Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beynon signs with team in France

Michael Beynon, a former Union defenseman who graduated in 2008, has signed with Gap of Ligue Magnus in France. This past season Beynon played for the Edinburgh Capitals (EIHL). The big blueliner was a very solid defensive defenseman over his four years in Schenectady.

For more on the signing check out ECAC Hockey.com.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ikkala latest to sign with Dutchmen

It has been announced that Cole Ikkala has committed to join Union next season. Cole is a 6' 1", 195 lbs. forward, and will turn 20 this summer. With the Vernon Vipers (BCHL) this season Ikkala has accumulated 22 goals, 23 assists, and 45 points in 58 games. College hockey runs in the Ikkala family as Cole's father played for Northern Michigan and his older brother Cody plays at Army. It will be interesting to see how the next Union-Army game turns out with Ikkala's on both sides.

He sounds like a future third or fourth line guy, someone who is comparable to junior assistant captain Andrew Buote. From what people are saying, he's a guy that isn't flashy and won't accumulate too many points, but he does a lot of the dirty work and will get the job done. Players like that are extremely valuable, and every team has a guy or two like that. Ikkala might not see too much playing time next year considering he had a limited amount of experience in juniors, but he could replace Buote the year after. Just based on the information I have heard an read I like this signing. Role players are very important to have as stars will not be able to perform well without a supporting cast.

I'm pretty sure Ikkala's nickname is (or will be) Ikky. So, after he scores his first NCAA goal he better do the Ickey Shuffle. Also, I think the song for when he scores should be Icky Thump by the White Stripes.

For more on Cole Ikkala check out the Vernon Morning Star and this video where Ikkala is interviewed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zajac had shoulder surgery

Word from the end of the year banquet is that sophomore forward Kelly Zajac had shoulder surgery after the season. I remember that he was having shoulder problems during the playoffs, and it was even unsure if he would play in the ECAC semifinals. Hopefully Kelly gets better soon and is ready to go next season. He is one of the players that needs to step up for the Dutchmen and fill the shoes of the departed Mario Valery-Trabucco and Jason Walters. It is very possible that he will be moved up to center the first line with Adam Presizniuk.

Also, I ran across this cool picture of the team at the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. You can see Presizniuk on the right side of the picture with a camera, and former team manager Jeremy Apple in the left side of the picture. The team went since they played in the Shillelagh Tournament at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois hosted by Notre Dame. The Dutchmen lost to the Fighting Irish 3-1 in the first game, but beat UMass-Lowell in the consolation game 2-1.

Monday, April 19, 2010

NCAA Committee Chair Bill Bellerose addresses 2010 Frozen Four and Ford Field

In an open letter, which can be seen here, Bill Bellerose talks about the 2010 Frozen Four and Ford Field. While he does say how more people were able to see the games and it was an overall friendly experience, there were some faults. He was definitely favoring the venue, but I think deep down inside he realizes it was lacking. Personally, I hated the venue and would be against going back to Ford Field or anything like it.

Bellerose finishes off by saying, "In my opinion, college hockey is the greatest sport and the Frozen Four is the greatest show on ice." Here, I do agree with him.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Awards handed out at Annual Banquet

This past evening, the Union men's hockey team celebrated the best season in their history at Glens Sanders Mansion. At the banquet the annual awards were given out. Here is who won each award:

MVP: Mario Valery-Trabucco
Rookie of the Year: Keith Kinkaid
Unsung Hero: Andrew Buote
Most Improved: Luke Cain
Coaches' Award: Mike Schreiber
7th Player Award: Mario Valery-Trabucco
Charles N. Morrison Award: Mike Wakita
Thomas VanArden Dukehart Award: Stephane Boileau
No surprises here for the most part. I thought Brock Matheson would get an award over Buote because Buote has won awards in the past, but there are no complaints here on any decisions.

For more on the awards and the banquet go to Union Athletics.com

Doug Christiansen named Head Coach of Belfast Giants

Doug Christiansen, a former Union forward (Class of 2002) and the older brother of Union senior forward Jeff Christiansen, has been named the Head Coach of the Belfast Giants. The Giants play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, and are one of the top team's in the league every year. Doug has played for many AHL teams and other teams around the United States and the world. He recently finished up his tenure with the Edinburgh Capitals of the EIHL.

This past summer I spent some time in Belfast, but since it was not hockey season I was not able to see a game (which I was disappointed by). But, I got to see the outside of the Odyssey Arena, which seemed pretty nice from the outside. Past Giants players include former NHL superstar Theo Fluery. For more on the Giants check out Belfast Giants.com.

For more on Christiansen's signing check out ECAC Hockey.com.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Annual Union Hockey Banquet tomorrow

Tomorrow night at the Glen Sanders Mansion the Dutchmen along with their fans will celebrate the 2009-10 season. The annual awards will be handed out. According to the readers of this blog this is who should win some of the awards:

MVP: Mario Valery-Trabucco
Rookie of the Year: Keith Kinkaid
Unsung Hero: Brock Matheson
Most Improved: Brock Matheson
Note: Luke Cain came in second in both the Unsung Hero and Most Improved.

For more on the banquet go to Union Athletics.com.

Local goaltender signs with Union

Colin Stevens, a goaltender from Niskayuna, New York (the town right next to Schenectady, as agreed to play for the Dutchmen staring in the 2012-13 season according to Chris Heisenberg. Statistically, Stevens sounds like an awesome goalie, and one that could compete for playing time as an underclassman. With the Boston Jr. Bruins this year (the program where junior Justin Pallos came from), Stevens led the Empire league in wins (16), shutouts (6), goals-against average (1.38), and save percentage (.948). He was also invited to play for the US U-18 team in the middle of the season. He is listed as 6' 2" and 170lbs, and was born in 1993. Just from these numbers he reminds me of Keith Kinkaid: a tall goalie with tremendous numbers in juniors.

Stevens has other ties to Union besides living down the street. He has worked with former Union goaltender and coach Dan Tatar. Besides playing with the Jr. Bruins, Stevens has played for local private school Albany Academy.

For more on Stevens check out The World of Junior Hockey.com and Daily Gazette.com.

Friday, April 16, 2010

All-USCHO teams announced

Even though no Dutchmen were named to either of the All-USCHO teams, there were some familiar faces on each team. Maine's sophomore superstar and Hobey Baker hat trick finalist Gustav Nyquist was named to the first team. Nyquist and the Black Bears traveled to Schenectady to take on Union in the first two weekends of the season. Also, two of Union's biggest enemies this season were named to the second team: ECAC Player of the Year Chase Polacek (RPI) and ECAC Goalie of the Year Ben Scrivens (Cornell). Polacek led the league in scoring, while Scrivens was one of the nation's top goaltenders.

For the complete list check out USCHO.com.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Older siblings face-off in First Round of NHL Playoffs

When the #2 New Jersey Devils and #7 Philadelphia Flyers meet in the first round of the NHL Eastern Conference playoffs, there will be some bragging rights at stake for two Union players. Sophomore forward Kelly Zajac's brother Travis (25g, 42a, 67pts) is a star forward for the New Jersey Devils, while freshman defenseman Greg Coburn's brother Braydon (5g, 14, 19pts) is a defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers. Braydon was a first round draft pick in 2003, and Travis was a first round pick the following year.

Union finishes at #18 in final USA Today Poll

Even though the Dutchmen are not in the Top 15, they received enough points (12) to be #18. Alaska is #15 with 36 points, while Boston College finished on top of the poll with 510 points. Two ECAC teams finished in the Top 10, with Yale at #6 and Cornell at #9. To check out the full poll go to USA Today.com.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A look at the end of the 2009-10 season in Union Hockey

Check out my article on Concordy.com about the end of Union's season and some outlook on next season.

Frozen Four Fan Fest

If you were curious what the Frozen Four Fan Fest looked like check out AmericaJR.com (the fourth video on the page). It gives you a great visual of the fest at the Renaissance Center and features an interview with my dad, little brother, and myself (about one minute into the video).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Caffaro recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Former Union defenseman and co-captain Lane Caffaro has been recalled to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from the Wheeling Nailers. For more on Caffaro check out ECAC Hockey.com.

Boston College wins National Championship

For the third year in a row, a Boston school as won the Frozen Four. BU won last year and BC won the year before that. The championship game was the closest of all the Frozen Four games, as the Eagles were up 1-0 after two periods. But, the speed of the Eagles was just too much for the Wisconsin defenders as they ran away with a 5-0 victory. BC's Ben Smith won the Most Outstanding Player Award and was a member of the All-Tournament team. Teammate Cam Atkinson led the offense with two third period goals. For more on the game check out USCHO.com for a game summary and post-game reactions.

While not the most memorable championship game, it was still fun and there was a pretty good atmosphere. Surprisingly, the people that created the great atmosphere were the RIT fans. They were probably the best group of fans I've ever seen at a college hockey game. They were loud, creative, and always cheering... but their team wasn't even playing! They heckled both Wisconsin and BC fans, and cheered for RIT. I was lucky enough to be near them to hear all of their awesome cheers. They might have been my most favorite part of the tournament considering the venue stunk and the games were blowouts.

Before the game we went to see the Tigers at Comerica Park, which is one of the nicest ballparks I've ever been to. It's definitely a Top 5 ballpark in the MLB, and surprisingly it was built in 2000. There a lot of great touches that many ballparks don't have. The Tigers beat the Indians 4-2 by the way. After that we walked around Detroit and checked out local spots such as Cheli's Chili Bar and Joe Louis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings.

So, here's the end to the 2009-2010 college hockey season --- the greatest in the history of Union College. Hopefully the Dutchmen can make it to the NCAA tournament and maybe even make it to the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Frozen Four: Day 2

Today, my family and I enjoyed our off day. It started off with some glow-in-the-dark mini golf and then we headed to the Frozen Four Fan Fest, which was in the Renaissance Center. The fest was cool as it had some interactive hockey games and a time line of NCAA Hockey. I also got interviewed by a local website about the Frozen Four. After that we headed over to Windsor, Canada for a few drinks and then headed back to the States for the Skills Competition.

The competition was nice as always, but the only bad thing about it was that you couldn't get right up to the boards. I also miss Barry Melrose hosting the whole thing. Union's Jason Walters was a member of the East squad, who lost to the West once again. Even though it doesn't matter at all, Wally was pretty disappointing and was probably the worst player on the ice statistically (but once again who cares). He put his team behind in the puck control relay, didn't score once in the rapid fire shootout, and failed to get a shot off in the penalty shot competition. At least he wasn't as embarrassed as former Union goaltender Jason Mrazek was two years ago when he took part in the competition (see video here). Other ECAC representatives included Harvard's Alex Biega and Cornell's Ben Scrivens. Also, at the competiton I saw my first Union jersey (besides mine) at the Frozen Four. It was a vintage Josh Coyle jersey.

Friday was also the day when the Hobey Baker Award was given out and the All-American teams were announced. Sadly, no Union player was awarded. The Hobey went to Wisconsin's Blake Geoffrion, who will be playing for the national championship tomorrow. He is the first Badger to win the award.

You can check out the All-American teams here. Cornell's Ben Scrivens and Brendon Nash, along with RPI's Chase Polacek were named to the East First Team, while Yale's Broc Little and Sean Backman were named to the Second Team.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Comerica Park to see the Detroit Tigers take on the Cleveland Indians. The ballpark looks awesome from the outside and I'm really excited to see the inside. After that we might head to Cheli's Chili Bar (owned by NHL legend Chris Chelios) and then on to the national championship game. Hopefully, the final game of the Frozen Four will be a good one (it can't be any worse than either semifinal game). I think it's going to be a high scoring affair as each the Eagles and Badgers sport top ranked offenses. I'm going to go with Wisconsin 5-3 because BC has lately been prone to let up a ton of goals to top ranked offenses. They let up six goals to Maine (#4 offense) in the Hockey East championship game and allowed seven goals to Yale (#1 offense) in the regional final. The Eagles won both of those games, but I think that streak will come to an end. Either way, I just want to see an awesome hockey game and wouldn't mind a 50t game.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wisconsin and BC advance to championship game; each by blowout

Well, today might have been the least exciting day of the Frozen Four I've ever been a part of. I've been to nine Frozen Fours over that past 11 years and I have never seen two boring games in one day. In the first game Wisconsin ran away with it early and eventually beat RIT 8-1, which was then followed by BC's 7-1 win over top ranked Miami. The day started off well though as my dad, little brothers, and I went to HockeyTown, which is a very cool sports bar/restaurant with a Detroit Red Wings and Tigers theme..

I think I was the only Union fan in the building. I even had a Cornell fan take a picture of me because I was the only one wearing a Union jersey. ECAC fans weren't well represented. I saw a handful of RPI fans, a decent amount of Cornell fans, two Yale fans, and a Clarkson fan.

Within the first few minutes of the Wisconsin-RIT game you knew the game was over. Wisconsin was just too big for the Tigers, and the Tiger defense couldn't handle the balanced Badger attack. It just seemed that RIT went into the game knowing that there was no way they could win. The one bright part for the Tigers were their fans. Even though the game was over early, they were still loud and supportive. They even stayed around for the Miami-BC game and did some RIT chants. My choice for top player of the game was Wisconsin defenseman Brendan Smith, who picked up five assists in the game. He is tops in the nation among defensemen with 15 goals, 37 assists, and 52 points.

I was really hoping the second game was going to be a lot better. After the first game ended I kept reassuring myself that both games couldn't be duds, and after the first period it felt like it was going to be that way. But, once the second period came around the flood gates opened and the slaughter was on. I was completely shocked how the nation's top ranked defense could allow seven goals, even if it is the second ranked offense in the nation (I had a similar feeling when I watched Cornell allow six goals against New Hampshire). I am a big believer that a great defense beats a great offense, but I was proved wrong tonight as the Eagle offense kept on rolling. In seven playoff games (including Hockey East Playoffs) , BC has scored 40 goals (5.7 goals per game). I was really impressed with the BC forwards who were very, very quick and created a lot of exciting rushes down the ice.

Even though the games were uneventful, it was not my biggest gripe. I was extremely disappointed with the venue: Ford Field. Let's just say hockey should not be played in a football field... it's like trying to put a cube in a circle hole. You could easily see the turf of the football field, and it was weird seeing all the empty seats on the other side of the stadium. The sight lines were awful, the glass wasn't seamless, and the fans were WAY too far from the ice. There was no big scoreboard to look to and the stadium announcers/crew fell asleep at some times (didn't announce the ending of some periods, kinda messed up the starting line up introductions, forgot to put up shots on the scoreboard, etc.). It just didn't feel like the Frozen Four... it just felt like a gimmick. The crowd was totally subdued even though it was a record setting crowd for the Frozen Four. I'm sure the players hated the atmosphere. The bands were on the "field" behind the nets and had to have microphones in front of them so you could hear them. The food was ok (had a decent $7 gyro) and there were no lines for the bathroom, but the concourses were extremely crowded which was surprising for a football stadium.

I remember thinking when Ford Field was announced as a venue that it was going to stink... and it has. How could the NCAA possibly think they could fill up an entire football stadium for college hockey? College hockey has a loyal following, but its not the NCAA Basketball Final Four. The only way they could have sold out Ford Field was if Michigan and Michigan State met in one of the games. I really, really hope the Frozen Four is never put in a football stadium ever again.

Tomorrow is the off day. We will definitely be heading to the Skill Competition (and cheering for Union's Jason Walters of course). Before that we will be doing some combination of mini golf, heading to Windsor (Canada) for some brews (remember I'm still 20 years old), truck factory, going to Ann Arbor to see the Big House, or heading to the Frozen Four fan fest.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Players to watch during Frozen Four

RIT: The Tigers are the surprise of the tournament and are the first Atlantic Hockey team to make the Frozen Four. They have hot goaltending on their side, which might be the only way they can win the championship. Also, RIT is fifth in the nation with 3.60 goals scored per game, and third in the nation with 2.05 goals allowed per game.

Cameron Burt: the sophomore forward has been on fire for the second half of the season as he has registered a point in 13 of his last 15 games (7 goals, 22 assists), including six straight (3 goals, 8 assists). Burt leads the Tigers with 16 goals, 9 power-play goals, and 47 points.

Dan Ringwald: the senior captain is considered to be one of the top offensive defensemen in the country. Ringwald has tallied a goal and seven assists in his past six games. He is tied for fourth on the team with 11 goals, and third with 25 assists and 36 points.

Jared DeMichiel: the senior goaltender was excellent during the regionals as he stopped 63 of the 66 shots against him. DeMichiel has won 12 straight decisions where he registered four shutouts and let up 3+ goals only twice. He is fourth in the nation with a 1.98 GAA.

Wisconsin: The Badgers feature a high-flying offense that has scored 3.98 goals per game this season (tied for second in the nation). They have four players with at least 47 points and seven players with at least 10 goals.

Blake Geoffrion: the Hobey Baker finalist has putting lighting up the lamp during the playoffs. Geoffrion has scored six goals in his past five games, along with four assists. He is also the grandson of Hall of Fame forward Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion. Geoffrion leads the Badgers with 27 goals (tied for second in the nation), and 14 power-play goals (tied for first in the nation with Quinnipiac's Brandon Wong).

Derek Stepan: the sophomore forward is an assists machine! He has tallied 40 assists in 39 games, which is tied for second in the nation. Stepan has registered a goal and four assists in his past three games.

Scott Gudmanson: the Badger goaltender has been very solid in net in the latter half of the season. In his past 10 games he is 9-1-0, and has not let up more than three goals during that stretch. His only loss came on 3/19 against St. Cloud where he only allowed one goal.

Boston College: The Eagles have scored 19 goals in their past three games, but have also allowed 14 during that span. Their 3.98 goals per game is tied for second in the nation with Wisconsin.

Cam Atkinson: the pint-sized (5'8", 165 lbs.) sophomore forward leads the Eagles with 27 goals (tied for second in the nation), 23 assists, and 50 goals. Atkinson has only scored in three of his past 10 games, but in those three games he recorded a hat trick. He recorded a hat trick in his last game against Yale in the regional final.

Matt Lombardi: when you look at Lombardi's stats over his collegiate career you might be wondering why I'm putting him on this list. This year he has only tallied seven goals and seven assists, but he has scored six goals and two assists in his past eight games. Lombardi has also proven to be a clutch player this year as he scored a the game-winning goal, which was his third goal of the game, against Maine in the Hockey East Championship game, and scored a short-handed goal in BC's 3-1 win over Alaska in the first round of the NCAA tournament. If the Eagles are in a tight game make sure you keep an eye on this guy.

John Muse: the junior goaltender hasn't been good lately as he has allowed 14 goals in his past three games. But, Muse was in between the pipes when BC beat Notre Dame 4-1 for the national championship two years ago.

Miami: the Redhawks are hungry to avenge their heartbreaking loss in the championship game last season. They returned all of their big players from last season, so the loss to Boston University in Washington D.C. should be very fresh in their minds. Miami also has the top ranked defense in the country. The one thing they cannot do is take too many penalties. The Redhawks are second in the nation with 19.60 penalty minutes per game, but luckily they have the nation's fifth best penalty kill (86.8%).

Patt Cannone: the junior forward scored two goals in Miami's 3-2 overtime win in the regional final. He also leads the team with 10 power-play goals, so look for him on the power-play.

Tommy Wingels: Wingels was stellar last Frozen Four as he picked up three goals and an assist and will hope to replicate that performance. After registering a point in four straight games, he has gone pointless in his last three... maybe he's due?

Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp: the sophomore goaltending tandem is the best in the nation as they are #1 and #2 in the nation in GAA (Reichard: 1.76, Knapp: 1.85). Reichard has made seven more starts than Knapp and has a slightly better GAA. But, Knapp had a stellar performance in the regional final against Michigan where he made 55 saves in the Redhawks' 2-1 win. Reichard is the more athletic goaltender, while the 6'5"Knapp is more of a standup specialist.

Predictions: In the first game I think Wisconsin will end RIT's Cinderella run. Wisconsin has more experience in the tournament and I assume they will have more fans. I say the score with be 4-1, Badgers. I feel the second game between Miami and Boston College will be the best game of the tournament as it features the tournament's best two teams. I'm still going to go with Miami because I feel that they want to win so badly, and have won tight games lately. I think the final score will be 3-2, Miami in double overtime.

'Super' Mario update

Senior forward Mario Valery-Trabucco played in his second pro game on Wednesday night. His Adirondack Phantoms beat the Binghamton Senators 3-2, and he ended up with a -1 rating. For more on Mario check out a feature on him from Post Star.com.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Off to the Frozen Four!

I'm in the midst of getting ready to leave for the Frozen Four in Detroit. I'm trying to find as much Union Hockey gear in my closet before my flight at 7pm... I've got to represent the U! I'll try my best to do some blogging from the tournament, but I'm sure that I'll be busy. As of now I'm planning on going to a Detroit Tigers game and up to Canada for a bit.

Are there any other Union fans heading to the Frozen Four?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Valery-Trabucco appears in first pro game

Last night, senior Mario Valery-Trabucco appeared in his first professional game as he suited up for the Adirondack Phantoms in a 4-2 loss to the Albany River Rats. Ironically, the game took place at the Times Union Center where Mario's Dutchmen lost the ECAC Championship game a few weeks ago. Mario didn't play much, but he still managed to receive a penalty. The Phantoms are not in the playoff hunt, and with the season winding down Valery-Trabucco should see more playing time in the final games of the season. For more on Mario's debut check out Times Union.com.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Leaman honored again... this time it's national recognition

Union Head Coach Nate Leaman was named the ECAC Hockey Tim Taylor Coach of the Year a few weeks ago, and just a couple of days ago he was named a finalist for the ACHA Spencer Penrose Award. Today, the honors keep on rolling in for Leaman as he was named the INCH Coach of the Year. INCH's Joe Gladziszewski notes how, "a once-dormant Messa Rink is now the place to be on campus Friday and Saturday nights, and the change in attitude around the program is such that winning is now an expectation. This isn't a one-and-done run for Union." This can all be attributed to Leaman's hard work. To hear more from Gladziszewski check out INCH.com, and for more on Leaman check out Union Athletics.com.

Let's just hope major programs around the country don't realize how great Leaman is and try to pry him away from Union. I'm still waiting for an extension to be signed soon.