College hockey notes: Union defensemen put bad season behind them

Union junior defensemen Mike Harr and Brendan Milnamow are quickly making up for sub-par sophomore s
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Union defensemen Mike Harr and Brendan Milnamow would like to forget their sophomore seasons.

After a good freshman year, Harr and Milnamow regressed last season.

Milnamow was having trouble keeping up with speedier forwards. The lasting image of the 2006-07 season was Milnamow sitting in the penalty box serving a high-sticking penalty when Quinnipiac’s Jamie Bates scored a power-play goal at 1:20 of overtime, giving the Bobcats a 5-4 victory and eliminating the Dutchmen from the ECAC Hockey tournament.

Harr’s problem was he wanted to score instead of play defense. Too many times, Harr would pinch in the offensive zone, only to get burned and give the opposition odd-man rushes.

It has been a different story this season. Harr and Milnamow have become Union’s best defensive tandem.

“In the past eight or nine games, we’ve matched them against the opponents’ No. 1 lines,” Union coach Nate Leaman said.

Milnamow has the top plus/minus

rating among Union’s defensemen with a plus-4. Only freshman forward Stephane Boileau’s plus-6 rating is better on the team.

“He had the outstanding freshman year, and he had a down year last year, for whatever reason,” Leaman said. “The big thing with Brendan is it started last spring, with the time he put in the weight room. He’s beefed up a little bit. I think it’s made him a little bit stronger, it’s made him a little bit more explosive and he’s been a rock all year. I can’t think of one game where Brendan hasn’t brought his ‘A’ game, and shown up an been a positive for our team.”

Milnamow, who has a goal and five assists in 19 games, had a

career-high three points (one goal, two assists) in a 4-1 win over Connecticut Jan. 4. He believes the key has been keeping things simple.

“I know in the past couple of years, and maybe sometimes this year, some guys think the game too much, and try too many plays,” Milnamow said. “Just keep it simple and get [the puck] out, and be good defensively. That’s why, maybe, we’re getting some points and helping out our offense as much as our defense.”

Milnamow knew he needed to not only get stronger, but get faster.

“Growing up with hockey and being a big guy, it’s tough to get good speed, fast speed,” Milnamow said. “I’ve been working on that for a while now, especially this past summer and fall. It’s just starting to help me now. I’m able to keep up with other lines’ top forwards. It just takes me to get strong and move my feet.”

Harr has changed his offense-first, defense-second mentality this season. Getting burned too many times last season led to him being a healthy scratch for several games.

This year, Harr has a plus-3 rating, second-best among Union defensemen and third overall. He has a goal and three assists, and has been scratched for only one game.

“You’ve got to figure out your role for the team,” Harr said. “Over the past few years, I’ve learned the best thing is being a defensive defenseman. Whatever I can do to help the team, I’m going to do it. If it’s not me jumping up, it’s going to be me staying back playing good defense.

“Being a junior and getting a lot of experience under my belt has helped me be a little bit more

patient.”

And staying back has actually helped Harr’s offense. He scored his first collegiate goal in the Dutchmen’s 3-2 overtime win over Nebraska-Omaha Dec. 14. Harr and Milnamow assisted on Chris Potts’ game-winner.

“The big key with Mike is he’s playing with a lot more poise, and he’s thinking the game a lot better,” Leaman said. “That’s just a direct relation to him just growing up a little bit and maturing. He’s learn to keep it simple. He’s not running into areas without thinking. Last year, we needed a leash on him at times.”

RARE SWEEP

Union’s sweep of Colgate and Cornell last weekend was the first for the Dutchmen since Nov. 10-11, 2000, at Messa Rink. The scores in 2000 were 2-0 over Cornell, and 4-2 over Colgate.

It’s just the fourth time that the Dutchmen have swept the Raiders and Big Red on the same weekend. The other two times the Dutchmen pulled off the daily double against Cornell and Colgate were March 4-5, 1994 (7-6 over Colgate, and 5-2 over Cornell) at then-Achillies Rink, and Feb. 27-28, 1998, on the road (6-0

at Colgate, and 1-0 at Cornell).

LOCAL UPDATE

Here’s a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region did over the past week.

u Boston University senior forward Pete MacArthur (Clifton Park) assisted on all of the Ter­riers’ goals in a 3-1 victory over Main last Saturday. He collected an assist in BU’s 3-2 loss to Dartmouth on Tuesday.

u Boston College freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki (Clifton Park) picked up an assist in the Eagles’ 5-2 triumph over Vermont last Friday.

u St. Lawrence sophomore forward Tara Akstull (Clifton Park) had an assist as the Saints downed Dartmouth, 5-2, last Saturday.

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