BRIDGEPORT, CONN. -- Union's special teams were the spark plug for the Dutchmen as they advanced to their third straight NCAA Hockey Tournament regional final with a 5-2 victory over the University of Vermont at the Webster Bank Arena.
Matt Hatch set the stage early, using his speed to give the Dutchmen an early 1-0 lead on a shorthanded rush just 4:15 into the game. The senior from Masena, NY bursted up the right side before cutting in and forehanding the puck past Vermont goaltender Brody Hoffman.
Vermont responded at the 13:18 mark of the first period when Chris McCarthy picked up his own rebound after circling behind the net. Union's third defensive pairing failed to pick up the puck or McCarthy as they boxed out Mario Puskarich, who picked up an assist on the plan.
Union regained the lead before the end of the period with another special teams goal, this time on the power play. Daniel Carr's initial shot was blocked and picked up by Kevin Sullivan who swung the puck over to a diving Max Novak. The junior from Oak Ridge, NJ used his skate to coral the puck before lifting it into the back of the net as he was falling down.
The Dutchmen thoroughly dominated the second period, but didn't get rewarded until Novak found the back of the net on the power play again at the 14:22 mark. Mat Bodie gave a lead pass to Daniel Carr who fed Novak. Carr went hard to the net, and Novak tried to send him a pass, but it deflected in off UVM defenseman Yvan Pattyn's stick.
Another transition play extended Union's lead to 4-1 midway through the third period. The Dutchmen scored on a four-on-one at the 11:25 mark when Kevin Sullivan fed Mat Bodie trailing the play. The senior captain took a step and fired a quick wrister past Hoffman.
Trailing 4-1, there was no quit in the Catamounts. With 6:41 to play in the third McCarthy scored his second of the night on a similar loose puck in front. Brendan Bradley was credited with the assist.
Hatch sealed the deal with 2:43 when he scored an empty netter for his second of the game, assisted by Sullivan, his third helper.
Union goaltender Colin Stevens didn't face as much rubber as his counterpart at the other end, but he made three or four key saves when his defense let its guard down.
For a second game in a row, the Dutchmen will face one of their program's former head coaches. Friday it was Kevin Sneddon with Vermont, Saturday it will be
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.