St. Lawrence University freshman defenseman Mike Graham snapped a 1-1 tie with his first collegiate goal at 8:40 of the third period and the Saints went on to upend nationally fourth-ranked Union 2-1 in a ECAC Hockey game at Appleton Arena on Friday night.
The Saint, 9-13-3, 3-7-3 in ECAC play, snapped a nine-game winless streak with their first win since a 5-2 decision at North Dakota on Nov. 29 and won at home for the first time since a victory over Northeastern on Oct. 26. Union, which was without three players and its head coach due to suspensions after a melee following its last game, dropped its second straight decision, both by 2-1 scores, and is now 16-6-3, 10-3-0.
It was a much needed win for the Saints, who kept themselves in contention for a possible first-round home ice playoff berth with their best defensive effort since November. It was also the fourth win of the season over a team in the national rankings.
St. Lawrence, which had gone 15 games without limiting an opposing team to a single goal, opened the scoring 13:10 into the second period when senior wing Greg Carey fed freshman Drew Smolcynski between the circles in the Union zone and Smolcynski skated in on Union goalie Colin Stevens, putting a backhand past Stevens' outstretched pad for his fifth of the year. The assist stretched Carey's point scoring streak to 20 games and Matt Carey picked up his 15th assist of the season and 30th point on the play.
The Saints outshot Union 29-19 through two periods and while shots were at a premium in the third period, each team scored a goal despite combining for only nine total shots.
Union's Daniel Carr scored his 12th of the year just after a Union power play had expired, sneaking the puck past Saint senior goalie Matt Weninger and inside the far post from Shayne Gostisbehere and Max Novak to make it 1-1 at 1:01 of the third period.
Graham then scored what proved to be the game winner as he came off the bench and headed right toward the net as the Saints were pressuring in the Union end. Senior wing Jeremy Wick found Graham with a pass and Graham put a shot into the upper right corner at 8:40 with Gunnar Hughes also assisting on the play.
While the Saint power play, which went into the game leading the nation in conversion percentage, was held scoreless on four tries, the first time the power play has been kept off the board in five games, the Saints killed both Union power play chances in the game.
The Saints held Union to just two shots on goal in the final period and Union did not get anything through to Weninger despite pulling Stevens for the extra attacker with 1:37 to play in the game. Weninger finished with 21 saves for the Saints while Stevens had 33 for Union.