunately we were sometimes a little casual, I guess," said junior assistant captain Jeremy Welsh. "I thought we carried the play pretty well for the first and second, when we had our chances, and we just didn't get our shots off. We didn't get them where we wanted, I guess, and sometimes we tried to overpass."
The Dutchmen weren't themselves defensively, either. They rarely give opponents any space in the offensive zone and do a good job getting pucks out quickly, such as when they allowed just 42 shots total in their two wins in the East Regional.
On Thursday, though, the Dutchmen gave up 37 shots to Ferris State, the second-most they've allowed in a game this season. A lot of those shots came from the outside and weren't particularly dangerous, but they opened the door for more rebound chances.
That finally cost Union with 4:43 left in the game, when Brett Wysopal's shot from the point led to a rebound that Kyle Bonis deposited into the empty net for the eventual game-winning goal. Julseth-White pointed to communication, or a lack thereof, as one of the reasons for Union not playing like itself.
"I think the talk was slow tonight," Julseth-White said. "It wasn't as high as it should have been, especially when guys were going into battles for the puck, the eyes in the back of their heads. I think we could have done a better job with that."
Although it's always tough to have your season end, especially when you get this close to a national championship, the Dutchmen can take solace in the fact that they lifted their program to new heights this season. They won the first ECAC Tournament title in program history, won the first NCAA game in program history and made the Frozen Four for the first time in program history.
"This program's definitely heading in the right direction," said senior assistant captain Kelly Zajac. "We have the coaching. We have a lot of guys coming back. They really care about hockey. It's a hard-working group, a lot of heart in there."