Matt Cook and Chris Potts have been more than just Union College hockey teammates for the last four years.
They played prep hockey together at Tabor Academy, graduating in 2005. They grew up in New Jersey, and played youth hockey together before going to Tabor. And they have both excelled in the classroom at Union.
This weekend, Cook and Potts, along with fellow seniors Lane Caffaro, Mike Harr and Brendan Milnamow, will play in their final Messa Rink regular-season games. They don’t want them to be their last home games ever.
The Dutchmen will need to win at least one of their two ECAC Hockey games this weekend against St. Lawrence and Clarkson to secure a home-ice berth in the first round of the tournament next weekend. Union (8-10-2 ECACH, 15-14-3 overall) is tied with Clarkson (7-9-4, 9-16-7) for eighth, the final first-round home-ice spot. The Dutchmen can finish in a three-way tie for fourth with St. Lawrence (9-7-4, 17-11-4) and Dartmouth, but lose out on the head-to-head-to-head tiebreaker. They can finish as high as fifth, and as low as ninth.
Cook is from Belle Mead, N.J., and Potts hails from Phillipsburg, N.J.
“It’s been a ridiculous amount [of years together],” Cook said. “It’s been awesome. It’s always been great. On the first days, we showed up and have always known someone. Chris and I have been through many road trips together, sleepovers, all that kind of stuff. It’s been fun overall.”
Potts called it a blast.
“We’ve spent a lot of time away from the rink together,” Potts said. “Even back with the New Jersey Rockets, we would always spend birthdays and slumber parties together. It’s been nice.”
Union coach Nate Leaman knew what he was getting when he was recruiting them in 2004-05.
“It was a package deal,” said Leaman, who was in his second year as Union’s coach at the time. “What I liked about them is their work ethic and their character. That was the No. 1 thing each of them brought. Being a new staff, we wanted to make sure that, in my opinion, I [had] guys who were going to set the tone for everything away from the rink, as well as on the rink, as far as in the classroom, the work ethic in the weight room and just the character and class they bring to the program every day.
“It started with those two guys. They’ve done a tremendous job.”
Cook and Potts have filled different roles for the Dutchmen. Cook has been the goal scorer — he led the team with 10 last season — and has seven this season. The two-year co-captain has 32 goals and 39 assists in 134 career games.
Potts has evolved as the Dutchmen’s best penalty-killing forward. But he has the ability to score some timely goals. He had the overtime game-winner against Nebraska-Omaha Dec. 14, 2007. This season, he has two goals, both empty-netters, that sealed wins against Yale Dec. 6, and Brown Feb. 14.
“I’ve seen ‘Pottsie’ bury his fair share of goals,” Cook said. “It’s funny how things work out. I’ve got a lot of admiration for what ‘Pottsie’ has done. The price he pays with his style of play that he gives us incredibly valuable.”
Not only have Cook and Potts played well on the ice, they have been incredible in the classroom. They have owned the team’s Thomas Van Arden Award, which goes to the Dutchman with the highest grade-point average. Potts, an electrical engineering major who has a scholarship offer from Johns Hopkins to purdue a Ph.D. in that field, won the award in 2006 and 2008.
Cook, an economics major, got it in 2007. He is a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.
“I would say, right now, might actually be the toughest it’s been in the four years just because of our thesis, and my senior project,” Potts said. “No coasting through.”
There won’t be any coasting through this weekend. The Dutchmen needs wins to get home ice, giving them another weekend at Messa.
“It’s incredibly important,” Cook said. “We know what’s on the line.”
RPI’s home finale
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute plays its final two Houston Field House of the season when it hosts Clarkson tonight at 7 and St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Engineers (6-13-1, 7-23-2) are in 11th place, two points behind 10th-place Colgate. RPI can finish no higher than 10th, and no lower than 11th, meaning it will be on the road for the first round of the ECACH tournament next weekend.
RPI will honor its five seniors — forwards Matt Angers-Goulet, Kurt Colling, Seth Klerer, Andrei Uryadov and goalie Mathias Lange — after Saturday’s game.
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