Dutchmen future is bright

Union hockey coach Nate Leaman is proud of what his team accomplished during the ECAC Hockey regular
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Union hockey coach Nate Leaman is proud of what his team accomplished during the ECAC Hockey regular season. He wants his players to remember that.

Leaman also wants the Dutchmen to keep in their minds the pain of another lost opportunity in the postseason.

Union’s season came to a disappointing end on Saturday night when the Dutchmen were swept by Cornell in the ECACH tournament quarterfinals, losing both games by 3-2 scores. Ill-advised third-period penalties by the Dutchmen led to Big Red power-play goals that snapped 2-2 ties in each game.

This was Union’s best chance to reach the ECACH semifinals for the first time. The Dutchmen finished tied for fourth with the Big Red, but won the tiebreaker and its first-ever first-round bye by sweeping the season series. While the Dutchmen had the week off, the Big Red played a grueling first-round series with Dartmouth. Cornell won the series in three games.

But for the 11th time, the Dutchmen failed to win a playoff series. And it may be the most painful of all.

Still, Leaman is happy with the direction the program is heading. The Dutchmen, who were coming off a last-place finish last season and were picked to finish there again this year in the preseason coaches and media polls, had a 15-14-6 record. It is just the third winning record in the program’s 17-year Division I history.

“Most importantly, we took a pretty good turn this season within our program, and within our culture,” said Leaman, who has a

72-88-22 record in five years at Union. “That being said, I think there’s more work to be done. And I think, above all, this stings. It’s supposed to sting. It needs to sting bad for our group. There are a lot of guys hurting inside that locker room because they know they had it in their tank to get this done.

“It needs to sting, because if it doesn’t sting, we won’t get there.”

The players realize what they will miss out on this week at the Times Union Center.

“It’s brutal,” junior defenseman and co-captain Lane Caffaro said. “It stings more this year because we knew we had a team that could have gone to Albany, and we could have done some damage. For it to end like this, it’s a big blow.”

The Dutchmen could be battling for a top-four spot again next season. They had outstanding contributions from several underclassmen, including freshman forwards Adam Presizniuk and Stephane Boileau.

Presizniuk, an ECACH Rookie of the Year candidate, led the team in scoring with seven goals and 18 assists. He is the first freshman to lead Union in scoring since 1993-94, when Chris Ford did it.

Boileau was second with six goals and 15 assists. He was followed by sophomore forward Jason Walters, with five goals and 15 assists.

Corey Milan had a good first year, going 6-8-6 with a 2.53 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and one shutout.

Junior forward and co-captain Matt Cook was the team’s top upperclassmen scorer with 10 goals and nine assists.

The Dutchmen lose five seniors — goalie Justin Mrazek, defenseman Michael Beynon and forwards Sam Bowles, Josh Coyle and Torren Delforte.

“We probably had one of the best freshman classes in the league,” Leaman said. “But more importantly, we have two junior captains that are returning that are very good hockey players.

“That being said, I don’t want to take anything away from what the senior class has done for us. They’ve gotten this program to another level. It was our first recruiting class. It was their job to get us to another level. They did it.”

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