Opening Faceoff: New Union men’s hockey coach Hauge making immediate impact in recruiting

Josh Hauge has been busy on the recruiting trail since being named the new Union men's hockey coach April 15.
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Josh Hauge has been busy on the recruiting trail since being named the new Union men's hockey coach April 15.

New Union men’s hockey coach Josh Hauge isn’t wasting any time in trying to reshape the program and get it back to where it was consistently contending for championships and NCAA tournament appearances. And that is certainly good news for fans of the Dutchmen.

In just a month on the job, Hauge has received four commitments for the 2022-23 season and two more for the following season.

The four recruits coming in next season are John Prokop, Carter Korpi, Ben Tupker and Nate Hanley. The two recruits who have committed for the 2023-24 season are Joseph Messina and Lucas Buzziol.

First, let’s look at the four recruits who have committed to Union for 2022-23 since Hauge was named head coach April 15.

JOHN PROKOP

Prokop became the first recruit to commit to Union with Hauge as head coach, making his announcement May 1 on Twitter.

Prokop comes to Union from the U.S. Hockey League’s Des Moines Buccaneers. The 6-foot-2, 172-pound defenseman had a goal and 15 assists this past season.

Hauge first started recruiting Prokop while he was at Clakrson.

“We kind of just built a relationship from there,” Prokop said. “And then he gave me a call when he got the job at Union. I felt it was the right place to go, and a lot of people have said good things about him. I’m excited to get going at Union with him.”

He had a career-high 30 points while playing for Wausau High School in Wisconsin in 2017-18. His role changed when he entered the junior ranks the following season.

“I used to be offensive until I got to the USHL,” Prokop said. “You play against some of the top forwards in the world and you’re going up against them every week, so I really focused on being a two-way defenseman where I can produce on the offensive side as well as be solid defensively and that’s what I worked on. I’m long and lengthy, and I have a bit of athleticism with me, too. That helps defending and having a long stick and joining the rush and just being a two-way defender.”

CARTER KORPI

Korpi announced his commitment on May 9. He joins the Dutchmen from the North American Hockey League’s Wichita Falls Warriors. The 6-foot-0, 185-pound forward was sixth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and 26 assists in 40 games this past season. He was the team’s top scorer in the Robertson Cup Playoffs, with three goals in five games.

Korpi was set to go to the Air Force Academy in the fall. However, Korpi said he was medically discharged. He declined further comment.

It was shortly after Korpi’s Air Force commitment ended when Hauge reached out. And it wasn’t the first time Hauge tried to recruit Korpi.

“He was interested in me before I committed to the Academy when he was at Clarkson,” Korpi said. “He found out what had happened and reached out, and pretty much it just worked out that way. He reached out pretty quick, and I’m very grateful that he did so because obviously, I was looking for another opportunity to find a home on short notice and I’m thankful for him doing that. I’m very excited.”

Asked what he knew about Union, Korpi said, “To be honest, absolutely nothing. [My] heart was set on Air Force. With the medical disqualification, it just happened to be where I had to find a new home. And I did some research about Union. They have some great programs for engineering, which I plan to go into. And it’s a great hockey conference and they have a very good history. It’s just something that really excited me.”

Korpi believes he could be a playmaker for the Dutchmen.

“I like to use my speed,” Korpi said. “I like to shoot the puck a lot and hopefully set up my teammates as much as I can.”

BEN TUPKER

Tupker is changing ECAC Hockey teams. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound forward tweeted last Wednesday that he is moving from Cornell to Union. Tupker is the second player to join the Dutchmen from the NCAA transfer portal. The other is former Penn State defenseman Mason Snell, who committed to Union prior to Hauge’s hiring.

Tupker had two goals and four assists in 25 games this past season. He graduated in three years with a degree in industrial labor relations, so he will have two years of eligibility remaining. Cornell, like Union, didn’t play in 2020-21 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Tupker will major in managerial economics.

“I guess I probably just made that decision about a month ago, so it was definitely a very difficult one to make,” Tupker said. “I absolutely loved my time at Cornell, and had great teammates and was part of a lot of great teams. So by no means was it easy, but I’m extremely happy with where I ended up at Union.”

Tupker spoke with Hauge and assistant coach John Ronan before making his decision to commit to Union. He was impressed with both of them, especially with Hauge.

“I feel like I’ve developed great relationships with both of them, but [Hauge’s] been awesome,” Tupker said. “He seems like a really great guy to play for, and he’s looking to kind of do something special at Union. I definitely want to be a part of that.”

Before joining Cornell, Tupker had a team-leading 24 goals and 32 assists in 50 games for the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League.

“I think where I do my best work is definitely below the top of the circles in the offensive zone,” Tupker said. “I’m a physical, big forward who can make stuff happen down low in the O-zone, but I take pride in playing the 200-foot game and being really good defensively as well.”

NATE HANLEY

Hanley made his commitment on May 13. He joins the Dutchmen from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the U.S. Hockey League. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward from Rocky Point on Long Island was seventh on the team in scoring with nine goals and 18 assists.

Hanley was impressed with Hauge, and that made it easy for him to commit to Union.

“He just seems like he wants to build a really strong program, and I definitely want to be a part of it,” Hanley said. “He just seemed super excited about the team. He seemed super excited about improving me as a player and getting Union back to the top where they used to.”

Hanley had originally committed to UConn.

“They wanted me to play another year of juniors or not play much this year,” Hanley said. “I wanted to get into a team where I play a lot and make a big impact.”

Hanley hopes to make an impact as a two-way forward.

“I 100% like playing defense,” Hanley said, “and obviously getting into the offensive end. I’m more of a playmaker on the offensive end.”

FUTURE DUTCHMEN

The two players committed for 2023-24 have some impressive numbers.

Buzziol, whose commitment was announced Tuesday, is a forward for the Milton Menace of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 29 assists in 51 games this season. Buzziol is ranked 166th among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings for the 2022 NHL draft.

Messina is a defenseman for the Langley Rivermen of the British Columbia Hockey League. He was the team’s top-scoring defenseman with eight goals and 25 assists. Messina ranked eighth in scoring among defenseman in the BCHL.

It’s a good start for Hauge and the Dutchmen as they try to return to prominence.

TRANSFER PORTAL

Union had six players enter the NCAA transfer portal. Three of them have found new schools.

Forward Collin Graf is headed to ECAC Hockey rival Quinnipiac, defenseman Dylan Anhorn will go to St. Cloud State and Ryan Sidorski will join North Dakota.

Graf and Anhorn are tough losses for the Dutchmen. Graf showed some promise with his offensive talent. He was second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists. He scored twice and had an assist in Union’s series-clinching 5-1 win over Princeton in Game 2 of the ECACH tournament first-round series. Graf has three years of eligibility remaining.

Anhorn could have replaced Brandon Estes as Union’s top offensive defenseman. He was fourth in scoring with seven goals and 13 assists. Anhorn has two years of eligibility left.

I have reached out several times to the Union sports information department to speak with Graf and Anhorn about why they are transferring. The players have repeatedly turned down those requests.

Sidorski, a steady, stay-at-home defenseman, is graduating in June. With one year of eligibility left because the Dutchmen didn’t play in 2020-21 and since Union doesn’t offer a graduate program in his majors neuroscience and economics, Sidorski wants to continue playing, and I don’t blame him.

Three other Dutchmen — forwards Gabriel Seger and Gleb Murtazin, and goalie Garrett Nieto — are still looking for new homes. Seger is the toughest loss of the three. He was third on the team in scoring with seven goals and 14 assists.

Murtazin had two goals and an assist in 16 games. His last game was Jan. 26 against Dartmouth.

Nieto appeared in four games, going 0-1-1 with a 4.18 goals-against average. His final game was in relief of Connor Murphy in the 8-2 loss at Clarkson on Jan. 15, the game in which Union gave up six first-period goals and proved to be Rick Bennett’s last as head coach.

NEW COLUMN

This marks the debut of my college hockey column. I’m going to have fun with this, and I hope you will contribute with questions about Union and the rest of college hockey.

If you have any questions or comments, email me at [email protected]. You can follow me on Twitter @slapschotts.

Categories: College Sports, Sports, Union College

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