Normally, replacing six players from a national championship college hockey team would be difficult.
But with the reputation that the Union hockey team has built over the last few years, culminating with winning its first NCAA title in April, prospective student-athletes are seeking out the Dutchmen.
“Definitely, a lot more people know who you are now throughout the country,” said Union assistant coach Joe Dumais, who, along with fellow assistant Jason Tapp, do the majority of the recruiting for head coach Rick Bennett. “A lot of people have seen us in the Frozen Four. It’s definitely helped, because most kids, even the younger kids, they are all very familiar with Union and a lot of our players.”
The Dutchmen are bringing in eight players for this season — five forwards and three defensemen. The forwards are Roman Ammirato, Spencer Foo, Tyler Hynes, Ryan Scarfo and Kevin Shier. The defensemen are JC Brassard, Nick DeSimone and Connor Light.
They will help try to replace the six players — forwards Daniel Carr, Matt Hatch, Cole Ikkala and Kevin Sullivan and defensemen Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere — who left the team. Bodie, Carr, Hatch, Ikkala and Sullivan were seniors. Gostisbehere gave up his senior season to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Here is a look at Union’s new players.
Ammirato played for the North American Hockey League’s Amarillo Bulls last season. He had 17 goals and 30 assists in 57 games, and was the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs with three goals and nine assists in eight games.
Ammirato grew up in the Philadelphia area, and is good friends with former Boston College star and Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau.
“Roman’s a playmaking forward,” Dumais said. “He sees the ice extremely well. He brings a lot of energy. He plays on the power play and penalty kill in juniors.”
After collecting 13 goals and 17 assists in 2012-13, Foo was the leading scorer for the Bonnyville Pontiacs with 40 goals and 27 assists in 60 games last season. His 67 points was sixth best in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
He topped the team in power-play goals (10), short-handed tallies (two) and game-winners (seven).
“We feel he can play any position for us, center, right wing and left wing,” Dumais said. “He brings a lot of grit to the game, and he competes hard. He does have a goal-scoring touch on the power plays. He goes to the right areas. He’s not afraid to go to the front of the net, and that’s where he scored a lot of his goals in junior hockey.”
Hynes, who lives in Slingerlands and was a teammate of Dutchmen defenseman Jeff Taylor at Albany Academy, completed his second season in the U.S. Hockey League. He played for the Omaha Lancers for a 11⁄2 years before being traded to the Fargo Force.
Between the two teams, Hynes combined for 20 goals and 15 assists in 59 games. Twelve of those goals came with Fargo, including five on the power play.
“He’s going to bring a physical presence,” Dumais said. “He’s a very strong, powerful kid. He’s very good down low in the corners, and he does have an offensive touch.”
Scarfo had 17 goals and 31 assists in 50 games for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Powell River Kings. He tied for the team lead in power-play goals with six, and was third in game-winners with four.
“Ryan is a great 200-foot player,” Dumais said. “He’s a centerman, and he plays both ends of the ice. We feel he’s going to help us in the faceoff circle. We struggled this year with faceoffs.”
Shier had 21 goals and 33 assists in 46 games for the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Toronto Lakeshore Patriots. In leading the Patriots to the OJHL title, Shier was the team’s top playoff scorer with eight goals and 24 assists in 19 games.
“Kevin is a very skilled offensive forward. He makes a lot of plays,” Dumais said. “He can both distribute the puck, and he can score. He’s going to be a guy that we’re hoping that can add some offense up front.”
Brassard of Nobles Prep was the top defensive scorer in New England Prep hockey with 11 goals and 32 assists in 27 games. He originally committed for the 2015-16 season, but with Gostisbehere’s departure, Union brought Brassard in a year early.
“He has very good offensive instincts,” Dumais said. “He sees the ice very well. He’s a playmaker.”
DeSimone of the OJHL’s Buffalo Jr. Sabres had 13 goals and 38 assists in 52 games, including five goals and 17 assists on the power play. His 52 points were second among OJHL defensemen.
“Nick is a dynamic offensive defenseman,” Dumais said. “He has very good vision, he’s poised and we see him being a guy that, hopefully, is going to replace a lot of the points we lost on the back end.”
Light had three goals and seven assists in 55 games for Omaha. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Light gives the Dutchmen a physical presence on the blue line.
“We’re not the biggest, back there, in the country,” Dumais said. “Connor, at 6-5, is a defensive defenseman. He does bring that size element that we don’t have, kind of like Eli [Lichtenwald] does up front. He brings leadership.”
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