The start of Mike Vecchione’s season for the Union College hockey team didn’t go as well as he would liked.
The junior center and co-captain had just six points in the first 11 games he played. Vecchione was injured in the Michigan game Oct. 23 when he took a stick in the ribs. That injury would eventually sideline him the following weekend for the two games against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
But Vecchione’s game is coming around. Now, he’s closing in on a milestone.
Vecchione needs one point to reach 100 for his career. He gets an opportunity tonight to get that point when the Dutchmen (2-5-1 ECAC Hockey, 9-6-4 overall) take their seven-game unbeaten to ECAC Hockey play at second-ranked and league-leading Quinnipiac (8-0-2, 17-1-3).
“It says a lot about his consistency [in his] three years,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It’s something Mike should be proud of, but at the same token, he’s played with a lot of good hockey players and he’s made the most of it.”
Vecchione would become the 13th Union Division I player, and 26th overall, to achieve the feat. Unless he goes through a major scoring drought, Vecchione will become the fastest Dutchmen D-I player to reach 100 points. He has played in 94 games. Daniel Carr, Union’s all-time D-I leading scorer with 157 points, was the fastest to reach 100 points, doing it in 115 games.
“I don’t tend to think about it that much,” Vecchione said. “I just try and go out there and play my game, and focus on the team and the win. It’s nice. It’s a collective effort our there. The guys really rally around me. It feels pretty good getting close. Hopefully, I can get it the next game.
“It would be pretty cool to be the fastest, but I’m not trying to think about that.”
In his last six games, Vecchione has nine points on two goals and seven assists. He had a season-high three-point game, all assists, in Sunday’s 5-4 win over Robert Morris.
For the season, he has five goals and 10 assists. He’s second on the team in scoring behind linemate Spencer Foo.
Overcoming the injury has been a factor in Vecchione’s resurgence.
“I was just out there playing my game,” Vecchione said. “I got hurt, and I just wasn’t the same. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do out there. I was kind playing a little timid. It affected me a lot. Now, it’s good to be healthy.”
Vecchione’s resurgence coincided with Bennett putting Foo on his line.
“Me and him have the same goals out there, we’re trying to get the puck and score,” Vecchione said. “We’re both really competitive guys. We like to go get the puck. Our game complements each other a lot.”
Dutchmen senior left winger and co-captain Matt Wilkins said Vecchione sets and example for the rest of the team.
“He works hard in every game and every practice,” Wilkins said. “It just one of those things where the points don’t come. He does the little things right. He blocks shots. He’s just starting to get rewarded again.”
The Dutchmen’s matchup with the Bobcats is the first meeting between the two teams since last March’s ECACH tournament quarterfinal series. The Bobcats won the series in three games, but it easily could have been a different result had the Dutchmen held on to a 3-1 lead in Game 1.
Two Sam Anas extra-attacker goals late in the third period sent the game into overtime, and Quinnipiac won 4-3 in the third OT. Union bounced back with a 3-2 win Game 2 before falling 3-1 in Game 3.
“It was a tough series to swallow,” Vecchione said. “We should have had that one. But it’s in the past. We have to focus on the present. We have a whole new team right now. I have a good feeling about this group. We can do some special games if we keep playing our game.”