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Saints beat Dutchmen, end 9-game winless skid


CANTON — Starting with a stalwart defensive effort throughout, the St. Lawrence University hockey team made sure its longest winless skid in a decade was indeed history.

Freshman defenseman Mike Graham scored the deciding goal 8 minutes, 10 seconds into the third period and the Saints went on to edge fourth-ranked Union College, 2-1, on Friday night in an ECAC Hockey game at Appleton Arena as St. Lawrence won for the first time in 10 games.

“It felt like we were stuck in quicksand,” Saints senior goalie Matt Weninger said of the team’s recent woes. “It’s just a relief, we haven’t won since like Thanksgiving. ... The guys finished it off and this is a good win for us.”

St. Lawrence (9-13-3, 3-7-3), which has struggled defensively of late, won for the first time since Nov. 29. The Saints shut down Union (16-6-3, 10-3-0), one of the top offensive teams in the nation, for much of the game.

“I’m proud of our guys,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “For 60 minutes tonight, they didn’t let up for a second and did what they had to do against a very good hockey team.”

Weninger (21 saves) made only two stops in the third period after yielding the tying goal by Daniel Carr.

Freshman winger Drew Smolcynski also scored for St. Lawrence, which won at home for the first time in just more than three months to snap a six-game slide in Canton.

“It’s a huge relief,” Saints senior winger and assistant captain Jeremy Wick said.

After Carr drew the Dutchmen even at 1-1 on a blast from the right point 1:01 into the third, Graham followed with the game-winner. Wick worked his way behind the net with the puck and sent a sharp feed to Graham, who fired a drive past goalie Colin Stevens at 8:40.

“Right now, it’s a little surreal,” said Graham, who recorded his first collegiate point with the goal. “I wasn’t really expecting it [the goal], but it was a nice feed from Wick and it was nice to finish it off.”

St. Lawrence, which had gone 0-8-1 in its previous nine games, also halted an eight-game winless skein in conference play (0-7-1), winning for the first time since Nov. 9.

“I thought they [the Saints] were tremendous,” said Union assistant coach Joe Dumais, who was in charge in place of head coach Rick Bennett, who was suspended for four games in the wake of his team’s 2-1 loss and post-game brawl with RPI last Saturday. “They competed extremely hard, they blocked a ton of shots and I thought overall their game was very solid in all three zones.”

Union played without defenseman and team captain Matt Bodie, who was suspended for both games this weekend for his part in the brawl.

The Saints killed off both of Union’s power plays — albeit the second was an abbreviated one — and haven’t allowed a man-advantage goal in two of their past three outings.

Not only did it hold an opponent scoreless in the first period for the first time in nine games, St. Lawrence also held an opposing team without a goal over the first 40 minutes for the first time this season.

“I was very pleased with our defensive effort,” said Carvel, whose team blocked nine shots. “I give our guys a ton of credit, we had a different approach on defense, which we worked on all week.”

With the game scoreless nearly midway through the second period, the Saints broke through as Smolcynski finished off a sharp sequence of passes by the Carey brothers as he took cross-ice pass from Greg Carey and lifted a backhander past Stevens at 13:10.

Carr followed with the tying goal to become Union’s all-time leader in points, yet there was no letdown by St. Lawrence as the Dutchmen were stymied the rest of the way.

Stevens finished with 33 saves for the Dutchmen, who entered the night in first place in the ECAC.

nNOTES: With his assist, Greg Carey extended his point streak to 20 games (12 goals-26 assists) ... Smolcynski has scored in back-to-back games and has three points (2-1) in his last three outings.

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