The Union hockey team posted an impressive victory last Sunday at Michigan, and the Dutchmen are very proud of it.
But they know that win won’t mean anything if they stumble in games that really matter most.
The ninth-ranked Dutchmen close the 2011 portion of their ECAC Hockey schedule this weekend with a pair of road games. Union (3-2 ECACH, 7-3-3 overall), the defending ECACH regular season champions, visit Quinnipiac (1-4-2, 8-6-2) tonight at 7 at the TD Bank Sports Center, and then faces Princeton at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hobey Baker Rink.
The Dutchmen rolled to a 6-3 win over the Wolverines at Yost Arena. It was Union’s first meeting against a program that has won an NCAA-best nine national championships.
“It was a huge win,” Dutchmen senior center Kelly Zajac said. “Obviously, it’s a big steppingstone for our program. But it’s in the past now. We’re moving forward. We’ve got a big game coming up, and we want to get the two points.”
While the victory was one of the biggest in the program’s 21-year Division I history, the Dutchmen know that their opponents, especially their ECACH foes, aren’t going to roll over and let them win just because they beat the Wolverines.
“It’s time to move on,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We’re not going to live in the past. Quinnipiac’s not going to lay down because a team in the ECAC just happened to beat a team from the CCHA. That’s life. That’s all across college hockey. We just happen to be that fortunate to win. The quicker we get over that, which I think we are, the better off we’ll all be.”
It will be up to the team leaders, captain Nolan Julseth-White and alternate captains Zajac and Jeremy Welsh, to keep the Dutchmen focused on the task at hand. Union wants to close out 2011 with a pair of league wins and not have to play catchup when it returns to the ECACH schedule Jan. 6.
Entering Thursday, Union was tied for fifth with Harvard and Yale, four points behind league-leading Cornell.
“We’ve put that on behind us,” said Julseth-White, a senior defenseman. “We got back around 4 in the morning [Monday]. We’ve had two good days of practice, and we’re looking forward right now.”
Quinnipiac has a reputation of being an offensive-minded team. Its players are looking to head up the ice all the time. Sometimes, they forget that the puck may not have left the defensive zone.
The Dutchmen will need to take advantage of that.
“If you want to turn the puck over and be careless with the puck, it’s going to be a long night because they’re going to feed off of turnovers,” Bennett said. “We’re going to protect that puck as best as we possibly can in that game to limit their transition to offense. The biggest thing is we have to finish our hits.”
The last time the Dutchmen reach No. 9 in the national polls, they lost at home to Brown and Yale. They don’t want a repeat of that this weekend.
“We go into games worried about what we’re doing and our systems,” Julseth-White said. “I feel like when we’ve gotten away from that, we’ve been unsuccessful. When we’ve been on our game, we can skate with anybody. It showed Sunday.”
SEARCHING FOR GOALS
It has been well documented about how Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has struggled to score goals so far this season.
Last weekend at Rochester Institute of Technology, the Engineers scored more than one goal in a game for the first time since getting two against Notre Dame Oct. 21. But both of their goals in the 2-0 win over RIT came on the power play.
The last six goals the Engineers (1-4, 3-10) have scored over their last seven games have come on special teams — five on the power play and one short-handed. They haven’t scored an even-strength goal since their 4-1 loss to Colorado College Oct. 28.
RPI hopes to find some even-strength goal success tonight when it visits Princeton (2-5, 3-7-1) tonight at 7. The Engineers travel to Quinnipiac for a 7 p.m. game Saturday.
“It’ll come, eventually,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “Hopefully, it comes Friday in the first period. We always have known, and it’s proven out, that we’re a team that’s challenged to score. We are young in our offensive weapons. I like our senior class a lot, but they’re more penalty killers. We always thought we’d be scratching and clawing to get to 2.75 goals a game, or three. Obviously, we’re below that right now.”
RPI has scored 13 goals in 13 games. It has the second-worst offense in college hockey. Appert believes it will improve.
“We’ll be a team that averages nearly three goals a game,” Appert said. “I think we can be.”
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Categories: College Sports