SCHENECTADY — It would have been easy for Union College hockey forward Josh Kosack and defenseman Brandon Estes to graduate from the school in June with their fellow seniors and then maybe transfer to another college to finish their hockey careers because they didn’t get to play last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, they wanted to play one more year at Union.
In order to do that, Kosack and Estes withdrew from school last year, and then re-enrolled so that they could play this season.
Kosack and Estes will be in the lineup Saturday when the Dutchmen host RPI in an exhibition game. It will be Union’s first contest since March 8, 2020.
“I just couldn’t see myself ever throwing on another jersey [and] ever playing for another school,” Kosack said Wednesday at Union men’s and women’s hockey media day at Messa Rink. “Everything that this school and this program has done for me and changing who I was as a person and all that kind of stuff, it’s cliche to say, but I really turned from a kid to a man. I give all the credit to the people I’ve met at Union, the professors, the coaches, my teammates, everything like that.”
Kosack won the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award recognizing the NCAA Division I hockey player whose contributions can’t be measured by statistics, and he was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. He admitted that it was a difficult decision to make.
“My first initial thought was, yeah, it [stinks], but just graduate with my class and move on,” said Kosack, who had two goals and five assists in 37 games in 2019-20. “And I remember, maybe 12 hours [later], I called [Union head coach] Rick [Bennett] back, and I just said, ‘You know what, I don’t know why, but I’m having a change of heart. I can’t see myself leaving.’
“I talked with my family, and we all kind of agreed that this is the only place I want to play college hockey.”
It also helped that Estes, Kosack’s roommate, decided he wanted to hold off graduating and play one more year.
“It really wasn’t that tough for me,” said Estes, who collected three goals and six assists in 37 games in 2019-20. “Obviously, I’ve been here for such a long time that it felt like home. These guys are like family to me. It was a really easy decision for me.”
Bennett is pleased to have the duo back.
“It was a decision that they made that we really appreciated as a staff,” Bennett said. “I, personally, am grateful that they made that decision. It says how much pride and loyalty they have in that jersey. At the same token, I understand the other seniors’ decisions, as well, based on their individual needs.”
SOPHS TAKE TIME OFF
Estes and Kosack weren’t the only Union players to take the year off from school.
Sophomore forwards Liam Robertson and Chaz Smedsrud also withdrew from Union. Now they are back, and each will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Robertson had three goals and five assists in 27 games in 2019-20.
“Once I found out that we weren’t playing [and] not having the season, it just made more sense for me to take the year off, come back … with the sophomore class and start fresh again this year,” Robertson said. “I just think, honestly, it worked out best that way. I think I needed it most. It worked out better for me and my family that way, too.”
Smedsrud tied for third on the team in goals with six in 2019-20. He finished with 10 points in 33 games.
“One of the main factors in the decision when the season got canceled, just talking with my family and just guaranteeing four years of hockey here,” Smedsrud said. “That’s what went into the decision.”
Kosack will be the men’s captain. The alternate captains are junior defenseman Dylan Anhorn and junior forward Gabriel Seger.
The women’s team captain is senior forward Cassidy Michalicka. She played in all 34 games as a sophomore in 2019-20 and had a goal and two assists.
“Wearing the ‘C’ does not define the leader,” Michalicka said. “I think a leader, regardless of what’s on your jersey, is going to be someone that you’re going to look to in the locker room, you’re going to see them in practice, you’re going to see them downstairs lifting [weights], you’re going to see in the classroom. Whether or not a ‘C’ is on your jersey is up to the coach. Regardless of that, myself along with others will be good leaders and we’ll be fine.”
Union women’s head coach Josh Sciba likes Michalicka as the captain.
“Cass has grown so much over her career,” Sciba said. “She’s someone that sees the big picture. I think she’s mature for her age. She is able to hold her teammates accountable, good or bad. She cares about the bigger picture, cares about the team. When you put that all together, she’s a good role model for some of the younger players.”
Sciba said he won’t name an alternate captain until next week. The Dutchwomen open their season Friday at RIT.