Union men’s hockey prepares to face 19th-ranked Harvard in first game in 28 days

Union's Chaz Smedsrud handles the puck between Quinnipiac's Ethan DeJong, left, and Zach Metsa during a Dec. 4 ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.
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Union's Chaz Smedsrud handles the puck between Quinnipiac's Ethan DeJong, left, and Zach Metsa during a Dec. 4 ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.

SCHENECTADY — After a 28-day hiatus, the Union College men’s hockey team is ready to play again.

The Dutchmen will play their first game since Dec. 11 against Maine when they visit 19th-ranked Harvard in an ECAC Hockey matchup at 4 p.m. Saturday at Bright-Landry Center in Boston.

Union (3-4-1 ECACH, 8 points; 5-9-3 overall) was supposed to resume play last weekend, when it was scheduled to host defending NCAA champion UMass for a two-game series. But, those games were postponed due to health and safety protocols within the Union program.

The Dutchmen were supposed to play at Dartmouth on Friday, but Dartmouth postponed due to health and safety protocols within its program. That game has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Union head coach Rick Bennett believes having some extra time to prepare for Harvard is good. That way, the team isn’t concerned with the ever-changing landscape.

“A funny thing called practice, that’s what is keeping us going,” Bennett said. “That’s all we can do, so that’s what we’re doing as best as we possibly can. The guys are in good spirits in just what they have gone through. That’s how we’re just battling through it, just through practice.”

Union senior captain Josh Kosack said the team is trying to be patient through this.

“I guess we’re just taking it day by day,” Kosack said. “We’re all just trying to stay healthy as we can and get the most out of every practice. It’s definitely been an extended break. We’ve been practicing and working out and stuff like that. We’re just trying to keep in the best shape that we can. I’m just looking forward to [Saturday].”

Bennett doesn’t believe the team will be rusty coming off the extended break.

“It’s funny how you can come out fired up and you wouldn’t notice [the rust],” Bennett said. “Sometimes, it hits on the second night versus the first night as far as rust. Hopefully, that’s the case, we play Harvard and we’re ready to go.

“I’d like to look at it through these practices and everything else. They’re just excited to play again. You know what? There’s very limited rust.”

SCOUTING HARVARD

The Crimson (5-2-1, 17 points; 7-4-1) are coming off a 6-2 non-conference win over UConn last Sunday. Alex Lafferiere, Sean Farrell and Nick Abruzzese each had a goal and two assists.

Abruzzese, a junior forward and team captain, leads Harvard in scoring with four goals and 14 assists. Farrell, a sophomore forward, is second with seven goals and 10 assists. Lafferiere, also a sophomore forward, leads the team with eight goals and is third in scoring with 13 points.

“[They have] a lot of firepower,” Bennett said. “[They have] very good defensemen. I would say, some would argue across the country, that they’re one of the most talented offensive forwards going. We just have to be aware, and we’ve got to be smart. … We have to buy in, I guess, to our system, because if you don’t, it could be a long night.”

In goal, junior Mitchell Gibson is 5-4 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. Sophomore Derek Mullahy is 2-0-1 with a 2.10 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

SERIES HISTORY

Union and Harvard sat out last season because of the pandemic, so this is their first meeting since Feb. 29, 2020, when the Crimson beat the Dutchmen 4-1 at Bright-Landry.

Harvard leads the all-time series 36-17-6. Union is 7-21-1 at Bright-Landry.

The Dutchmen’s most memorable victory over Crimson was a 3-1 triumph in the 2012 ECACH tournament championship game. Daniel Carr and Josh Jooris each had a goal and an assist for Union.

LIMITED ATTENDANCE

Late Friday afternoon, Union’s athletic department announced that spectators at indoor athletic events will be limited to current members of the Union College campus community. The policy went into effect immediately and will be reviewed on Jan. 19.

Games that will be immediately affected by this policy are the men’s and women’s basketball games Tuesday against Vassar at Viniar Athletic Center, the following weekend’s women’s hockey games against Princeton and Quinnipiac, and that weekend’s swim meets against Clarkson and Middlebury.

The men’s hockey team’s next home game is Jan. 21 against Brown.

Students had been remote this week, the opening week of the second trimester. They are returning to campus Sunday.

“We’re just trying to be responsible right now,” Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to de-densify the campus to be able to get through these first few weeks. It’s temporary. We’re just putting it in place to allow our students to come back.

“We’re going to re-evaluate on the 19th. By that time, everybody that’s come back, from staff, faculty and students, will all have received three tests, and then we’ll make a decision about how we move forward for that weekend.”

RPI has limited spectators to its campus community since the start of the fall athletic season.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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