Former Penn State hockey defenseman Mason Snell knew the situation that was occurring with the Union men’s hockey team as he committed to play for it.
Rick Bennett was out as head coach after his Jan. 28 resignation following a school investigation into his coaching practices. Assistant coach John Ronan was elevated to interim head coach and led the Dutchmen for the final 17 games of the 2021-22 season, but wasn’t guaranteed to be named the permanent head coach — and, in the end, that job went to former Clarkson assistant coach Josh Hauge.
That didn’t change Snell’s mind about committing to Union. Taking advantage of the NCAA transfer portal, Snell announced his commitment to Union in an April 5 social-media post, which Snell published more than a week before Union hired its new head coach.
I am proud to announce that I will be transferring to @Unionmhockey to continue my college career. Thank you to my family and friends for always supporting me. It is an honor to have this opportunity, and I am excited for the next chapter. pic.twitter.com/xW2oWYoAGD
— Snell (@Mason_Snell) April 5, 2022
The 21-year-old Snell, who played for Penn State from 2019-21, said Ronan recruited him.
“It was majority [of] John recruiting me throughout the whole process,” Snell said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He originally reached out through email, and I got in contact with him [through] a couple of phone calls. I actually went on a visit down there probably three weeks before I committed there. . . . John and [assistant coach] TJ [Manastersky] showed me around the place and, obviously, felt like it was the right fit. So that’s when the commitment came out.”
Snell is appreciative of the job Ronan did to sell him on coming to Union.
“He’s a great person, a great coach,” Snell said. “He really was thorough with how he recruited me. Their athletic department kind of gave me their commitment, no matter what the head coaching position was going to be. I think that with my advisor and everybody talking, they made me comfortable that even if I did commit, the coaching change . . . wouldn’t be an issue.”
The NCAA prohibits coaches from commenting on recruits until they are officially accepted by the school. However, the NCAA allows coaches to “Like” or retweet a tweet of a recruit when he or she announces a commitment. Ronan and Manastersky each liked Snell’s tweet announcing his commitment to Union.
Snell said he had a brief conversation with Hauge prior to Hauge heading to Naples, Florida, for the college hockey coaches convention.
“He reached out to me,” Snell said. “It was a quick call. I think he was getting on a plane. I didn’t really know too much about him, but from my quick call with him, he seems like a great guy, very down to earth, and wants to win and wants to do something with this program. It’s really exciting to hear him talk about it.”
Snell played in 47 career games for the Nittany Lions, collecting four goals and five assists. He parted ways with the team after the 2020-21 season. He didn’t get into the specifics of the nature of his departure from head coach Guy Gadowsky’s team. He will have two years of eligibility when he joins the Dutchmen.
“There was never any ill intent or harm,” Snell said. “I’m probably not going to go too much deeper into it. It just didn’t work out from either side.”
An attempt to interview Gadowsky was unsuccessful.
Snell is friends with Dutchmen forward Liam Robertson. The pair grew up together in Clarington, Ontario.
“I’ve known him ever since I was probably 3, 4 years old,” Snell said. “We played with Oshawa Minor Generals together when we were growing up. We both ended up moving the same year to Clarington, which is where we finished our minor hockey careers together, then played our first year of juniors together with the Whitby Fury and kind of split off from there. I’ve kept in touch with him ever since.
“I still see him every summer when I go home. He lives [about] five minutes from me. He gave me a lot of good information about [Union], and it made it easier for me to commit, knowing how he felt about the place and how special he thinks it is.”
Snell is the only transfer portal gain for the Dutchmen so far. Six players from this past season’s team have either announced a new commitment for next season or are in still in the transfer portal.
Freshman forward Colin Graf was the second-leading scorer with 11 goals and 11 assists, junior forward Gabriel Seger was third with seven goals and 14 assists, and junior defenseman Dylan Anhorn was fourth with seven goals and 13 assists.
Anhorn has committed to St. Cloud State. Graf and Seger have yet to make their intentions known.
The Gazette has reached out several times requesting interviews with Graf, Seger and Anhorn, but the players have declined to speak.
Also in the portal are junior goalie Garrett Nieto, sophomore forward Gleb Murtizan and senior defenseman Ryan Sidorski.
Senior defenseman Brandon Estes, the team’s leading scorer with seven goals and 22 assists, originally entered the portal, but then signed a professional tryout contract with the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners.