NCAA Hockey Tournament: Union holds off Providence, headed to Frozen Four

Shayne Gostisbehere keeps the puck out of the net in the first period. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Union kept Providence at bay for 60 minutes, and is headed back to the Frozen Four after a one-year hiatus.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Shayne Gostisbehere is a defensemen, but you wouldn't know it based on Union's East Regional games.

When a Union-Providence matchup was set up Friday night, Nate Leaman, the head coach of the Friars (who also recruited Gostisbehere to come to Union) said he, "might be their best forward, even though he's a D."

On Saturday, when it came time to face Providence with a Frozen Four, Gostisbehere also showed he can get it done in the crease, even without pads, a glove, or a blocker.

Union defeated Providence 3-1 to win the East Regional on Saturday, with heroics by Gostisbehere playing a key role.

Only a day after Providence pumped in four goals against Quinnipiac, Union used a physical, aggressive brand of hockey to limit the Friars on Saturday. Providence took 26 shots on the day (12 of them came in the third period), and found itself trailing on 2:42 into the contest.

After gaining possession in Providence's zone, Daniel Carr took a pass above the circles. With the Friars defense collapsing around him, Carr found a wide open Mat Bodie, who rocketed a shot over the glove of Jon Gillies for a 1-0 lead.

With the Dutchmen still up a goal later in the period, Gostisbehere stepped in during a frantic sequence to preserve Union's edge. As Providence threw pucks and bodies at the front of the net, Union goalie Colin Stevens was out of position, but Gostisbehere took his place, hopping in to deny a number of would-be Friars goals.

"It just seemed like we had a lot of those tonight with some pucks around their night," said Leaman. "They had two guys playing goalie there.

"Last night I said he was their best forward, tonight he might be their best goalie. He's a big-time player."

His teammates said it was one of the crucial moments of the game, even though his coach wasn't sure he had kept the puck out of the net as it happened as the play went to review.

"I got a good look at it from the scoreboard, but you never really know until the refs go over and you watch it on the replay a little bit," said Union head coach Rick Bennett. "But when Shayne came back and basically told us it didn't go in, you're fine, and you have to regroup."

The teams skated into the intermission with the score still at 1-0, before Union doubled its lead in the middle frame. The Dutchmen again didn't wait long in the period to score, as a Max Novak shot trickled through Gillies' equipment only 58 ticks in to put Providence in a 2-0 hole.

"I just tried to take it to the net, and I threw a backhander hoping for a rebound or something, and I guess it just trickled through him," said Novak. "I saw hit behind his leg, and it seemed like it took forever to finally get behind the goal line."

Providence was finally able to find some offensive consistency in the third period after only registering 14 shots through the game's first 40 minutes. The Friars broke through with just over five minutes to go to pull within a goal when Nick Saracino scored at the tail end of a scramble in front.

That would be as close as Providence would get though, as Union responded to push its lead back to two only 1:18 later. Kevin Sullivan took the puck below the goal line, before hitting a cutting Matt Hatch, who's one-timer fooled Gillies to push the score to 3-1.

"We kind off got of our game in the third there," said Hatch. "[Max Novak] was forechecking really hard, and we knew we wanted to find the soft spots in the slot.

"Max made a great pass out and I just tried to get it off as quick as I could."

The win pushes Union into the Frozen Four for the second time in three years, as the Dutchmen earned the first spot in Philadelphia.

Gostisbehere, who was smiling on the bench after that frantic sequence in the first, will get a chance to play in the arena of the NHL team that drafted him.

(After the game, Gostibehere revelead it was assistant coach Jason Tapp who elicited the grin. "He told me I was better than some of our goalies at positioning.")

But as for a position change, with two wins standing between Union and the first national championship in the program's history, Gostisbehere said it's not in the cards.

"I think I'm going to stick on defense," he said.

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