Categories: College Sports
The Union College men’s hockey team learned a lot about itself last weekend.
With eight players serving one-game suspensions during the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, which included some of the team’s top scorers, the Dutchmen showed that they could not only survive, but thrive. They won the tournament title, doing it in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 overtime victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The Dutchmen are hoping to take the momentum of that championship into this weekend, when they resume ECAC Hockey play at Messa Rink. Union (2-0-2 ECACH, 6-3-4 overall) hosts Colgate (4-2-1, 6-4-4) tonight at 7, and seventh-ranked Cornell at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at Messa Rink.
Union coach Nate Leaman suspended forwards Adam Presizniuk, Mario Valery-Trabucco, Jason Walters, Brian Yanovitch, John Simpson, Andrew Buote, Luke Cain and Jeff Christiansen for a minor team rules violation. The suspensions were split up. Buote, Cain and Walters sat out last Friday’s game against Lake Superior State. Presizniuk, Valery-Trabucco, Simpson and Yanovitch watched the RPI game from the stands. Christiansen, who hasn’t seen action all season, didn’t play in either game.
Leaman was proud of how his team, which is 3-0-3 in its last six games, overcame the adversity to win the tournament. But, more importantly, the Dutchmen showed that they have plenty of depth.
“We have a lot of different guys that can step up,” Leaman said. “I was real happy about that. I feel comfortable whatever our lineup is. It’s something we have to use to our advantage. The bottom line is [with] Colgate coming in, they play one line a lot, and we have to use it to our advantage that we can play four. If we have to bring in [different] guys the second night, we have guys that can step in and win hockey games for us.”
Valery-Trabucco, who had the only goal of the overtime shootout against Lake Superior State, believes the Dutchmen will be an even stronger team because of the way they won the tournament.
“It shows that this team is going to battle through a lot of adversity this year, and that we’re going to pull through in big times like that,” Valery-Trabucco said. “We know the two teams coming in this weekend are ahead of us in the standings. We’re going to look to take some points from them this weekend, hopefully four.”
A four-point weekend would give Union a 4-0-2 league record. The last time it opened unbeaten in its first six ECACH games was in 2004-05, when Union went 6-0.
“That would be huge,” forward Kelly Zajac said. “Christmas break is coming up. We want to end the year right. Going [unbeaten in six straight] would be a huge accomplishment for this school.”
Forwards Austin Smith and David McIntyre lead the Raiders’ attack. Smith, a sophomore, has eight goals and 10 assists, while the senior McIntyre has four goals and 14 assists.
“McIntyre is skilled and shifty,” Leaman said. “Smith is very skilled. They look for each other. They move well off the puck. They read offense well. That combination can be pretty dynamic.”
RPI faces Cornell
RPI (3-1, 8-6-1) will face Cornell tonight at 7, and Colgate at 4 p.m. Saturday at Houston Field House.
The Engineers will see a different type of Big Red squad. A team normally noted for its tough defensive style, Cornell’s offense is ranked third in the league and nation, scoring an average of four goals per game. Last season, the Big Red average just 2.56 goals per game.
Senior forward Blake Gallagher leads the Big Red attack with nine goals and six assists. Another senior forward, Colin Greening, is second with four goals and 10 assists.
“I think they’re the same team that’s scoring well,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “I don’t think they’re different. They have some very good players, and very good older forwards, as well.”
Tonight’s game is Whiteout Night. Fans are encouraged to wear white shirts. On Saturday, there will be Toys for Tots collection and a Teddy Bear Toss. After the game, fans will be able skate with the team.