Union College came out flying in quest of its third outright Cleary Cup title as ECAC regular season champions and rode early momentum to a 6-2 win over St. Lawrence Saturday night as the Saints had to settle for a Capital District split.
Union went into Saturday's game needing either a win or a tie to clinch the top seed for the upcoming ECAC playoffs. The Dutchmen guaranteed themselves at least a share of the Cleary Cup as the regular season champions with their win over Clarkson on Friday, improving their home ice record in league play to 10-1-0 with the weekend sweep. Union takes a 22-6-4 overall mark and a 16-3-1 league record into the final weekend of the season.
The Saints, who leapfrogged Brown with Friday's win, dropped back behind the Bears, 2-0 winners at Harvard, after Saturday's loss and could finish anywhere between sixth and 11th depending upon next weekend's results. SLU is 13-16-4 overall and 6-10-4 heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Weninger, who made 22 saves in Friday's shutout at RPI, nearly matched that total in the first period on Saturday, stopping 16 in the first period as Union completely dominated the period. The Saint goalie made a number of spectacular saves, but couldn't keep Union off the board as the Dutchmen scored goals 22 seconds apart to grab a 2-0 lead.
Defenseman Sebastian Gingras scored his second of the year on a power play blast from the top of the right faceoff circle at 16:03, and sophomore wing Nick Cruice finished off a three-on-one rush with his sixth goal of the year on a tap in at 16:25.
While the Saints came out and generated some offense early in the second period, Union turned it up midway through the period and scored three more goals in a span of less than four minutes to put the game on ice.
Mike Vecchione started the scoring flurry as he scored on a rush with a delayed penalty being indicated on the Saints at 12:55. Matt Wilkins took the initial shot with Weninger making a big save, but Vecchione was right there for the put back for his ninth of the year. Daniel Carr scored the first of his two goals in the period just under two minutes later on the power play to make it 4-0 at 14:25 and Carr later took a lead pass from Mat Bodie and walked in on Weninger, finishing off the breakaway with his 15th of the year at 16:31.
Carr nearly had a natural hat trick in the second period, but Saint freshman goalie Tyler Parks, who took over for Weninger after the fifth Union goal, stopped the Union senior's second breakaway of the period.
The Saints spoiled the Union shutout bid 5:49 into the third period when sophomore Alex Hagen scored his fourth of the season on a rebound. Hagen was at the top of the blue when Pat Raley gunned a shot from the point which Stevens got a pad on, but Hagen stuck the rebound back past him with Kyle Essery also assisting to make it a 5-1 game.
Union got that one back at 8:52 as while Parks made his second breakaway save of the game on Daniel Ciampini at 8:32, he couldn't do anything about a two on one with freshman Eli Lichtenwald and Matt Wilkins just 20 seconds later as Wilkins took the goal mouth pass and tapped home his eighth of the year to make it 6-1.
Gunnar Hughes made it a 6-2 game at 10:53 of the third, taking a pass from Patrick Doherty and scoring his fifth of the season on a backhand from in close.