Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Q&A with Cornell hockey broadcaster Jason Weinstein

by Ryan Fay

Union begins its quest for a fourth straight Whitelaw Cup this weekend when it opens the ECAC Hockey tournament on the road against Cornell at Lynah Rink.

The best-of-three series opens Friday before continuing on Saturday and, if necessary, on Sunday. All the games start at 7 p.m.

Ahead of the series, I chatted with Jason Weinstein, who will call the action for the Big Red on Ithaca's WHCU-AM (870). Weinstein looks back on the two previous meetings between the teams this season, breaks down the Big Red, offers some players to watch and more.

Ryan Fay (RF): Union lost both meetings against Cornell this season, 5-1 at Messa Rink on Jan. 16 and 2-1 at Lynah Rink on Feb. 21. What did you takeaway from those games?

Jason Weinstein (JW): The biggest takeaway from the season series is probably just the result of Cornell beating the defending national champs twice by a combined score of 7-2. The first game featured a three-point night by Cole Bardreau and was the game that started the strong second half of the season he has put together.

The second game at Lynah Rink saw Cornell catch Union in the midst of a brutal scoreless stretch. It was a more typical Cornell win. I'd say the best takeaway for Cornell in the two games was that it held Daniel Ciampini and Mike Vecchione off the board even strength, though Ciampini scored a power-play goal in Union's 2-1 loss to Cornell.

RF: What are the strengths of this season's Cornell team?

JW: The strengths of this Cornell team are the ones that are usually associated with the Big Red: defense and goaltending. Cornell's been one of the best defensive teams in the country all season, led by goaltender Mitch Gillam.

It's counterintuitive but maybe one of the biggest breaks the defense caught this season was losing Joakim Ryan at the start of the year. His absence force fed minutes to guys like Jacob MacDonald, Ryan Bliss, and Dan Wedman. MacDonald has played all year with a great deal of confidence while Bliss and Wedman have provided strong play as freshmen. Of course, Ryan's return made the unit that much stronger. 

The strong defensive play is also a factor in Cornell having the country's best penalty kill (91.1%). That's an area where Ryan, who is one of the best puck-moving defenseman in the country, really shines.

RF: What about Cornell's weaknesses?

JW: The biggest weakness for Cornell has been consistent scoring. The numbers don't lie. Cornell is averaging under two goals per game (1.90).

The loss of Joel Lowry (back surgery) has hurt. One encouraging sign has been the second half of the season put together by Bardreau. Also, John McCarron has found the back of the net the last couple of weeks. Ideally, Cornell would love to have the Hilbrich-Bardreau-McCarron line provide consistent offense and lead the way for the others.

Unfortunately, we've seen that line split up in part because of inconsistency and in part in an attempt to spread the offense to other lines. If Cornell can consistently put up 2-3 goals per game it could have a nice run in the postseason.

RF: As someone who follows the league, are you surprised that the Dutchmen finished the ECACH regular season in 10th place and are on the road for the playoffs?

JW: I'm like many who are surprised Union finished 10th this season. Rick Bennett has noted his team has faced the opposition's best game consistently this season; that's part of life being the defending national champs.

I'm probably most surprised to see so much of the scoring load fall on Ciampini and Vecchione. There have been some signs of that changing such as Ryan Scarfo's strong finish to his freshman season and Max Novak picking up five points in his last three games. But Union will need more than one line or one pair of players scoring to have success in the postseason. The talent is there to have that happen.

RF: What do you see as the keys this weekend?

JW: How much scoring will Union get from its secondary options? Cornell, being the home team, will have the last line change and will match up with Vecchione and Ciampini as necessary. Will those two players skate on the same line? Separately? A combination thereof? Cornell has been good this season in focusing on a team's top line or top players. The kind of weekend guys like Novak, Wilkins, Scarfo, and Foo have could be the difference.

I think the status of a pair of injured defensemen will also play a role. Does Jeff Taylor play for Union? Does Reese Wilcox play for Cornell? On Cornell's end, I think the formula is pretty simple: goaltending, defense, and enough offense from the likes of Bardreau, Hilbrich, and McCarron.

RF: Any predictions for how the series turns out?

JW: I'm not really into giving predictions, mostly because I'm terrible at it. I do see the series going three games. At that point, home ice will be a great advantage for Cornell. Union will be able to draw on its experience from the championship last season in a do-or-die situation.

Cornell players to watch

Cole Bardreau, Sr. F
Ht/Wt: 5'10", 192
2014-15 stats: 28 GP, 5 A, 16 A

JW: Bardreau is Cornell's leading scorer and most dynamic offensive player. He's as healthy as he's been in his Cornell career and he'll tell you that's been the key to his production. He's the one Cornell player who is a threat to make a play each time he has the puck. 

He's also been a key penalty killer for Cornell. A Bardreau faceoff win followed by a Joakim Ryan clear has been Cornell's best penalty killing play.

Jake Weidner, So. F
Ht/Wt: 6'2", 204
2014-15 stats: 28 GP, 3 G, 11 A

JW: Speaking of faceoffs, Weidner has become a force in the circle. He has the size and skill to break out offensively, but has been able to help in other areas before that happens.

Christian Hilbrich, Jr. F
Ht/Wt: 6'7", 216
2014-15 stats: 29 GP, 9 G, 4 A

JW: Hilbrich is Cornell's leading goal scorer. He'll need to continue to put the puck into the back of the net for Cornell to have success this postseason. He's really used his considerable size well this season, particularly on the forecheck. He can be disruptive on the forecheck and defensively closing passing lanes with his length. 

Joakim Ryan, Sr. D
Ht/Wt: 5'10", 183
2014-15 stats: 21 GP, 1 G, 12 A

JW: Ryan has been an impact player since his freshman year but is maybe making his biggest impact now. He logs the largest number of minutes of any Cornell skater. He also quarterbacks the power play, is essential on the penalty kill, is one of the best puck movers in the country, and has increased his offensive production in the second half of the season. 

Mitch Gillam, So. G
Ht/Wt: 6'0", 178
2014-15 stats: 25 GP, 9-8-5, 1.77 GAA, .935 save percentage

JW: Gillam has been one of the top goalies in college hockey all season. This is the first season he's been able to see regular playing time. He's really done everything well. He's obviously stopped the puck consistently but he plays the puck well and controls rebounds well. He's a fundamentally sound goalie who's given his teammates confidence when he's been in net. 

Matt Buckles, So. F
Ht/Wt: 6'2", 218
2014-15 stats: 27 GP, 7 G, 3 A

JW: Buckles has all the tools of a power forward. He's got good size and good awareness in the offensive zone. He's tied with Bardreau for the team lead in power play goals with four. If he produces some offense 5-on-5 this weekend it will be a big boost for Cornell.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Carr named AHL Rookie of the Month

by Ryan Fay

Former Union forward Daniel Carr was named the American Hockey League's Rookie of the Month for February, the league announced Tuesday.

Carr, who plays for the Hamilton Bulldogs, is the first former Union player to win the award.

"It's one of those things that's a team thing," Carr said of the honor. "We've had some success this past month as a team and that's kind of how these things happen."

In 11 games during the month, Carr notched a league-high 10 goals while adding two assists. His plus-12 rating was tied for best in the circuit.

"I just got some bounces this month," Carr said. "Playing with guys like Charlie [Hudon], Eric [Tangradi] and Sven [Andrighetto] makes the game so easy. A lot of credit [goes] to those guys and [we'll] try to keep it going."

Overall, Carr has 19 goals, 12 assists and a plus-16 rating in 57 games this season. He leads the Bulldogs in goals and plus/minus rating. The Sherwood Park, Alta. native is tied for the league lead in tallies by a rookie.

In recognition of his achievement, Carr will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Bulldogs home game.

Carr played for Union from 2010-2014 and ranks as the program's Division I era career leader in goals (78) and points (157). He signed with the Montreal Canadiens last April after leading Union to its first NCAA title.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Supinski named BCHL Rookie of the Year

by Ryan Fay

Union recruit Brett Supinski was named the British Columbia Hockey League's Rookie of the Year, the league announced Monday.

Supinski, a forward for the Coquitlam Express, topped league rookies in scoring with 48 goals and 50 assists in 58 games. He had 13 more goals, nine more assists, and 32 more points than any other rookie in the circuit.

Overall, Supinski finished second in scoring behind teammate Corey Mackin, who was named the BCHL's Most Valuable Player.

Supinski, who is coming to Union next season, paced the league in game-winning goals with nine, while ranking fifth in power-play goals (13) and seventh in power-play assists (18).

The other finalists for Rookie of the Year were Vernon Vipers forward Liam Finlay and Victoria Grizzlies forward Brett Gruber. A poll of BCHL head coaches determined the winner.

Supinski, 19, is the first Union recruit to win the award since Mat Bodie, who captured it in 2009 while with the Powell River Kings.

Further reading

Union recruit Supinski tearing up the BCHL

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Union rallies for second straight win

Box Score

by Ryan Fay

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – It was a case of deja vu Saturday at Messa Rink.

Union overcame a 2-0 deficit and rallied for a 3-2 win over Clarkson in the regular-season finale for both teams. Just 24 hours earlier, the Dutchmen overcame the same hole and had the same result against St. Lawrence.

The Dutchmen (16-16-2 overall, 8-13-1 ECAC Hokcey) finished tenth in the ECACH standings, and will open the league tournament next weekend when they travel to seventh-seeded Cornell for a best-of-three series.

Union goalie Colin Stevens makes one of his 21 saves
against Clarkson on Saturday at Messa Rink.
photo: Michael Tansey
Max Novak, who tied the game at 2-2 in the third period, thinks the two wins have given Union a boost entering the postseason.

“I don’t think we can ask for anything more than that,” he said. “To win those games, especially in come-from-behind fashion, was big for our team success because we’ve been fighting pretty hard and just haven’t been getting those goals. It was nice to get them this weekend.”

Freshman Tyler Hynes scored the game-winner at 11:38 of the third. Clarkson goalie Greg Lewis made a pad save on Nick DeSimone's shot from the right point, but the rebound found its way to Hynes, who lifted it past Lewis and into the back of the net.

"We've been preaching trying to get to the net and trying to create havoc there," said Hynes, a Guilderland native. "The puck squirts out, their goalie was down and I had a little open, so I put it there.”

Novak tied the score at 2-all at 3:49 of the third when he finished a series of tic-tac-toe passes with Daniel Ciampini and Ryan Scarfo that left Clarkson in a daze.

“When I grabbed the puck, I saw Ryan in front of the net and I just threw it to him,” Novak said. “I thought he would be able to stuff it a little bit. Instead, he’s a good playmaker, so he found ‘Champ’ in the middle. I thought ‘Champ’ was going to shoot it because he has enough goals this year. He made a nice play and spun it back to me. By that time, I’m not sure anybody knew what was going on, and I had an empty net.”

Union's rally began when Scarfo scored at 15:23 of the first. Scarfo was dragged down by Clarkson's Nic Pierog and crashed into the net along with the puck. Though initially ruled no-goal, the call was reversed after it was determined that the puck crossed the line first.

Clarkson (11-18-5, 8-11-3) scored twice in a span of just under eight minutes in the second to take a 2-0 lead. Kevin Tansey put the Golden Knights on the board at 3:45 after converting a Joe Zarbo pass while on a two-on-one break. Zarbo followed with a goal of his own at 11:29 after he poked the puck in after getting tripped in front of the crease.

Union picked up 21 saves from goaltender Colin Stevens. The senior from Niskayuna recorded his 50th career win in the process.

"Over the last four to six games, we've been playing well but we just haven't gotten the results," said Union assistant coach Joe Dumais, who spoke instead of an ailing Rick Bennett. "These last two games, we played well and we're starting to get the results now."

Union's goals

Postgame Audio

Union assistant coach Joe Dumais Download Music - Download Audio - Joe Dumais postgame - 2/28/15

Union forwards Tyler Hynes and Max Novak Embed Music Files - Listen Audio - Max Novak, Tyler Hynes postg...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Union hosts Clarkson in regular season finale

by Ryan Fay

Union closes out the regular season tonight when it hosts Clarkson at 7 at Messa Rink.

Depending on what happens tonight, Union will either be seeded ninth or tenth in the ECAC Hockey tournament. Union will be seeded ninth with a win and an RPI loss to St. Lawrence. Union will be seeded tenth with a win and a RPI win or tie. Union will also be seeded tenth with a loss or tie.

Either way, Union will be on the road next weekend. If Union is seeded ninth, they will travel to Clarkson as the Golden Knights have already locked up the eighth seed. If Union is seeded tenth, they will play at the seventh seed (currently Cornell).

After tonight's game, Union will honor its senior class. The seven-player class consists of goaltender Colin Stevens, defenseman Charlie Vasaturo, forward Sam Coatta, forward Daniel Ciampini, forward Max Novak, goaltender Dillon Pieri and forward Mark Bennett.

It would also be senior night for defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, but he turned pro last April when he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.

The class has accumulated a 95-43-18 record in its four seasons to go with three Whitelaw Cups (2012, 2013, 2014), two Cleary Cups (2012, 2014), two Frozen Four appearances (2012, 2014) and one national championship (2014).

Union made one lineup change for tonight: David Roy is in for Nick Cruice up front.

Dutchmen rally for 3-2 win over Saints

Box Score

by Ryan Fay

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Union head coach Rick Bennett was battling a head cold on Friday, but his Dutchmen had the best medicine possible.

Trailing 2-0 after two periods, Union scored a trio of power-play goals in the third and skated away with a 3-2 win over 19th-ranked St. Lawrence at Messa Rink.

Union's Mike Vecchione battles for the puck in front of
 the St. Lawrence crease Friday at Messa Rink.
photo: St. Lawrence Athletics
“We’ve been saying all week that these games down the stretch are going to be one-goal games,” said Union's Daniel Ciampini. “They’re going to be won or lost on special teams. I think the guys did a good job of staying disciplined, for the most part. We did a good job of capitalizing on our opportunities.”

Union (7-13-1 ECAC Hockey, 15-16-2 overall) snapped a five-game losing streak overall, as well as a four-game losing streak on home ice.

Despite not feeling well, Bennett manned the bench, but assistant coach Joe Dumais handled the postgame press conference.

“The guys have been showing up every day with a great attitude [and] working hard," said Dumais. "They know, eventually, it’s going to come. They had that attitude this whole game.”

St. Lawrence (14-6-1, 18-12-3) grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals from Brian Ward and Matt Purmal 21 seconds apart in the opening period. The Saints maintained that lead going into the third, but the team became unglued by several penalties.

Alex Dahl was the first offender after getting a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking Union's Tyler Hynes into the boards at 2:03 of the third.

Max Novak's slashing penalty at 4:14 negated the man advantage. But St. Lawrence gave it right back at 5:38 when Mike Marnell was whistled for hooking, creating a 4-on-3 opportunity for Union.

Ciampini capitalized 17 seconds into it after he fired a shot from the slot that eluded Saints goalie Kyle Hayton, who was getting screened by Spencer Foo.
“That’s something we talked about for the past couple of days, was making sure we were getting good screens and getting guys to the net, something we weren't doing before,” Ciampini said. “I couldn't even see the goalie. He did a really good job. I decided to shoot around him."
St. Lawrence took another penalty at 6:44 when Patrick Doherty was called for slashing. Mike Vecchione tied the game at 2-2 43 seconds later when his shot from the right circle found its way through a crowd of players in front of the Saints net.
"We were just trying to get screens up front and get pucks through," he said. "We finally got a lucky bounce and it went in."

The Saints' march to the penalty box continued at 11:47 when Tommy Thompson went off for interference. Novak provided the game-winner on the ensuing power play when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Ciampini.

"We were moving the puck around pretty good on the power play," Novak said. "When the puck came up to Champ, he found me back door and I just tried to put it on net and luckily it went in."

Ciampini said the win was an important one.

"It's big," he said. "We were pretty up-tempo and upbeat this week. The energy was really good, and this is kind of the next step for us. We have a little bit of confidence now. We showed what we can do against the best in the conference."

End notes
Matt Wilkins missed the game with a lower-body injury; Dumais said he's day-to-day.... Sebastien Gingras returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury.... St. Lawrence fired 15 shots on goal in the opening period, but just 10 the rest of the way.

Union's third period rally

St. Lawrence's Nolan Gluchowski shatters a pane of glass

Postgame Audio

Ciampini, Novak and Vecchione

Download Music - Listen Audio Files - Ciampini, Novak, Vecchione p...

Union assistant coach Joe Dumais

Download Music - Upload Audio Files - Joe Dumais postgame - 2/27/15

Friday, February 27, 2015

St. Lawrence at Union line charts

by Ryan Fay

Union will look to avenge a 7-1 loss at St. Lawrence on Feb. 7 when they host the Saints tonight at 7 at Messa Rink.

A couple lineup notes for Union:

* Sebastien Gingras returns after missing four games with an upper-body injury. He replaces Matt Krug on the blueline.

* Tyler Hynes is in for Matt Wilkins up front. More should be known on Wilkins' status after the game.