Union hockey team getting plenty of respect

Coming off its first-ever ECAC Hockey tournament championship-game appearance last season, the Union

Coming off its first-ever ECAC Hockey tournament championship-game appearance last season, the Union College men’s hockey team is getting plenty of attention from the league’s coaches and media.

The Dutchmen were picked to finish third by the coaches and the media in their preseason polls, which were announced Tuesday at ECACH media day Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall and Convention Center. The league is moving its championship round here for the next three seasons, after an eight-year run at the Times Union Center.

It is the highest pick ever in either poll for the Dutchmen, who finished third in the league last season and had a 21-12-6 overall record. Their previous highest finish in the coaches’ poll came in 2008-09, when they were fifth. In the media poll, Union’s highest finish was sixth, which happened the last two years.

Union got 86 points in the coaches’ poll. The Dutchmen earned 276 points and got one first-place vote in the media poll.

“It is a nice sign of respect,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “But personally and from a team standpoint, we’re not going to put much into it. We don’t put much into the poll, at any point. Last year, we were slotted sixth. Three years ago, we were slotted 12th and we finished fourth. [The polls] don’t mean a lot in this league. I know how extremely tough the league’s going to be this year, and how tight it’s going to be. There’s a number of teams that have seniors on their rosters. It’s going to be a hard-fought league.

“I can tell you in February who’s looking to be the top [team], def­initely not in September.”

Union, which was the 16th-ranked team in the final USCHO.com NCAA hockey poll, lost three of its top four scorers to graduation. Forwards Mario Valery-Trabucco (23-22-45) and Jason Walters (16-24-40) were the top two scorers, and defenseman Mike Schreiber (8-21-29) was fourth.

Senior forward Adam Presizniuk (13-22-35) returns. He finished third on the team in scoring last season. Also back are junior forward Kelly Zajac (10-14-24), senior forwards Stephane Boileau (8-13-21) and John Simpson (4-16-20) and sophomore forwards Jeremy Welsh (10-9-19) and Wayne Simpson (6-12-18).

“It’s great opportunities for guys to step up,” Leaman said. “Mario had 19 goals last year in 22 league games. You’re basically having to make up a goal a game as a group and as a team. In this league, a goal a game is the difference between third and 12th, probably.”

While the departures of Valery-Trabucco, Walters and Schreiber were expected, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was hit hard by two departures last month.

ECACH Rookie of the Year Jerry D’Amigo signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 11. Two weeks later, Brandon Pirri agreed to a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Both players had three years of college eligibility remaining.

Still, the coaches and media have plenty of faith in the Engineers, who have the league’s Player of the Year, forward Chase Polacek, returning for his senior season. RPI, which was 18-17-4 last season, finished fourth in the coaches’ poll with 79 points, and fifth in the media poll with 211 points. It’s the Engineers’ highest finish in the polls since Seth Appert became head coach in 2006.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in rankings and polls,” said Appert, who guided RPI to a tie for fifth last season and its first home-ice advantage in the ECACH tournament in four years. “At the end of the day, you have to prove it on the ice. We’re predicted fifth, that’s fine, it’s all well and good, but it’s Sept. 21. At the end of the day, we need to worry about where we’re going to be in March. The only way you do that is by getting better every day in practice, and coming to the rink with the right mentality.”


Polacek, who had 26 goals and 26 assists last season, was picked on the coaches’ and media preseason all-tournament team. The media picked Union sophomore Keith Kinkaid (12-8-3, 2.48 goals-against average) as its goalie, while the coaches selected RPI junior Allen York (14-13-4, 2.54 GAA). . . .

Two-time defending ECACH regular-season champion Yale is the overwhelming favorite to make it three straight titles. The Bulldogs earned 11 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and got 121 points. In the media poll, Yale got 25 first-place votes and 354 points. . . .

The coaches and media agreed on Cornell (second), Dartmouth (sixth), Quinnipiac (eighth), Brown (11th) and Clarkson (12th). They disagreed on Colgate (fifth in the coaches, fourth in the media), Harvard (seventh in the coaches, 10th in the media), St. Lawrence (ninth in the coaches, seventh in the media) and Princeton (10th in the coaches, ninth in the media).

Categories: College Sports

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