SCHENECTADY — Union College men’s hockey freshman forward Collin Graf watched the tape of his attempt to score the game-winning goal in overtime against Colorado College last Saturday.
After seeing how Colorado College goalie Dominc Basse stuck out his right pad to make the save with five seconds left to preserve the 3-3 tie, Graf completed his night by cleaning up the Union locker room.
“I was just trying to make sure the locker room and the lounge looks as good when we leave as we came in,” Graf said during Union’s media availability on Tuesday at Messa Rink. “It’s just part of the culture here, cleaning up here after you came in.”
The Dutchmen have a future leader and scoring talent in Graf, who was named ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week on Monday after getting a goal and an assist in last Friday’s 2-1 win over Colorado College. He was the fourth-leading scorer in the United States Premier Hockey League’s National Collegiate Development Conference last season with 19 goals and 35 assists in 42 games while playing for the Boston Jr. Bruins last season. In 2019-20, Graf had 16 goals and 31 assists in 49 games. A two-time NCDC all-star, Graf served as the Jr. Bruins’ captain last season.
Graf is still upset about not scoring. It was a great opportunity. He had just jumped on the ice and skated down the slot when he took a Brandon Estes pass from the tight point. Graf had Basse down, but Basse’s 6-foot-6 frame enabled him to stretch the right pad out and keep the puck from going into the net.
“It’s OT, bad ice, the goalie’s 6-6, a pretty big guy,” Graf said. “But still no excuse. I’m put out there to try to end the game at that point in the game. It will bug me for a while.”
Bennett was happy to see that Graf cared so much.
“That’s what you want to see,” Bennett said. “He mentioned that he didn’t win it for the team. We want team guys here. He’s humble. He works hard, and that’s all we ask of our guys.”
There will be more opportunities for Graf. The potential is there.
“The one thing is he’s gotten plenty of opportunities here, being on the power play [and] one of the top lines,” Bennett said. “He’s earned that. I thought his work in the past two years, not only what he did during the year, but what he did in the summer, [was good]. He attended Paul Vincent [Hockey], one of the best skating coaches in the country. I really think that helped him tremendously with his skating, his skills and overall knowledge of the game because he’s a very smart hockey player.
“Offensive, talented guys seem to get chances. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s a gift, but they do have a nose for the net that some other guys don’t. The players that we’ve had over here in the past, you could tell the offensive guys just had a nose for the net, like an instinct, but they put themselves in that position, where some others don’t. I think that’s the key.”
Bennett can see Graf being a captain down the road. Cleaning up the locker room is a prime example of that.
“He’s already kind of demonstrated some leadership qualities that folks will never see,” Bennett said. “After that game, leaving a little bit later, he was the one guy in our locker room cleaning up. I can’t sit here and say anybody told him to do it because I know it wasn’t the coaching staff. That was all based on him being a leader and what he’s learned, and what he’s seen in his time as a captain and here.”
Current Dutchmen captain Josh Kosack sees a humble Graf.
“He’s been a great first year [player] for us so far,” the senior forward said. “We’re definitely lucky to have him. The cleaning up aspect, a small thing like that just shows that even though he’s the youngest guy on our team, how mature he is.”