Saturday, December 31, 2011

Game Time: Union at Colorado College

No. 10/10 Union takes on 6/5 Colorado College tonight at the Colorado Springs World Arena in Colorado Springs. After a tough loss last night to Denver, Union looks to rebound against a very good Colorado College team. The Tigers, a top flight team in the country, dropped their last game 2-1 vs. Air Force. Colorado College has won two NCAA titles in its history, in 1950 and 1957. With 18 points in the competitive WCHA, they trail only Minnesota and reigning NCAA champs Minnesota-Duluth.

Tonight's Lines, via our friends over at Union Hockey's Tumblr. Be sure to bookmark that site--it's probably the best source of fly-on-the-wall coverage of Union hockey on the interwebs.

After coming off of a difficult 3-1 loss last night, the Hatch-Zajac-Simpson line sports a different feel. Last night, Hatch played on the third line with Kyle Bodie and Trevor Mingoia.  The second line is shaken up, however, with Welsh centering Carr and Sullivan. Last night, Jeremy centered Brian Yanovitch and Josh Jooris. Jooris is scratched tonight, Yanny moves to the third line. Kyle Bodie stays on the third line, but Max Novak slides next to him on the wing after playing center on the fourth line last night. Finally, while Cole Ikkala stays in, Mark Bennett takes the place of Mingoia tonight.

On defense, Bodie and Stuart flip sides, while Juice plays on the right with Charlie Vasaturo, who takes the place of Ryan Forgaard. Coach Bennett continues the theme of the flip-flop; Gostisbehere and Coburn trade places on the point.

Players To Watch:

  • Troy Grosenick
    • He's putting up stellar numbers this years, ranking among the top goalies in the nation. After Colin Stevens was between the pipes yesterday, Coach Bennett looks to a rested Grosenick to stonewall a potent Colorado College offense.
  • Rylan Schwartz
    • Named the WCHA player of the week, he boasts impressive numbers this year. Union defenseman need to watch for his playmaking skills on the first line. 
    • From the blog "Eye of the Tigers:" 
      "Schwartz holds the team lead with 23 points, 16 goals, six power-play goals and three game-winners. His 23 points are the 10th-most in the WCHA, his 16 goals are tied for the second-most in the country and his average of 1.07 goals a game leads the nation. Among current CC players, he’s tops with 89 career points, including 32 career goals." 
Tweet of the Night:
Freshman Sam Coatta earns the honors:

Players Not In Attendance Tonight:
  • Jaden Schwartz
    • Jaden Schwartz, the 14th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft by the Blues, would be a force to reckon with, but he is instead captaining the Canadian team in tonight's World Junior Championships--preliminary round. He's an impressive player, so Union should feel  lucky to avoid him. The CBC has a poignant article on him. And oh yeah, his brother happens to be Rylan Schwartz.
Of course, all of us here at UHB wish you a happy and healthy new year.
Jaden Schwartz

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Video: We Stand Together

The masterful Phil Cohn strikes again. The guru of the Union highlight film, Phil sent this video our way:

Be sure to follow Phil on Twitter. He's always coming up with some great material.

Highlights: Union at Merrimack

Highlights from Union's win against #5 Merrimack on December 17th, complete with commentary.

Items of Note:

  • Merrimack's Shawn Bates has no relation to the former NHLer. But if, by some chance this Bates makes it to the bigs, he will forever have a twin in the Hockey Almanac. 
  • I'm a sucker for Blue and Gold jerseys. Merrimack's sweaters are nice, but the yellow could be, uh, a little less Nashville Predator-y.
Finally, a huge tip of the hat to Ryan Fay, who supplied us with these highlights via our Facebook page.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Game On: #12/11 Union vs. #5 Merrimack

The Dutchmen play what may be their most important--or at least most telling--non-conference game of the season so far at 4:00 today. Union, who moved down in the national rankings from #9 last week to #12 (USA Today) / #11 (USCHO), plays #5 Merrimack, which, at 10-2-2, remains among the upper echelon of college hockey teams. Today's game be a litmus test for Union's potential playoff readiness--expect Bennett's crew to be fully aware of the bragging rights at stake today. Merrimack is 19-6-3 lifetime versus Union.

Here are today's lines, courtesy, as always, of our friends over at the Official Blog of Union Hockey:

#9 Daniel Carr - #19 Kelly Zajac (A) - #21 Wayne Simpson
#16 Kevin Sullivan - #27 Jeremy Welsh (A)- #9 Josh Jooris
#15 Matt Hatch - #12 Kyle Bodie - #29 Trevor Mingoia 
#26 Brian Yanovitch - #18 Max Novak - #11 Sam Coatta

#28 Shawn Stuart - #22 Mat Bodie
#3 Ryan Forgaard - #2 Nolan Julseth-White (C)
#14 Shayne Gostisbehere - #20 Greg Coburn

#1 Troy Grosenick
#30 Colin Stevens

Some notable changes from coach Bennett: Kyle Bodie takes Mark Bennett's place as third line center; Brian Yanovitch slides down to the forth line; Cole Ikkala is out in favor of Trevor Mingoia. Otherwise, the top lines of Carr-Zajac-Simpson and Sullivan-Welsh-Jooris remain the same. Defense is almost identical, save for the fact that Coburn and Gostisbehere switch sides on the point.

Union Player to Watch: Max Novak
Novak has proven that he has a nose for the net so far during his freshman campaign. He can provide energy for a very capable fourth line that may have to do some heavy lifting today versus a tough--and deep--Merrimack lineup. Union will need to fire on all cylinders today.

Merrimack Player to Watch: Joe Cannata
Merrimack's potential Hobey Baker goaltender leads Hockey East in GAA and SV%, remaining near the top in national categories. Merrimack must control rebounds and second chances to be successful, considering there is a high likelihood that any initial shot will be stopped.

How to follow:

  • As always, follow Ken Schott and Union Hockey on Twitter.
  • Also, if you want to pony up some dough, you can watch here.
  • Merrimack has game notes here and a live audio stream of the game.
  • The game will also be on Fox College Sports Atlantic, so check your local listings. 
Last, but not least, Daniel Carr tweets:
All we want for Xmas is a  at Merrimack


Monday, December 12, 2011

A Win For The Rest Of Us: Union 5 - RPI 2

Still one of the great tournament names in college sports, Union beat rival RPI at the Festivus Faceoff in Lake Placid, NY, 5-2 on Saturday. #9/10 (USA Today/USCHO rankings, respectively) Union captured the Capital Skates trophy for the eighth consecutive year. (The rivals split the season series last year, meaning that the skates were titled to Union). The Capital Skates trophy is awarded annually to the winner of the RPI/Union season series. With Saturday's win against the Engineers, the Dutchmen once again sent the skates back to Schenectady. Union won its first meeting with RPI 5-1 on November 15th behind the efforts of a Daniel Carr hat trick. 

Also in action up in Lake Placid: St. Lawrence defeated Clarkson 4-1 in the other half of the Festivus Festivities. It is important to note, however, that these games are considered non-conference. Union improves to (8-3-5) overall and (3-2-2) in ECAC play. Coupled with the fact that the two teams played non-conference, Union's win against a relatively weak RPI squad will likely not be enough to significantly change the team's standings in the national polls. 

A fun tidbit purloined from 11 of the past 16 games between these two teams have "been decided by one goal or fewer. Six of those games have gone to overtime with both teams winning twice" and tying twice. 

  • Union's 3-goal flurry in the second period was capped by Junior Wayne Simpson's 7th goal of the season (his 12th point). Simpson's powerplay goal (scored on a 5 on 3) was Union's only such goal in 8 attempts. Although the team's success rate dropped, it still has converted on 23.2% (19/82) of all powerplays this season, good enough to be tied for 9th in the country. Harvard is currently on top of the heap in powerplay goals, having scored on a stunning 32.1% of their opportunities. Although he didn't notch a powerplay goal on Saturday, Jeremy Welsh is currently tied for the second most PPG in the nation with 6 behind North Dakota's Brock Nelson.
  • Union's powerplay, an integral part of the team's historic season last year, seems to be slowly working up to last year's successes. With two powerplay lines capable of scoring (see Simpson, Carr, Welsh, Zajac, Bodie et al.), the team is certainly poised to improve their conversion rate on the man advantage.
  • Head Coach Rick Bennett was quoted by the Times Union: "Our powerplay finally kicked in, which was nice. We stuck with it and didn't get down." 
  • Although not to nitpick: 1 for 8 on the PP could have very easily been 2 or 3 for 8 against a weak RPI squad that fell to (3-13-0) overall. 
  • RPI is only 4/60 this year on the powerplay.
  • Daniel Carr added a goal, as did the aforementioned Jeremy Welsh. Welsh is now second in the ECAC in points. Matt Hatch scored Union's first goal, one that tied the score at 1-1. Simpson's powerplay goal put the team ahead 3-2.
  • Congratulations to Freshman Shayne Gostisbehere, who scored his first collegiate goal.
  • Goaltender Troy Grosenick is ranked fifth in the country in GAA, at a paltry 1.78. Interestingly enough, there are two ECAC goaltenders ranked above him: Andy Iles (Cornell) and Alex Evin (Colgate). Iles may be the most valuable player in the ECAC so far.
  • Union's schedule only gets tougher from here: up next? #5 Merrimack, and their star goaltender, Joe Cannata. 
A note: following college hockey from Buenos Aires, Argentina (where I am currently on a mini-term), is one of the oddest experiences I've ever had. I've tried to explain (in broken Spanish) what it is, but all people can think about here is the warm weather (not to rub it in) and soccer. 


Monday, December 5, 2011

Video: Union Hockey's Class of 2015 performs figure skating dance

Every year at "Skate with the Dutchmen," the freshmen class performs a choreographed figure skating dance. The performance is always entertaining. This year's wasn't that bad considering the guys basically made it up on the spot.

Edit: Thanks to our old pal, Dan Greene for taking the video.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Paradise at (19-17-3)

"It was love at first sight." --Joseph Heller, Catch-22.

This was not the Nassau Coliseum. There were no crumbling façades, obstructed views, or $8 rubberized meat hot dogs. No, my years of training under the tutelage of the New York Islanders had not prepared me for what I was about to see. Yann Danis* wasn't in goal. Instead, here was a kid--certifiably a kid--who seemed to barely make it past the crossbar. His style was reminiscent of an older type of goalie: one whose skills weren't derived from wingspan or immaculate technique. But he played bigger than his 5'10" frame, often frantically moving laterally with his chest puffed out. The Union crest on Corey Milan's jersey seemed somehow bigger than the rest. It never occurred to me that it was a result of his bulky chest protector.

Yann Danis - New York Islanders - Sept 23rd, 2008
Yann Danis: Nice pads, at least.
*Want to know how bad the 2008-2009 Islanders were? Their spectacularly bad campaign netted 1st round pick John Tavares. I still watched religiously, naturally. Oh yeah, Yann Danis? An ECAC product from Brown.

But Corey wasn't my only hero of that 2008-2009 crew. As a wide-eyed Freshman, I learned to look for Matt Cook around the net, wait for the crunch of a Mike Wakita hip check against the boards, scan the ice for the imposing 6'3" Brendan Milnamow. It was soon imparted unto me that #15 was a special player--the man they called Mario was a natural goal scorer. Within a few games, I owned Section Q at Messa Rink. This was my domain, my team. I was closer to the game than I'd ever been at the Coliseum, or at Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard. Hell, I was even closer than that time I'd seen the CHL's Hull Olympiques.

I'd seen Union play the year before at the Yale Whale as a high school senior who's biggest concern was, well, anything but high school. I remember noting that this kid who wore #23 was pretty good. I made a mental note to keep an eye on Lane Caffaro next year, when I'd matriculate in Schenectady. But my gaze was diverted, once again, to the diminutive goalie. I heard whispers circulate through the crowd that he was having an impressive Freshman campaign--one that would ultimately see him named to the all-ECAC rookie team.

2008-2009 Team Roster

But the late fall of 2008 was different. Reeling from (another) disastrous implosion on the part of the Mets, I turned my focus to the ice. The Islanders, for all their woes, were still my team. I had, of course, suffered through worse. But I had inherited a new team; one with handsome garnet, white, and black jerseys. They played with fire, reckless abandon, and aplomb. I relished their propensity to consistently rack up over 40 shots in a game; often, I sympathized with their inability to win, despite so many shots. But something was different about this team--it had a certain intangible quality that was intrinsically different than the previous year's iteration. I felt preternaturally at home at Messa Rink, learning chants from the student section that would, if said in a few years, be subject for immediate ejection from the rink. I was passionate about my team. But I never quite understood why that team--a team that went 19-17-3-0), captured my imagination even more than the vastly improved 2009-2010 bunch or even the 2010-2011Cleary Cup team.

It would be four years (almost) until I figured why.

With the news that Union would face off against Harvard at Fenway Park on January 13th, it is quite possible that the stock of Union's men's hockey program has never been higher. Sure, they've played nationally televised games. Sure, they've been on ESPN. Sure, they've hoisted banners commemorating a first-ever NCAA appearance. Sure, our Twitter background may forever be Brock Matheson hoisting the Cleary Cup. But Fenway represents something far less tangible, and by association, more meaningful.

In 2008, the movers and shakers of the ECAC would have likely quickly dismissed the idea that an outdoor game (which didn't yet exist) should feature Union. With prominent programs--Cornell, Yale, Harvard, RPI, Princeton, or Dartmouth--the ECAC can boast a pantheon of instantly recognizable colleges, which, by the way, happen to be historically good at hockey. For the savvy marketer, a Harvard/Yale outdoor game would be optimal. Slot in Cornell and RPI? Brilliant. Put it in Boston? Entice the locals with a Harvard/Brown contest? Pure hysterics. 

But now, in 2011, soon to be 2012, the (19-17-3) team of my Freshman fall and winter, will play at the veritable Mecca of baseball. (Don't worry, Chicagoans, a similar argument can be made for Wrigley Field, and, before corporate greed innovation took hold, New Yorkers could have claimed Yankee Stadium). In some ways, it is an odd juxtaposition. This is not a traditionally venerated hockey venue--see Cornell and BU's recent matchup at Madison Square Garden. But, as I've learned over the past four years, there is often nothing "traditional" about Union's hockey program. And I'd have it no other way.

Consider this: Union has produced pros and been embroiled in coaching scandals; it began its hockey program in 1903, was program-less for 27 years, has been Independent, Division III and Division I. It is a program that has been, in some way, simultaneously prominent and invisible. 

When the 2008-2009 "Skating Dutchmen," took the ice, I knew Union's hockey history. But I didn't understand it. In 2011-2012, I'd like to say I could predict the direction of the program. But I can't; college hockey--like Union's hockey past--can be too volatile for any accurate projections of trajectory. In 2008, I saw a team that was on the cusp of greatness. But it was also a team that oozed fun. These were kids my age, who could play the game better than anyone I had seen up close. They were, most of all, kids. They were (and some still are) college students, prone to the same anxieties and fears as any other student. In some strange twist of logic, their presence in an elite hockey program was a great equalizer: any façade that had separated the student and the student-athlete was summarily torn down. These kids weren't playing for us, and we weren't watching for them. In fact, there was no "us" and "them" at all. 

Former Union Captain Mike Wakita

Four years later, I finally can quantify my appreciation for that 2008-2009 team. Just like the rest of the Freshman class, they were told that they were underdogs. But they didn't play like it. They were living, breathing, skating vindication of every rags-to-riches story, movie, or anachronism. They were smaller, like their goalie, but consistently played as if Rocky, Rudy, or Hoosiers was set on ice. (Some Mike Wakita hits, however, belonged in Slap Shot). The only thing was, they didn't win anything.

At least, a cynic would argue that they didn't "win" anything. But in 2008, they won over a new class of Freshman. In 2009 they did the same. 2010 repeated the pattern. Now, four iterations of one-time freshmen (and countless other installations of one-time Union Freshman will sit, cheer, and likely be cold at Fenway Park. Each generation, as it were, holds a special attachment to their alma mater. Each one, a different experience. Each one, in their own way, an underdog.

And on January 13th, you can bet that Union fans will be the underdogs once again. (It is more likely, though, that Harvard will be underdogs on the ice). In a sea of Crimson, there will be flecks of Garnet. But that won't matter so much; the Garnet-clad fans will simply be glad to be here--and will be looking forward to what's next.

To buy tickets to the outdoor game, either contact Union's Alumni office at or go to

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