Union may not have coach Nate Leaman or goalie Keith Kinkaid around anymore, but the expectations for the program have never been higher.
The Dutchmen were picked to finish second in the ECAC Hockey coaches and media preseason polls, which were announced Wednesday. It’s the highest the Dutchmen have ever been picked in both polls.
Union, which is ranked 11th in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls, received two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and earned 107 points. In the media poll, the Dutchmen got 11 first-place votes and 397 points.
Yale, which won the ECACH tournament title, is picked to win the league in both polls for the third straight year.
Union is coming off one of the greatest seasons in the program’s Division I history, and starts its 21st season Oct. 8 at Army. The Dutchmen won their first ECACH regular-season title and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time at the Division I level. They won a school-record 26 games,
including 17 in ECACH play, also a team record.
But the success came with a price shortly after the season ended.
First, Kinkaid, who won the league’s Ken Dryden Award as the top goalie, gave up his final two years of college eligibility to sign with the New Jersey Devils. Then, Leaman resigned after eight years to become head coach at Providence College.
Dutchmen associate head coach Rick Bennett was immediately named to replace Leaman. And he isn’t concerned about where Union was picked.
“I’m going to let the polls be the polls,” Bennett said. “The polls don’t play. I guess that’s not a bad thing.”
Bennett said he doesn’t feel any pressure to follow up on the success the team had last season.
“I mentioned this when I got the job, that the players play the game,” Bennett said. “It’s our job as the coaching staff to get the guys to play as hard as they possibly can every night. That’s what I am focusing on.”
While the Dutchmen are solid offensively with the return of six of the team’s top seven scorers, the storyline will be who will replace Kinkaid? Sophomore Troy Grosenick is joined by freshmen Colin Stevens, a Niskayuna native, and Dillon Pieri in a battle for playing time.
“Keith is gone, and that’s just the way it is. We wish him the best of luck,” Bennett said. “As far as Troy goes, he’s handled practice very well. His work ethic is actually phenomenal. Talking to [assistant coach] Jason Tapp, who works with the goalies, he feels the same way.
“Colin Stevens has really come a long way since he accepted coming to school here, and has done a nice job. Dillon Pieri is going to fight, over time, for playing time.”
RPI FOURTH, FIFTH
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is in the top five of both polls.
The Engineers, who finished fifth last year and played in the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1995, are picked to finish fourth by the coaches and fifth by the media.
RPI junior defenseman Nick Bailen was the only Capital Region player to make the preseason all-conference teams for the coaches and media. Bailen, who made the All-ECACH first team last season, had eight goals and 28 assists last year.
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Yale (9) 117
2. Union (2) 107
3. Cornell 97
4. RPI 85
5. Dartmouth 76
6. Quinnipiac (1) 70
7. Harvard 65
8. Princeton 51
9. St. Lawrence 45
10. Colgate 31
11. Clarkson 28
12. Brown 22
1. Yale (23) 432
2. Union (11) 397
3. Cornell (3) 356
4. Dartmouth (1) 308
5. RPI 281
6. Quinnipiac 239
7. Princeton 205
8. St. Lawrence 173
9. Clarkson 164
10. Colgate 152
11. Brown 134
12. Harvard 129
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Categories: College Sports