Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fast start carries Dutchmen to 5-1 win

Box Score

by Ryan Fay

Second-ranked Union scored three early goals and went on to defeat ninth-ranked St. Cloud, 5-1, in front of a standing-room only crowd of 2,295 Friday at Messa Rink.

With the win, the Dutchmen (5-0) extended their school-record winning streak to 17 games, and their home winning streak to 15 games. Both streaks date back to last season.

The Dutchmen wasted little time taking control of the Huskies. Michael Pontrarelli knocked in a loose rebound on the power-play at 1:51 of the first period to give the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead. 

Just over two minutes later, Sebastien Gingras pushed the lead 2-0. Huskies goalie Charlie Lindgren stopped Max Novak's shot, but Gingras came flying in unseen from the right point and sent the puck into the back of the net.

“When I saw ‘Novs’ come out of the net, I just figured that a rebound could come out in the slot,” Gingras said. “The guy that was covering me wasn’t looking behind his shoulder, so that allowed me to sneak behind him. I just got lucky. The bounce was perfect, and I was able to bury that one.”

The Dutchmen chased Lindgren from the game at 8:57 after Mark Bennett gave Union a 3-0 lead. Bennett was behind the goal line when he put the puck on net. It bounced off the pad of Lindgren and in.

“Some guys might find it hard to believe, but I’ve actually done it before,” Bennett said. “Just taking it wide, and the goalie’s expecting me to throw it back to the guy driving the far post and trying to put it on net and hope for, worst-case scenario, a rebound. I guess he was cheating off his post a little bit and he got caught in between. I was just happy to see it go in.”

Sam Coatta lengthened Union's lead to 4-0 at 6:53 of the third after burying a rebound following a wraparound try by Bennett. Novak, playing in his first game following a five-game suspension for violating team rules, scored a power-play goal at 16:55 that extended Union's cushion to 5-0. 

Ben Storm spoiled Colin Stevens' shutout bid with 4.5 seconds left in the game with a slapshot from the point. Stevens finished with 35 saves, including three on breakaways.

He was more focused on getting the win than losing the shutout, which would have been his second of the season. He blanked Maine, 3-0, last Friday.

“I’m not going to say it’s not frustrating. It’s a little frustrating,” said Stevens. “But at the end of the day, all that matters is we got the win. It would be pretty selfish of me to be sitting here complaining that I didn’t get the shutout. I’ll take the win.”

Union head coach Rick Bennett didn't shake off the goal as easily.

"Did we think of our goalie there on the last shift?" Bennett asked. "Our goaltender has a chance to do something special, but we weren't bearing down in the areas that we need to bare down in."

Bennett, who will have a video session with the team this morning, was particularly displeased with the Dutchmen's neutral-zone play.

"We’ve got to shore up a lot neutral-zone turnovers," he said. "We’re just handing them transitional opportunities, and those turnovers are making our net."

When Union faces off with St. Cloud (1-1) again tonight at 7, Bennett said the Dutchmen need to come with a better effort.

"If we play that way [tonight], that team is going to hammer us, plain and simple."

End notes... Mike Vecchione kept his point streak alive with an assist on Coatta's goal; he now has at least a point in all five games this season... Jeff Taylor and Roman Ammirato each had two assists... after Lindgren was yanked for allowing three goals on nine shots, Rasmus Reijola came in and stopped 16-of-18 the rest of the way.


Union head coach Rick Bennett 

Union's Colin Stevens, Sebastien Gingras and Mark Bennett 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gostisbehere recalled by Flyers

by Ryan Fay

The Philadelphia Flyers recalled former Union defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley Phantoms, it was announced Friday.

The move came after the Flyers lost defensemen Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald for four weeks due to lower-body injuries.

Gostisbehere is expected to make his NHL debut on Saturday when the Flyers host Detroit at the Wells Fargo Center. He would be the seventh former Union player to appear in an NHL game.

The 21-year-old had two assists in three games with the Phantoms.

Gostisbehere appeared in three preseason games for the Flyers, registering two goals and an assist.

A third-round pick of the Flyers in the 2012 NHL draft, Gostisbehere signed with the team days after leading the Dutchmen to the NCAA championship in April.

Line charts vs St. Cloud - 10/24/14

by Ryan Fay

Line charts have been released for tonight's game between second-ranked Union (4-0) and ninth-ranked St. Cloud (1-1) at Messa Rink.

The puck drops at 7.


St. Cloud State

Union tickets a hot commodity

by Ryan Fay

Union has sold out of seats for this weekend's two-game set between the second-ranked Dutchmen and ninth-ranked St. Cloud.

On top of being one of only two top 10 matchups in the country this weekend -- No. 5 Providence at No. 3 North Dakota is the other -- it's also homecoming weekend at Union.

There are also no seats remaining for next Saturday's game against Capital Region rival RPI.

Limited standing-room only tickets remain available for all three games by calling 518-388-6020.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Union off to good start in faceoff circle

by Ryan Fay

As a general rule, teams that win a national championship don't have that many weaknesses.

But if reigning NCAA hockey-champion Union had one glaring fault last season, it was in the faceoff circle.

The Dutchmen ranked 56th out of 59 Division I teams last season with a faceoff winning percentage of .455. In 42 games, they had a better faceoff percentage than their opponents just 10 times. Mike Vecchione was the only regular faceoff option with a winning percentage north of 45%. He won 53% of his.

Coming into this season, Union head coach Rick Bennett knew the faceoff situation had to get better.

Vecchione (above, center) has been Union's
top faceoff option
“That was right up there [on the priority list],” Bennett said before Wednesday's practice.

Through four games – all wins – the second-ranked Dutchmen have improved in the faceoff circle in a big way.

The Dutchmen have the eighth-best faceoff winning percentage in Division I at .561. They have had a better faceoff winning percentage than their opponent in three of their first four games with the exception being Oct. 11 against New Hampshire.

Vecchione credited first-year volunteer assistant coach Aaron Bogosian for the team's improvement in the faceoff circle. He was a center for St. Lawrence from 2007-2011 and spent the last four seasons in the pro ranks.

“Bogisian's been a pretty big part of that,” said Vecchione, who's tied for the national lead in points with nine. “He came in and really cracked down the details of what we need to do to be better in the circle.”

Vecchione, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, has won 63% of faceoffs this season and his 57 faceoff victories are third-most in Division I.

“I take a lot pride in [faceoffs]. I hate losing those puck battles," he said. "As a smaller guy, I just try to get as low as I can. [I try to] get under the bigger guys and sneak in there and win those puck battles."

Though a lot of faceoff success comes from the center, the wingers also play a part.

"They help out a lot, getting in those little pockets next to me," Vecchione added. "Winning the puck back isn't always me. It's my teammates as well."

Unlike last year, Vecchione hasn't been Union's only reliable option faceoff option. Sophomore Eli Lichtenwald has captured 54% of his draws, up from 45% a season ago. Freshman Ryan Scarfo has been a solid third option, coming out ahead in 53% of his faceoffs.

Bennett said having multiple reliable options for draws is a big advantage.

“You're not chasing the puck as much, so you're not taxing your legs as much," he said. “It's creating some offensive chances for us and that's what we're looking for.”

Bennett added that Union's success in the faceoff circle can be something that creeps into the opposition's mind.

“It's kind of deflating,” he said. “If you're constantly beating the other team's centermen, it makes them think. And once you get them thinking instead of reacting, it becomes a mental thing.”

Vecchione said the success in the faceoff circle has been an important part of the Dutchmen's 4-0 start. They lead the country with 18 goals entering this weekend's non-conference series with ninth-ranked St. Cloud State at Messa Rink.

"It's a huge factor. It's how you get puck possession," he said. "You can't score goals if you don't have the puck."

Union recruit Maier records hat trick

by Ryan Fay

Union men's hockey recruit Cole Maier had a whale of a game for the British Columbia Hockey League's Nanaimo Clippers on Wednesday.

The forward recorded a hat trick to lift the Clippers to a 5-4 win over the Victoria Grizzlies.

Maier in action for Nanaimo earlier this season
photo: Nanaimo Clippers
Maier's third goal was the most important, and not just because it clinched the hat trick. It broke a 4-4 tie at 18:04 of the third period and went down as the game-winner.

His second goal happened at 6:01 of the second and brought the Clippers even at 3-3. His first tally came on the power play at 4:40 of the first and notched the game at 1-1.

Maier, 19, was named the game's first star.

Including the hat trick, Maier has six goals and eight assists in 13 games with the Clippers. Three of his goals have been game-winners, and he ranks third among BCHL rookies in points with 14.

He's the second Union recruit to record a hat trick this season. Brett Supinski, a forward for the BCHL's Coquitlam Express, accomplished the feat on Oct. 5.

Both Maier and Supinski are committed to Union for the 2015-2016 season.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bodie's first pro goal comes vs Grosenick

by Ryan Fay

Former Union goalie Troy Grosenick should know that Mat Bodie is a dangerous offensive defenseman from their three seasons with the Dutchmen.

If Grosenick had forgotten that fact, he was reminded in dramatic fashion on Tuesday.

Bodie scored his first pro goal when he beat Grosenick with 17.9 seconds left in regulation to break a 4-4 tie and give the American Hockey League's Hartford Wolf Pack a 5-4 win over the Worcester Sharks.

After Tommy Hughes and Danny Kristo combined to get the puck to Bodie, he went to the left faceoff dot and unleashed a shot that beat Grosenick high.

“That was a great play by Kristo and Tommy Hughes there, to get me the puck with a lot of open space,” Bodie told the Wolf Pack website, “and then [Ryan] Haggerty and [Oscar] Lindberg in front of the net, they were creating a lot of traffic and I don’t think the goalie got a great look at it, but I just tried to place it up in the top half of the net."

The tally capped off an off night for Grosenick, who allowed five goals on 27 shots. He had allowed a total of six goals over his first three games this season.

Through four games with the Wolf Pack, Bodie has the goal, two assists and a cumulative plus-2 rating.

To see the goal, click here.

Vecchione again ECACH Player of the Week

by Ryan Fay

Union sophomore center Mike Vecchione was named ECAC Hockey Player of the Week, the league announced Tuesday.

It's the second consecutive week that Vecchione earned the honor, marking the first time that a Union player picked up the award in back-to-back weeks since Mario Valery-Trabucco in Dec. 2009.

Vecchione piled up five points during Union's weekend sweep of Maine. He had a goal and an assist in Friday's 3-0 shutout. On Saturday, he recorded a career-high three assists to aid Union's 5-2 win. Vecchione was named No. 2 star of the game both nights.

The 21-year-old has registered at least two points in each of Union's first four games, all wins. It's the longest multi-point game streak of his career. He's tied with Nebraska-Omaha's Jake Guentzel for the national lead in points with three goals and six assists.

Vecchione will look to keep it rolling when the second-ranked Dutchmen host ninth-ranked St. Cloud State (1-1) Oct. 24-25.