(Photo: William Cherry/Presseye)

The fourth annual Friendship Four Tournament got underway Friday, November 23, 2018, at the SSE Arena in Belfast as Union College and Yale University took to the ice to play in a game that counts for points in their standings in the ECAC division back in the states. School children from around the area — many of whom the various visiting teams had visited at some point during the week — were in full voice bringing their enthusiasm and energy.

As the game got underway, the school children were especially keen to show their appreciation for each and every hit they saw on the ice.

“It’s just a different atmosphere. And the atmosphere was phenomenal and sometimes it was so darn loud that you think a lot is going on, but a lot of stuff sometimes isn’t,” described Union’s head coach Rick Bennett after the game.  “And I thought at times, you can always tell by your bench and how they’re reacting, and I thought tonight we were a little jumpy and I just think tomorrow, going through that experience once hopefully helps us for tomorrow. But it was just a super atmosphere.”

Jack Adams (Photo: William Cherry/Presseye)

The school children, and all the spectators, were quickly rewarded with a goal. A giveaway by Yale allowed Union’s Sam Morton to get the puck on the stick of his fellow winger Jack Adams who took off on a breakaway and put the puck behind Yale’s Corbin Kaczperski giving Union a 1-0 lead just 1:48 into the game.

“Yeah, they scored on their very first shot of the game and it was a goal that came off of us having the puck in the offensive zone trying to get over it and they scored in transition, but I thought our kids fought hard all the way to the end,” said Yale’s head coach Keith Allain.

Yale’s freshman centerman Curtis Hall, a Boston Bruins draft prospect, showed his impressive hockey IQ as the first period continued. He was strong on the puck in the corners, but he also showed his abilities to make space for himself and his line mates which gave them a couple of good opportunities on Union’s Darion Hanson.

Union had two power plays during the first period. The first opportunity came at 7:46 when Yale’s defenseman Phil Kemp was whistled for tripping. The second opportunity came at 17:27 as right winger Kevin O’Neil was called for hooking. During the second power play especially, Union showed good cycling and solid zone time, though the team was unable to capitalize either time.

Just as the teams were re-entering the ice to start the second, a man who flew over to support the Union College Dutchmen was down in front of some of the school children who themselves were cheering for Union. He was helping them to make lots of noise. And it’s these simple situations in the game that continue to make it such a popular event for both the colleges participating as well as those from Belfast who attend.

Kevin O’Neil on Darion Hanson (Photo: William Cherry/Presseye)

The second period saw Yale come out with motivation to do their best to solve Union’s goaltender Hanson, so they could get the equalizer. Yale would outshoot Union 12 to 5 during the middle frame, giving Hanson a workout. An additional five shots off Yale sticks would be blocked by Union’s players.

Each team would have an opportunity on the man advantage, with Yale’s Joe Snively sent off at 4:33 of the second for a slashing, and then Union’s Greg Campbell sat for two at 16:25 himself for the same. Neither team was able to capitalize on the power play, something undoubtedly their coaches will address.

As the horn signaled the end of the second, the score was still 1-0 in favor of Union, but it was in large part due to the hard work of Hanson between the pipes for the Dutchmen.

The third period saw Yale come out hard once again, determined to put as many shots on Hanson as possible. They would find themselves on the power play 4:34 into the third when Cole Maier was whistled for interference. Their power play showed some strong cycling, but they were again unable to capitalize.

Four minutes later Maier was sent to the sin bin once again, this time for hooking and Union’s penalty killers would have to step up for the third time of the game. And then with 11 seconds remaining on Maier’s penalty that Dutchmen Vas Kolias would join him in the box. Kolias with a hooking call. The Dutchmen worked hard to continue to deny the Bulldogs, but Yale finally got their equalizer at 11:32 of the third period while still on the power play. And that’s where things would remain knotted throughout the remainder of regulation.

The overtime period was unable to crown a victor, which for the teams meant that they each took a point from the game. However, since this was a tournament, an actual winner was needed. The teams went to the shootout to get that decision.

Jack St. Ivany’s shootout on Darion Hanson
(Photo: William Cherry/Presseye)

Round One saw both Union’s Brendan Taylor and Yale’s Evan Smith find the back of the net. Round Two both Brett Supinski for the Dutchmen and Jack St. Ivany for the Bulldogs would be denied. As the third round began, Union’s goal scorer was put out and he once again got it past Kaczperski. For the teams not to have to go to another round, it was up to netminder Hanson to deny Snively who was out for Yale in the third round. Hanson did just that and Union College would take the win, ensuring their position in Saturday’s Championship game.

“You know, I thought we played well. Union’s a good team, like a lot of the teams in our league, so, you get a tie, you get a tie.,” Yale’s head coach Allain said postgame. “I guess the one area I think we can do a better job of is executing offensively. We had a number of odd man rushes that we didn’t even get a scoring chance on, never mind a shot on net. So, if we can clean that up, we’ll be a better hockey team.”

Union College is aware of what they need to do before they take on the Boston University Terriers Saturday night.

“I thought Yale put us in some pretty tough spots and that’s just the sign of a good team in Yale. Again, I thought it was a very fast college hockey game, so I guess from a spectator point of view it’s always nice to see a fast game. Obviously, you want more scoring but, sometimes it’s going to happen. And, you know, as far as our team, I thought we buckled down defensively, but tomorrow night we really need to pick it up offensively,” head coach Bennett said.

For Yale, they will take on the University of Connecticut Huskies in the matinee consolation game. And points in this game are just as important back in the states, as they go toward their conference totals.

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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