Hockey: Union junior Vecchione faces a tough decision

Union College hockey junior center Mike Vecchione knows he didn’t have a great season.
In the near future, Union College junior Mike Vecchione will have to decide if he wants to return to college next season, or begin a pro career.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
In the near future, Union College junior Mike Vecchione will have to decide if he wants to return to college next season, or begin a pro career.

Categories: College Sports

Union College hockey junior center Mike Vecchione knows he didn’t have a great season.

After a 2014-15 season that saw him tie Daniel Ciampini for the team lead in scoring with 50 points, Vecchione’s point total this season dropped to 29. It wasn’t the kind of production Vecchione expected.

“I definitely feel like I let the guys down not producing as much as I did,” the co-captain Vecchione said.

But with 113 career points and an NCAA championship to his credit, Vecchione may believe he has nothing left to prove at the collegiate level.

With the Dutchmen’s season over following Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Cornell in the ECAC Hockey tournament, the 23-year-old Vecchione will have plenty of time to think about what he wants to do with his hockey career.

Last year, Vecchione’s decision to return was an easy one because he knew he needed to develop his game. This time around, however, it’s not that simple.

Several NHL teams have been scouting Vecchione, and he has been mentioned in a couple of publications as being one of the top college hockey free agents. Last summer, Vecchione was in two NHL development camps — the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild. He was in the Bruins’ camp in 2014.

“I’m still unsure,” Vec­chione said. “Like I said before, I was going to weigh my options and talk to some teams that are interested and go from there. It’s very tough to leave a place you love and some place you know, and just up and leave and go somewhere that you have no knowledge of and some place new.

“It’s a tough decision to make. I’ve talked to coach [Rick Bennett] about it. I’ve talked to some teams. I have to sort things out. I don’t think I’m close to making a decision. We’ll see. I really don’t want to leave behind my teammates who battle every day in practice and every night in games.”

Bennett will support any decision that Vecchione makes.

“Mike Vecchione is probably going to take everything in, and he’s going to make a decision either way,” Bennett said. “What I feel doesn’t matter. It’s going to be the player and his family. It’s that type of decision. I’ve been in this enough to know that it always comes down what the player really feels in his heart and what his family feels.”

Vecchione, who led the Dutchmen with 113 shots on goal, was the target of the opposition. For the most part, they made his life miserable.

“For me personally, it was a lot tougher having guys on me every shift and tying me up,” Vecchione said. “Our line did the best job we could getting pucks to the net.”

Vecchione suffered a rib injury in the Oct. 23 game against Michigan. He played the next night against New Hampshire, but the injury kept him out of the two games against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute the following weekend.

“I think it affected his game,” Bennett said. “I like the fact that he battled through it.”

Bennett saw an improvement in Vecchione’s play without the puck.

“I thought Mike got much better [as] a 200-foot player this year,” Bennett said. “I wasn’t the only one to say that. There were numerous NHL teams that came to see him that commented on that, as well. That was one of the goals that Mike wanted to get done with his game.”

But with the offensive problems Vecchione had, Bennett hopes that might sway him into coming back and proving to everyone that this season was a fluke.

“Mike’s a competitive guy,” Bennett said. “You would think that you want to come back and be one of the best all-time players here at Union College and try to re-live what you did freshman year. I really feel strongly at what we have coming back and what’s coming in. I like the makings of the team for next year. But at this time, you just don’t know.”

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