Monday, August 30, 2010

College Hockey Video of the Week (8/30/10): Niagara freshman takes a big hit against UAH

Really nothing much to say here. Just a big, clean hit. The young Niagara defenseman makes a nice dangle, but then gets caught with his head down. This is not be the biggest hit I've ever seen, but the result is obviously pretty big. I'm sure Danny Weiss will think again before skating like that through center ice again.
But, he should be thankful that the person who met him at center ice was not Mike Wakita.

If you cannot see the video click here, or for a higher quality video go to Save UAH

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Getting to know Union legend Steve Baker

Baker won 20 games with the Rangers
Steve Baker is probably the most famous in the history of Union College hockey. Why? Because he is the first player from Union to make it to the NHL where he played for the New York Rangers from 1979 to 1983. He is also the only Union alumni to have more than "a cup of coffee" in the pros. The others are Mario Giallonardo '76 (23 games with Colorado Rockies 1979-1981) and Duane Joyce '85 (three games with Dallas Stars.

Baker is also important in Union hockey history because he was the goalie during the Ned Harkness fiasco when he was forced to resign. Baker, along with his teammate, refused to play when Harkness was forced out. Union's JV team had to finish out the varsity team's schedule.

Recently, Mark Malinowski of the The Hockey News interviewed Baker. While he does not mention his time at Union, it's still a pretty interesting story. You can read it here.

We need this guy!

Remember about two weeks ago when I wrote UHB's Manifesto, and said how Union needs a pep band and a great student section? I've given this some more thought and realized that we need one person to take control of the student section and the crowd in general (sorry, but it's not going to be me). This person has to be (or become) a Union superfan and bring a lot of energy. It would also be convenient if this person was a part of the pep band as well.

This is what this video shows. It features North Dakota's superfan and pep band drum section leader, Dominic Marks (who I think just recently graduated). This guy obviously gets the crowd energized and excited just by playing a cowbell.

So how can we make this a reality?

Step 1: Find student, preferably in the pep band and with a mini fro.
Step 2: Get cowbell.
Step 3: Play the cowbell very loud and act crazy.

Simple right? Do we have any volunteers?! Or we can just hire this guy... maybe the Garnet Blades can help? (haha)

If you can't see the video click here. (By the way this is not the CH Video of the Week).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pirri officially leaves RPI

When Jerry D'Amigo (right) announced he was leaving RPI for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I said this was "great news for Union fans." Now that fellow freshman stud Brandon Pirri (left) is following in his footsteps as he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday, I am proclaiming that this is "AMAZING news for Union fans." I wonder what With Out A Peer will have to say about that (haha). I will say the same thing I said about D'Amigo: congrats and I hope you do well, but this is really going to hurt RPI in the wins column. Yes, maybe RPI will attract some bigger recruits, but at the end of the day it's about wins and winning championships... Just ask Rex Ryan.

Here's what RPI Head Coach Seth Appert had to say to Ken Schott:

"'At the end of the day, you win with your seniors,' Appert said. 'That's what college hockey is all about. It's about you senior class. I'm excited about the seniors that we have. We have eight coming back, and I like them for different reasons. I know from experience that the teams I've played on and coached that have won at their highest levels, won with seniors and not with talented, young players.'"

Well, if this is true, it doesn't look like RPI will be winning too much because after Chase Polacek there really isn't that many impact seniors. You have Bryan Brutlag and Tyler Helfrich on offense, who both need to step up dramatically to try and fill the holes D'Amigo and Pirri left. On defense you have Jeff Foss and captain John Kennedy, who will have to not only be rock solid on defense but help on the offensive end as well. Maybe the incoming freshman can help out on both sides of the puck. RPI will have to depend on their defense with Kennedy and Foss leading the way, and incoming freshmen Patrick Koudys and Guy Leboeuf logging some major minutes. But, once again, I am not impressed with goaltender Allen York.

I agree with Appert that you win with your seniors. Just look at Union last season. They had the best season and program history and were led by seniors Mario Valery-Trabucco and Jason Walters. You can also say the same about Cornell, who were lead by Blake Gallagher, Colin Greening, and Ben Scrivens. The mix of great veterans with some talented younger players is the key for success (see Maine Hockey 1993, Paul Kariya, Ferraro Brothers, and Jim Montgomery). But, in order to do this you need to keep some good players for four years. Maybe if RPI is lucky one of their freshmen will step up with Polacek and go on a run. But, when the Class of 2013 becomes seniors it will be a pretty weak group of guys (Marty O'Grady is promising though). And if you win with your seniors there's not going to be a lot of winning in Troy during the 2012-13 season.

For more on Pirri check out Ken Schott's Blog, NBC, and M

This also brings up the thought of Union players leaving school early to join the NHL ranks. Now that Union is on the rise, they will be getting better recruits. The one name that comes to mind is Keith Kinkaid, who was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team last season. If he has a big season this year, there is that possibility that he leaves Union. Keith has participated in many NHL Prospect Camps and NHL teams have some interest in him. This would be a major loss for the Dutchmen if this were to happen, but luckily Colin Stevens is on his way next year. The difference between Kinkaid and the RPI studs is that Kinkaid was not drafted by an NHL team. But, we'll cross that bridge when it comes around.

Read this article from the Satchem Patch (Long Island) about Kinkaid and the possibility of him going to the NHL.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview with Union's new Assistant SID Jeffrey Weinstein

With the departure of Kevin Zalaznik to the Albany Devils there was an opening for the Assistant Sports Information Director at Union. This position is one of the most important positions in the athletic department as this person handles the media and public relations for the biggest team at Union: the men's ice hockey team. Last week it was rumored that the position was filled by Jeffrey Weinstein. This was confirmed first by Ken Schott and then later by Jeffrey himself.

Jeffrey is the third Assistant SID that I have dealt with (Hilary Haynes and Zalaznik) and each has been a good experience. I bet working with Jeffrey will be equally as enjoyable.

So, let's get this thing underway and get to know Jeffrey...

DG: Where are you from and where did you go to high school?
JW: I grew up in Briarcliff Manor, New York and attended Briarcliff High School, home the Bears. Our claim to fame, at least while I was there, was an appearance in the 2002 Class C football championship game at the Carrier Dome. Onondaga's Mike Hart ran for over 300 yards against us and we lost....big.

DG: Did you play sports growing up and/or in high school?
JW: I played for my high school soccer team, and ran track as well. I also played a lot of baseball and floor hockey. During my senior year of high school, I played in a local roller hockey league. A lot of checking and bravado, but little goal-scoring.

DG: Where did you go to college for undergrad?
JW: I attended Boston College.

DG: What was the best part about going BC?
JW: Wow, tough to pick one aspect. But I guess I'd have to say the best part was the combination of receiving a great education while having a big-time athletic program as a major social outlet. I was lucky enough to attend BC during a period of great athletic success, culminating in the 2008 National Championship for Jerry York and the BC hockey team.

DG: Did you go to a lot of BC hockey games? Did you have a favorite player?
JW: Yes, I attended a number of games every year as a fan, and covered more as a writer for the student newspaper. My favorite player was Nathan Gerbe. He's 5'6" with a ton of skill, but also played with an edge, kind of like my favorite player growing up, Theo Fleury.

DG: What did you do at BC?
JW: I was a communications major at BC. My main extracurricular was writing for the student newspaper, The Heights. I was a sports editor there during my sophomore, junior, and senior years.

DG: Where did you go for post-grad?
JW: I attended Georgetown University, where I completed a masters degree in Sports Industry Management.

DG: Tell us about the SIM program at Georgetown. Where did you intern as a part of the program?
JW: The SIM program at Georgetown is just two years old. Most students intern for course credit during the day, and take classes at night, completing the degree in one calender year. The program is well connected with sports executives in the DC area, and we had ample opportunity to meet many of them. The highlight was having Mark Cuban speak to our class during halftime of a preseason Wizards game. An interesting guy, who had some insights on the next breakthrough in the sports industry, concerning sports medicine. My internship was with the Washington Capitals, where I was a media relations assistant.

DG: Have you ever been to Schenectady before?
JW: Yes, I have.

DG: What have you heard about Union and Schenectady prior to getting on campus?
JW: My dad graduated from Union in 1976, and has great memories from his college days, including the start of the Ned Harkness Era. He brought me and my older brother up to Union a number of times when we were younger.

DG: What do you like to do in your free time?
JW: I'm a runner - I ran the Boston Marathon in 2008, and have been trying to work my back into the same shape I was in back then. I love playing golf as much as I can during the spring and summer. I'm reading Playing For Keeps, a great book by David Halberstam about Michael Jordan.

DG: What is your favorite sports team and who is your favorite athlete?
JW: My favorite team is the New York Mets, and my favorite athlete is Jose Reyes.

DG: What are you most looking forward to with your job?
JW: I'm looking forward to meeting the many coaches and student-athletes I'll be working with at Union. I've already met Coach Leaman, and I'm really excited for the beginning of hockey season.

DG: So, you’re a Mets and Jets fan (same here). Are you more excited for the baseball season to end or the football season to begin?
JW: Bring on the football season! I worry about the hype, but love Rex Ryan's attitude. He's a quote machine.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pre-Season ECAC Picks (UPDATED)

Yesterday, The College Hockey Blog posted an ECAC preview with picks for the All-Conference team. Just two days prior to that I sent in my picks to the ECAC Hockey Writers and Broadcasters Association where I picked the All-Conference team and the pre-season rankings for all 12 teams. In some aspects I agree with TCHB and in others I don't.


Here are my picks:

1. Yale --> 2009-10 Regular Season champs; Bring back Little, O'Neill, and Kearney; one of their junior goaltenders will step up

2. Cornell --> It will be the same old Big Red team: defense and special teams; freshman goaltender Andy Iles has had good reviews

3. Dartmouth --> Will be surprise team of 2010-11; had strong end of last season; look for Fleming and Estoclet to have big seasons

4. Union --> Lose a lot of offense in 'Super' Mario and Wally, but bring back very strong defensive corps and good forwards that went to the ECAC Final Four; return six players who had at least 18 points last season and three players who had at least 10 goals in 2009-2010

5. Colgate --> Even though the lose David McIntyre to graduation offesne should not be a problem since they still return Austin Smith (16-25-41), Brian Day (21-15-36), Francois Brisebois (15-10-25), and Robbie Bourdon (8-15-23); but I'm still not too impressed by the Raiders

6. Brown --> Shocked the ECAC by making the ECAC Final Four last season and should build off that success; play a tough brand of hockey which was seen in the first round of the playoffs against RPI

7. RPI --> Losing D'Amigo really hurt but at least they still have Pirri... oh wait, he's gone to; Polacek is basically all by himself to carry the offense as the #2 returning scorer is Alex Angers-Goulet (5-13-18) and no returning player had more than nine goals last season; but I believe in Coach Appert enough where I think they'll get a first round home playoff series and win it

8. Princeton --> Lose Bartlett and Magnowski on offense; goaltending is a question mark; but bring back some promising forwards and are traditionally a strong team

9. St. Lawrence --> Lose their top two scorers in McKenzie and Vermeulen; who ever ends up in between the pipes will have very little experience

10. Quinnipiac --> Lose top four scorers; defense is always a weakness and I've never liked their brand of hockey

11. Harvard --> Had the lowest goals per game average of any ECAC team and are losing top scorer Louis Leblanc to the Montreal Canadiens; but Ted Donato will keep them out of the basement

12. Clarkson --> Last season was miserable; lose top scorer Matt Beca; I think their goaltender Paul Karpowich is brutal (as seen when he came to Messa Rink last season)

F Broc Little, Yale
F Adam Estoclet, Dartmouth
F Brian Day, Colgate
D Nick D'Agostino, Cornell
D George Hughes, St. Lawrence
G Keith Kinkaid, Union

Other players to keep an eye on: F Denny Kearney (Yale), F Brian O'Neill (Yale), F Chase Polacek (RPI), G Allen York (RPI), D Greg Coburn (Union), F Adam Presizniuk (Union), F Scott Fleming (Dartmouth), D Evan Stephens (Dartmouth), F Austin Smith (Colgate), G Dan Clarke (Quinnipiac), D Mark Borowiecki (Clarkson), F Brandon DiFazio (Clarkson), G Andy Iles (Cornell), D Mike Devin (Cornell), F Joe Devin (Cornell), F Jack Mclellan (Brown), F Michael Biega (Harvard), F Scott Zurvenski (Quinnipiac), D Taylor Fedun (Princeton), F Aaron Bogosian (St. Lawrence), D Pete Child (St. Lawrence)

So, here are the changes I've made:

- Colgate and RPI flipped positions. Colgate moves up to 5th, while RPI slides down to 7th. Colgate has a good offense, but will need to play good two-way hockey to get into the top 4. RPI's offense will rely heavily on Polacek, but he will definitely be marked by the opposition's best defender. The game plan will definitely be to hit him hard, and hit him often. Luckily for Polacek, many of the other forwards are seniors (Brutlag, Helfrich, Halpern), and I believe they will pick up some of the slack.

- I dropped Chase Polacek from the All-Conference team and replaced him with Brian Day. Without Pirri or D'Amigo on his side it will be very hard for Polacek to put up numbers like he did last season. But, he is a great player and I predict he will be on the Second Team All-Conference. I also predict that Day will have a huge year. He will be in his senior year, which will provide some motivation. Also, he's surrounded by other very good forwards like Austin Smith and Francois Brisebois. A line of Smith-Day-Brisebois could be the best in the ECAC. It wouldn't surprise me though if Smith had a huge year and made First Team All-Conference.

College Hockey Video of the Week (8/23/10): Holy Cross shocks Minnesota

In 2006 the college hockey world witnessed the greatest upset in the history of the sport.

This historical event took place at the University of North Dakota's palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena in the 2006 NCAA Western Regional. Minnesota was the top seeded team of the region, and went into the game as the #3 team in the country. Their opponent was Holy Cross of the new Atlantic Hockey Association, a league that was (and still is) an after thought in college hockey.

Most people expected the Golden Gophers to skate all over the Crusaders... except my little brother Adam who was 10 years old at the time. Every year before the NCAA tournament everyone in my family fills out a bracket, just like most people do for the NCAA Basketball tournament. You saw this game between the Gophers and Crusaders and it was incredibly easy to pick the top seeded team. Minnesota was historically a national powerhouse, had many future NHLers on their roster, won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003, and Holy Cross was from a weak league, never won an NCAA tournament game, and didn't have the recruiting or money power that Minnesota had. When I saw that he picked Holy Cross to defeat Minnesota I told him he was nuts and that there was no way that would happen. Well, I looked pretty dumb when Holy Cross shocked Minnesota 4-3 in overtime.

When HC's Tyler McGregor put the puck past Gopher goalie Kellen Briggs just 53 seconds into overtime the college hockey world went into pandemonium. This is pretty obvious from listening to the reaction of the announcers in this video, which is the best part about this video. The shock and emotion is what made this moment so great.

Maybe this is how Matt Dubrey and Brian Unger will react when Union beats a national powerhouse in the NCAA tournament.

For more about this amazing game check out Go Holy and USA

If you can't see the video click here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What we need at Messa Rink: UHB's Manifesto

This past year I attended my ninth Frozen Four. Since my first time attending the tournament (2000 in Providence) I've said that Frozen Four weekend is my favorite time of the year... even more than my birthday, the winter holidays, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Every time the weekend ends I'm pretty depressed that I have to wait a whole year to go back.

But, why do I love this tournament so much? First off, it's one of the very few (if not the only) traditions my family has, and I love having a guys weekend every year with my Dad and younger brothers. But, there has to be something more than that right? I mean I never had a rooting interest (Union and Army have never even made it to the NCAA tourney), and the tournament is placed in some pretty lackluster cities some years (like this year in Detroit). So, after some pondering I figured out why I'm so enchanted by this tournament. And the answer I came up with: the excitement and energy the fans bring.

College hockey fans are some of the most passionate fans in all of sports, even though it's a very small community. They travel to far away cities, own every piece of apparel their team offers, and partake in organized chants. It's so amazing going to the Frozen Four and watching the fan sections of each team (I did that a lot this year since every game was a blowout by the time the second period came around). Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a team jersey or shirt, and every team has their own organized chants for every situation. They even coordinate with their pep band. On Frozen Four Thursday (which is basically my Christmas) this year, I sat in the Wisconsin section for the first game and in the RIT section for the second game. I was so impressed with each group and their passion for their team, even though they were so different. Wisconsin had an older, more organized fan base, while RIT had a younger and funnier group of fans. Both sections were decked out in their respective colors.

I guess the main reason why I've been so amused by this over the past decade is because the college hockey teams I watch don't have fans like this. Army games are usually filled with cub scouts and not many cadets show up unless it's a rivalry game. I always thought it would be amazing if the cadets showed up, and acted like they do at football games. At Union we have decent amount of loyal fans, but that's about it. There really isn't any electricity in the rink for most games (besides RPI and playoff games). At big time college hockey arenas like North Dakota, Boston University, and Cornell every game game feels like a playoff game. Our team has improved over the past few season, and we as a fan base (especially the student body) need to improve as well. A few times this season we have seen how great our crowd can be.
Union Hockey is on the rise and we have Coach Leaman, his staff, the athletic department, and the players to thank for that. Now it's our turn to return the favor. If our team is going to play like a nationally ranked team then the fans need to act like a nationally ranked fan base.

As a reporter I can only do as much as I can to do this (since during games I'm usually sitting in the press box), so this endeavor is up to the students and the rest of the fans. Is this a challenge? I guess so. I know the Union faithful can do it though. We have passionate fans and a smart student body, and with a little bit of organization can become one of the best fan bases on the east coast.

So, with that said here these are my ideas on how to make the experience at Messa Rink a fun and exciting one every single game.

Pep Band: Yeah, we kind of have a pep band. They show up once in awhile wearing old Union Hockey jerseys (which is pretty cool), but they are pretty lackluster and inexperienced. The point of a pep band is to be really loud, play fun music, and get the fans involved with singing or organized hand motions or something. They need to watch some tape of big time hockey pep bands. Some of my favorites include Maine, RIT, Michigan, Boston University, Michigan Tech, and Cornell. The tough part will be coming up with original ideas. Playing "Eye of the Tiger" and "We are the Champions" just isn't going to cut it. I really don't have any suggestions for song selection since all the musical talent in my family went to my brother Mike who is heading to The George Washington University on a music scholarship this fall. But, we have plenty of creative people on campus that can think of some stuff. I know Union is a small school so we might not have that many musicians on campus, and there could be a lack in funding (but what type of funding do they need if they're not going to travel and own their own instruments?). With some publicizing around campus and hard work this could easily become a reality.

Better Student Section: There are very few hardcore fans that are students at Union, and with Will Freidman leaving who will take over for him? We need the students to show up every game... and on time! Coach Leaman has told me many times about how much his team loves playing in front of their peers and needs their support. Just look at this video for proof. I'm really not sure why not that many students show up. I mean the games last from 7ish to a little after 9, and parties on campus don't really start until 9ish depending on who you are. Will Freidman and I have done our best to promote the games, but we really haven't received the response we've been looking for. This is why I have expanded the blog to Facebook and Twitter. We have an exciting team, but our fans need to be excited about them. So how do we get them excited? Giveaways and free food? I'm not really sure. But, we're going to need a ringleader. The students just need to take some initiative.
Chants, Cheers, and Songs: This ties in the pep band and the student section. We have our generic chants like "Hey goalie your Mom called...," "Let's Go Union," and so on. While these are fine, we need cheers that are specific to our school and team. While I'm not the most creative person in the world I have thought of some ideas:
  • At the end of games we should play "Ode to Old Union," our Alma Mater. Yeah, the song is ancient and I've never heard of some of those words in the song, but it's our song. Every Union student and alum should put their arms around each other at the end of every game, win or lose, and sing this song. Maybe the players will catch on and do it along with the fans.

  • During games and/or towards the end of games that we're winning we should play "Union's Game," and the "Union Marching Song." To be honest, I had no idea that we had these songs and never heard of them. Once again, these are ancient but they are our songs. With these songs, along with the Alma Mater, we would definitely have to get the pep band involved.

  • We have to do a sieve chant! Every fan base has one. We can start off with the basic chant, and then get a little more creative like Cornell does (see the Cornell video link).
Team Apparel: What I mean by this is that the entire student section and the fans should be wearing garnet. If you look at all the other good crowds they wear shirts with their school color. Everyone at Wisconsin wears Red, everyone at RIT wears orange, and so on. How can this be done? My first idea comes from Quinnipiac. At QU every freshman receives a yellow t-shirt with the Bobcat logo on the front, and their class year on the back. They are very simple and every student can wear these to any sporting event for four years. At Union orientation they gave us garnet shirts with the Alma Mater written on the back, and upside down on the front (so you can sing the song at the president's house... it's a Union tradition). These shirts are used only once and I rarely see anyone wear them at all (I don't even know if they still do this). What the school needs to do is do what QU does. Give every freshman a garnet shirt with a big "U" on the front and maybe something on the back. Union has improved on this front with the "7th Player Shirts", but not everyone has them. I guess some students are unwilling to pay the $15 or just don't realize that they're out there. So, giving shirts to the students for free might work better. I know jerseys are expensive so I'm not going to tell people to go buy one... but maybe they can start making one's with no names on the back at a reduced price?

We also need rivalry shirts for games against RPI. I have taken on this project myself, along with Justin Zolot, who is a very devoted Union Hockey fan. We're still in the midst of coming up with designs, costs, etc., but expect to hear about them in the very near future.

I guess you can call this my manifesto or whatever. Union fans can take it or leave it (but I hope you take it). We need Union fans to come out the shadows and take some initiative. I'm trying my best to keep everyone up to date on Union Hockey news, publicize games, and other stuff, but I can't do this on my own. I don't know who heads up the pep band or Union Hockey's 7th Player, so if you have information on this just leave a comment here or on the Facebook or Twitter page.

If the student body, Union Hockey's 7th Player, the Garnet Blades, the administration, and myself do our parts, we can make Messa Rink and Union College hockey one of the most exciting places and teams in all of college hockey.

Please leave comments about your ideas, suggestions, or whatever here or on the Facebook page.

Monday, August 16, 2010

College Hockey Video of the Week (8/16/10): BC's Nathan Gerbe's sick penalty shot goal vs. Providence

I have seen a lot of college hockey players over the past 15 years including many Hobey Baker winners and NHL stars. But, none of those guys were as good as Nathan Gerbe... or at least when I saw him in the 2008 Frozen Four.

Gerbe was so dominant that he basically single-handedly won Boston College the national championship. In the semifinals , Gerbe scored a hat trick and added an assist in a 6-1 route of North Dakota, and in the championship game against Notre Dame (in their first national championship appearance) he tallied two goals and two assists in the 4-1 win. So, if you do the math Gerbe had his hand in 8 of BC's 10 goals in the biggest games of the year. For his outstanding efforts, Gerbe was named the Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player. The only bad thing that came out of the weekend for Gerbe was that he was not named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award. Michigan's Kevin Porter received that honor, even though Gerbe had two goals and three assists more than Porter in the same amount of games that season.

The 2007-2008 season was Gerbe's last season with the Eagles (35 goals, 33 assists), but his three year tenure there was a great one. In three seasons he tallied 71 goals, 62 assists, and 133 points in 123 games. But, the great thing about all of this was that Gerbe did this while being one of the smallest (if not the smallest) players in all of college hockey, standing at a mere 5' 5" and weighing 165 pounds.

Gerbe went on to play for the Portland Pirates (affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres who picked him with the 142nd pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft) the following season where he scored 30 goals and had 26 assists in 57 games, and was awarded the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award for the AHL's Rookie of the Year. In 20 games with the Sabres over the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, Gerbe amassed two goals and four assists, and in two playoff games in the 2009-2010 season he scored a goal and an assist, once again showing he is a big game player.

But, Nate the Great's best season came in that magical 2007-2008 season. He was a national champion, Frozen Four MVP, Hobey Baker finalist, First Team Hockey East, Hockey East playoff MVP, Dodge Holiday Classic MVP, the Hockey Commissioners December National Player of the Month, and scored the most goals in the nation, including this penalty shot goal against Providence in the second round of the Hockey East Championships on March 15, 2008. I've tried this move about 100 times in practice but it never works for me... Gerbe just makes it look so smooth and easy.

If you can't see the video click here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Interview with Union Goalie Coach Jason Tapp

After going on a small hiatus from the weekly interview I am back with a very cool interview. This week's interview is with Jason Tapp, who is the Union goalie coach and the newest member of the Union coaching staff. Last season was Tapp's first season in Schenectady.

Prior to the interview I knew Tapp would be an interesting guy considering his college and pro experiences. He played at Boston University under college hockey legend Jack Parker. Also while with the Terriers he shared time in between the pipes with current New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who signed an infamous 15 year, $67.5 million deal a few years ago. Being an Islanders fan (yes we're out there) let's just say DiPi isn't my favorite player... I'm more of a Wade Dubielewicz kind of guy haha. Tapp was also able to play minor pro hockey for a few years where he put up some good stats.

But, what I did not know about Tapp prior to the interview was that he is a bad a$$. First off, Tapp has his own Wikipedia page which is pretty damn cool if you ask me. Secondly, when reading his page there is a section called "fights." I instantly went to that part of the page where it said Tapp has been in three hockey fights in his pro career. While I'm not a fan of goons in hockey, watching goalies go at it might be one of the most fun and exciting events to be seen in a hockey game. I remember going to my first Rangers-Islanders game in 1998 where Rangers goaltender Dan Cloutier beat the crap out of Islanders goaltender Tommy Salo, and being so excited and pumped up. I will never forget that game. All hockey goalies are a little "nuts" to begin with, but one's that are willing to throw down the gloves more than once can be boarder line crazy... which is awesome. But, that's not all. The best thing on Tapp's Wikipedia page is the line that says "Jason Tapp is known for his calling on goalies from opposing teams with a 'chicken dance' before he fights them. He pulls this often, but rarely gets a response." Now this is down right awesome! I might have to do a follow up interview with Tapp about his fight career and this supposed "chicken dance." So, I checked out YouTube to see if there were any clips of his fights and there were... Let me tell you Tapper LOVES to scrap! You have to love some of the comments about Tapp from the videos. My favorite probably is , "Hockey would be better with more crazy goalies like Tapp."

Even though Tapp's playing career is over hockey is still his life. He recently opened up X-Factor Goaltending and was named the Head Coach of the Christian Brothers Academy hockey team. Union had one of the best goaltending tandems in all of college hockey and you have to believe Tapp played a big role in that success.
Oh, and if you love Tapp you might want to buy an autographed jersey from his days with the Quad City Mallards.

DG: Where are you from and where did you go to high school?
JT: I am from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. I graduated from Merritt Secondary School in 1997 where I was playing Junior hockey at the time.

DG: When did you start playing hockey?
JT: I started skating at age four and played on my first team at age five.

DG: What was it like playing for Boston University and Head Coach Jack Parker?
JT: Playing at BU was a tremendous experience. Although I didn't play anywhere near my potential, I still valued and enjoyed my four years in Boston. Jack Parker is a legend in college hockey. I incorporate many of the things that I learned from Coach Parker and at BU in my own coaching and teaching now.

DG: Tell us about your pro hockey career.
JT: I played seven years of minor pro hockey in various leagues in both the US and Europe. I played the game I love and met many lifelong friends. Those seven years were my most enjoyable years playing the game.

DG: Who is the best hockey player you've ever played with?
JT: To answer this question, I would have to go back to my BU days. Ryan Whitney (currently of the Edmonton Oilers and member of the 2010 USA Olympic team) was young and had enormous potential. You knew he was going to be in the NHL. As for goalies, I would say Michel Laroque (three games with the Chicago Blackhawks). He was my goal partner my freshman year and had a major hand in every game we won that year.

DG: What goaltender do you look up to?
JT: As a kid growing up in BC, Kirk McLean of the Vancouver Canucks was my favorite. Currently I enjoy watching Ryan Miller play. He always seems to make the game look very simple.

DG: What is you favorite moment as a hockey player?
JT: My favorite moment as a hockey player is when I recorded a shutout against my brother when we played Junior 'A' hockey against one another.

DG: How did you become a volunteer assistant coach at Union?
JT: I was working with Tim Gerrish, Sr. last summer and we were talking about coaching opportunities in the area. He mentioned that Union was looking for a volunteer assistant. I contacted Nate (Head Coach Nate Leaman) and interviewed for the position.

DG: What do you do as volunteer assistant/ goalie coach?
JT: As for the goalie aspect, I design goalie practices and work with our goaltenders. I watch video of games as well as recruiting videos. I am usually up in the box above center ice during games. From this spot, I have a different vantage point to see what is working and isn't working and I relay this information to the coaches during intermission. I also participate in practices.

DG: Tell us about Keith Kinkaid and Corey Milan. What is your relationship like with them?
JT: Corey and Keith are both talented goalies. They have strong work ethics. I believe the healthy competition between the two of them forces them to be better goalies. I would feel comfortable with either one of them in net. They both can win us hockey games. I think I have a good relationship with both of them. I try to pass along some of my experiences in some of the things I dealt with to help them better handle the situation and reach their fullest potential.

DG: What is X-Factor Goaltending?
JT: X-Factor Goaltending is my goaltending training company I started a year ago in the Capital District. I work with many goalies in the area from mites to goalies playing in men's league. I work with several different teams. I also run clinics, camps, and private lessons.

DG: What do you like to do in your spare time?
JT: My spare time is limited, but when I do get a day to myself I enjoy golfing or taking my chocolate lab Tucker for a walk in the woods.
DG: If you were going to create a helmet for a Union goaltender what would it look like?
JT: A goalie's helmet is a way for them to express their personality. I wouldn't even want to begin to design a helmet for another goalie.
DG: What are your pads of choice?
JT: When I played I was always an ITech goalie. I believe they have recently been bought out by Bauer.
DG: What do you have to say about Colin Stevens? It has been reported that he will be coming to Union in 2012.
JT: I work with Colin a lot. I think Colin has a very high ceiling, he has a great attitude and work ethic. If he continues to put forth the effort he has shown I believe he will be an outstanding college goaltender and have an opportunity to play after.

For more on Tapp check out Union

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sicinski signs with EV Regensburg

Former Union forward John Sicinski '97 has signed with EV Regensburg in Germany.

Since graduating from Union, Sicinski has been a very productive player in Germany. In 504 games in Germany he has scored 306 goals and 475 assists for 781 points. His peak came in the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons where he scored 50 goals and 59 assists with Miesbach TEV and 49 goals and 60 assists with Starubing EHC, respectively. But, his best season came two years ago when he registered 29 goals and 81 assists in 56 games with the Deggendorf Fire.

While in Schenectady, Sicinski tallied 40 goals and 37 assists in 113 games.

For more go to ECAC

UHB's response to Without A Peer

First off I want to say that Without A Peer is an awesome blog, and that I've learned a lot about blogging and important widgets just from viewing the blog. Also, thanks for the link on your page! I just think it's cool that anybody reads the blog and cares a little about what a mere college student thinks.

So, since Union and RPI have rivalry why can't UHB and WAP have a friendly rivalry? Super fans of rival teams are going to disagree on a lot of things, which is what we have today.
Yesterday it was announced that RPI stud Jerry D'Amigo will be signing a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs and leaving Troy just after one season. On the UHB Twitter page I proclaimed this move as "great news for Union fans." Today, WAP responded to this remark saying:

"Our friends at Union Hockey Blog are somehow spinning a D'Amigo departure as a win for Union, a touch confusing because the Dutchmen only play RPI three times
a season, but the heated rivalry aspect might be playing a role in the more perverse joy in Schenectady. But honestly, worrying about players who may or may not leave early is a good problem for a team to have. Riley Nash and
Louis Leblanc being gone from Cornell and Harvard may make it easier to play those two teams, but I wouldn't necessarily describe those events as "good news"
for RPI fans. Their signings represent recruitment victories for both programs. Their departure, along with D'Amigo's if it happens, does make the ECAC as a conference worse for the wear. But such is the reality in the current professional hockey atmosphere with the current collective bargaining agreement..."
Well, obviously I don't agree with everything said here.

First, WAP says "the Dutchmen only play RPI three times a season." In college hockey playing the same team only three times in a season is a lot. The only other team RPI plays three times this season is Alabama-Huntsville, who is the only independent team left in Division I. The only team Union plays more than twice is RPI. The Union-RPI games have become some of the most important games of the season because of how good both teams have been lately and for rivalry purposes.

Last season the Dutchmen and Engineers faced-off four times and all of the games were nail-bitters. Two of the games went to overtime, one was another one-goal game, and the final match-up was a 3-1 Union victory with the final goal being an empty netter with one minute left in regulation. All four of the games could have gone either way. If RPI won one or both of the games that counted in the ECAC standings who knows what would've happened, but maybe RPI wouldn't have had to face Brown in the first round where they got upset and Union wouldn't have received a first round bye. The teams are so neck-and-neck that every game matters more than usual. Yes, rivalry is playing a big role but this is our version of Yankees-Red Sox. No matter what place one team is in or if the game doesn't count towards the standings, both teams want to beat each other all the time.

Also, the three games this season are played early in the season with the Halloween Faceoff taking place on October 30th and the ECAC games being played just two weeks later. The winner of these games will carry a ton of momentum into the ECAC regular season schedule. I know that winning the RPI Tournament in Troy last November was a huge confidence booster for the Dutchmen as they beat the Engineers without some of their top players and went on to go unbeaten in nine of their next ten games including a comeback victory over RPI in Troy.

Second, I along with the rest of the ECAC community are very proud of players like D'Amigo, Nash, and Leblanc. Everyone hopes they go on to have huge NHL careers and represents the ECAC well. I hope some day a Union player can go on to sign a contract with an NHL team and have a solid NHL career. I do agree that having one of your players go to the NHL is a good thing for recruitment purposes, but it does not bode well for your current team. Yes, you might be able to recruit some better players in the future, but the odds of getting a freshman that will help you win championships (that's the point of playing right?) is very, very slim. The only example I can think of is Paul Kariya, who scored 100 points as a freshman in 1992-1993 and led the Black Bears to a national championship. Kariya might be the greatest college hockey player of all time. So, on the recruitment standpoint I agree that you might get better recruits but disagree at the same time since your team won't likely win as much.

Also, I'm sure if before last season Union superstars Mario Valery-Trabucco or Jason Walters said they were leaving Union for the NHL that RPI fans would've been jumping for joy since they wouldn't have to play them (and would be excited about the possibility of having an ECAC player in the NHL as well). We have seen over and over again how one player can change a game by themselves, and in a league like the ECAC every game and every point matters. Last season we saw 'Super' Mario lead the comeback against RPI with a hat trick on December 9th in Troy that led to a 5-4 Union win, and witnessed Wally lead a short-handed Union team (linemates Presizniuk and Valery-Trabucco were suspended) past the Engineers in the RPI Tournament as he tallied four points and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. This just proves how big of an impact star players can have on a game, and important one's at that. Without Mario or Wally who knows if Union would've won either of those games. I'm sure guys like Adam Presizniuk, Chase Polacek, and Brandon Pirri will play a major role in all three Union-RPI games and will play a major role in deciding where each team finishes in the standings.

I know RPI fans are very proud of D'Amigo, but deep down inside they are sad to see him go and would've rather seen him wear Cherry and White this season. I mean wouldn't you rather see RPI win an ECAC or National championship than see D'Amigo and the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup? Sure you're going to follow the RPI alumni in the NHL, but you are going to care a bit more about the current group of guys wearing the RPI sweaters. I know there haven't been as many Union alumni in the NHL as RPI alumni, but that's the way I felt when Dan Hinote left Army in the mid-90's (I went to pretty much every Army home game for 10 years). Hinote was a stud for Army his freshman year, but then left to join the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs won the cup shortly after and Hinote was on the team which was pretty cool, but I think I would've much rather seen Army make it to the NCAA tournament. I just feel as a fan you have more of a personal attachment to your team than one of the players, especially in college athletics since the longest a player stays is five years.

It is a fact that not playing Jerry D'Amigo this season is a good thing for Union and for all the other teams RPI plays this season. D'Amigo was already an ECAC superstar in just one season, and was on his way to becoming the best player in the league. And as I said in a previous post the combination of Polacek, Pirri, and D'Amigo would have been one of the most dynamic lines in all of college hockey. When your team doesn't have to play one of the most dangerous players in the game it gives your team a better chance of winning... and that is the point of playing the game.

Bottom line, I am excited that the Dutchmen get to play a Leblanc-less Harvard team, a Nash-less Cornell team, and a D'Amigo-less RPI team because it gives Union a better chance of beating these teams (and I'm sure other teams and their fans are excited too). I just want to see my team win. But, I am very proud of D'Amigo and am excited to see what he can do in the NHL. Even without D'Amigo I think RPI can make a major run for the ECAC title, but it will be tougher without him.

Also, I have a lot of respect for WAP and look forward to more back-and-forth's this season.

Monday, August 9, 2010

RPI's D'Amigo leaving RPI

It looks like the RPI's Jerry D'Amigo, who was last season's ECAC Rookie of the Year, will be leaving Troy to sign a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. D'Amigo follows Cornell's Riley Nash and Harvard's Louis Leblanc as the latest ECAC stars to leave for the NHL.

The Binghamton, New York native was drafted in the sixth round by the Leafs in the 2009 NHL Draft. This past season he averaged slightly less than one point a game for the Engineers (35 GP, 10 G, 24 A, 34 Pts), and played a major role in leading Team USA to a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Bleacher Report ranks D'Amigo as Toronto's #6 prospect, but also say he will not make it to the big club this upcoming season.

D'Amigo's departure is a HUGE blow to RPI and their hopes to making a ECAC Final Four appearance. They are losing their third leading scorer and a major play-maker with lots of jump. I'm sure a line of D'Amigo, Chase Polacek, and Brandon Pirri would have been arguably the best line in the ECAC and one of the best in the country.

In three games against Union, D'Amigo registered three assists. Maybe if Union fans are lucky, Pirri will follow D'Amigo out of RPI.

For more check out Yahoo! Sports.

Also, be sure to check out what RPI Head Coach Seth Appert has to say about D'Amigo and his decision on Ken Schott's Blog.

Halloween Faceoff Tickets On Sale

Tickets for the Halloween Faceoff on October 30th (Saturday) are now on sale. At 4pm the Dutchmen will take on RPI, and at 7pm Clarkson will play against St. Lawrence. Both games will take place at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.

There is a $5 discount if you purchase your tickets before September 30th.

To purchase tickets click here and for more information head to ECAC

If enough people show up this could be a very cool event. I know that it will be exciting for the American born players since they are playing on the same ice that the "Miracle on Ice" took place. I remember playing at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in the Can-Am Championship game as a kid and getting chills (not from the temperature) when stepping on to the ice.

According to MapQuest, the trip from Union to Lake Placid should take around two and a half hours. It's pretty much a straight shot up I-87. Since the game is at 4pm, Union fans have the option of going to the game as a day trip or you can stay the night and enjoy the village of Lake Placid. I haven't heard anything yet about a fan bus, but I will let you know if I do.

College Hockey Video of the Week (8/9/10): Michigan-Michigan State Historic Outdoor Hockey Game

For the second week in a row the College Hockey Video of the Week will feature Michigan and Michigan State. This video contains highlights from the "Cold War" game that took place at Spartan Stadium (Michigan State's outdoor football stadium) in October 2001. The game drew a record-breaking 74,544 fans and was televised world wide. Future NHL stars Ryan Miller, Duncan Keith, and Mike Camalleri took part in the game. The Spartans scored a late third period goal ending the game in a 3-3 tie.

I remember when this game took place that it was a very big deal in the college hockey community and how ground-breaking it was. Since this game there have been more attempts at outdoor hockey games in the NHL (the annual "Winter Classic") and in college hockey. When I heard that Union and RPI were playing in a "special" game this year I was hoping that it would be an outdoor game somewhere in New York (just wishful thinking I guess). But, there have been talks between Union and RPI about an outdoor game.

In December of this year "Cold War II" will take place between the Wolverines and Spartans at "The Big House" in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over 100,000 tickets have been sold for the game, which means the game will break the record for largest crowd for a hockey game. The current record is 77,803 set by the opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany.

If you cannot see the video click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What ever happened to these guys? (Part 2)

Yep, I'm back at it again with "What ever happened to these guys?" This week I'm looking back on Chris Heisenberg's 2006 Recruits List. This list includes all eight seniors that graduated this past year: Mike Schreiber, Rich Sillery, Mike Wakita, Jason Walters, Jason Shaffer, Mario Valery-Trabucco, Jeff Christiansen, and Jon Lareau. But, there are three other names on the list: Dustin DeGagne, Shaun Williams, and Andrew Estey. Unlike the last segment of "What ever happened to these guys?" all three of these guys actually made it to Schenectady. But, none of these guys finished their careers at Union. I heard of DeGagne and Estey through the College Hockey Video Game, but never heard of Williams. So, here are my findings:

Dustin DeGagne (defense): Like many Union players Degagne played his junior hockey for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. After juniors, DeGagne headed to Schenectady to play for Union. But just two games and two penalty minutes into his freshman year DeGagne decided to leave. This occurred around January 12, 2007 according to College Hockey News. After this DeGagne transferred to the College of St. Scholastica in Canada where he played on the hockey team. In 70 games with the Saints he registered four goals and 22 assists, and accumulated 62 penalty minutes and +13 rating. For more on DeGagne check out his player profile on the St. Scholastica website.

Andrew Estey (forward): Unlike DeGagne, Estey finished out his freshman year in Schenectady. Estey played in 28 games but only tallied one assist along with 18 penalty minutes. You can check out Estey's player profile on the 2006-2007 roster on Union After not returning for his sophomore campaign Estey left for St. Thomas University in Canada. Last season in 22 games with the Tommies, Estey scored one goal and had three assists. You can check out his player profile on the St. Thomas website here. You can also take a look at an interview with Estey in December 2005 on Hockeys

Shaun Williams (goalie): Williams played for the Chicago Steel (USHL) one year after T.J. Fox did. He then came to Schenectady, but never played a game. According to College Hockey News, this was due to a history of knee problems that forced him to get knee surgery early in the 2006 season and retire from hockey. I couldn't find anything about Williams after his retirement.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Milnamow re-signs with Idaho

Former Union defenseman Brendan Milnamow '09 will be heading back to potato country for another season as he signed a one-year deal with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL).

Last season with the Steelheads, Milnamow played in all 72 games where he tallied three goals and 25 assists. He played in the ECHL All-Star game and helped lead his team to the Kelly Cup finals. At the end of the season his teammates voted him US Army Ironman of the Year.

In 140 games as a Dutchman the big defenseman from Wilton, CT scored 16 goals and registered 24 assists for 40 points. He also accumulated 196 penalty minutes. Milnamow broke out offensively in his final season in Schenectady as he put up nine goals and nine assists, both were career highs.

For more on Milnamow check out ECAC and Idaho

Monday, August 2, 2010

College Hockey Video of the Week (8/2/10): MSU's Tim Kennedy scores end-to-end goal against Michigan

Last Thursday (July 29), former Michigan State star and current Buffalo Sabres forward Tim Kennedy was awarded a $1 million, one-year contract by an arbitrator. Last year as a rookie Kennedy made $635,000 while tallying 26 points in 78 games with the Sabres. So, in honor of Kennedy's raise UHB's College Hockey Video of the Week this week will feature him. This is a great end-to-end goal against rival Michigan where Kennedy skates from behind his own net, through pretty much every Wolverine on the ice, and then deposits the puck into the back of the net. It's a little surprising that a guy who can skate like this is only making $1 million!

UPDATE: Kennedy has been placed on waivers and will most likely be bought out by the Sabres. Either way this is still a ridiculous goal. I'm sure once NHL teams catch a glimpse of this clip that they'll be jumping all over him! You can thank me later Tim! Click here for more detials.

If you cannot see the video click here.