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NCAA Hockey Tournament: Union's speed blows past Vermont

Union's team speed was too much for Vermont.

Matt Hatch winds up for a slap shot.
Matt Hatch winds up for a slap shot.
Matt Dewkett

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- When Matt Hatch collected a puck shorthanded at his own blue line, it appeared to be a very pedestrian play.

In a matter of seconds though, things quickly turned south for Vermont.

Hatch blew by Rob Hamilton, and zipped into the Vermont zone on a breakaway, finishing the play to give Union a 1-0 lead. And it was only a sign of things to come, as the Dutchmen's team speed gave the Catamounts fits all game en route to a 5-2 win.

"We have some guys who can move, and [Hatch] showed that on the first goal there, but mostly we're just talking about getting the puck deep, and using our speed to get in on the forecheck," said Max Novak, who scored two goals against Vermont.

After a slow start, it was Hatch who used his own skating prowess to reenergize and put the Dutchmen ahead.

"Matt Hatch just using his speed—it's stuff that the coaching staff does talk to Matt about, using that speed," said Union head coach Rick Bennett. "I was really happy for him with that goal; it was really big for us."

Union dominated about every facet of its NCAA East Regional semifinal against Vermont, thanks in large to its overall edge in team speed. The Dutchmen denied time and space all game long, controlling the possession and dictating the pace.

"When you're around the team and you're with them every day, obviously you take some things for granted," said Bennett. "Just watching tonight, there were a couple of plays where speed was very crucial for us."

Their collective quickness also allowed the Dutchmen to take more offensive risks. On one rush, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere jumped into the fray, before beating three Vermont players back into his own zone to deny an odd-man opportunity, despite being several strides behind.

"I liked how our defensemen jumped up into the play," said Bennett. "Obviously there were a couple of times where everybody in Bridgeport was at their net, and all five of our guys were on the rush.

"We just need to be a little bit smarter than that."

That team speed will be needed again on Saturday as Union will try to advance to its second straight Frozen Four when it meets Providence in the East regional final.

"We have defensemen who like to get up in the play, but we just need to make sure that we realize that," said Bennett. "For two periods, we were playing a little bit of the fire-wagon hokey, and we just have to be a little bit smarter about that."