So, what is the Union’s men hockey team going to look like under new head coach Josh Hauge?
For starters, there are 33 players on the roster. It’s the deepest roster the Dutchmen have had in a while. That has made for competition in the practices the team has had since starting Sept. 7.
“With Hauge coming in, he definitely wanted a team that was competitive in practice every day, and guys are fighting for spots,” Union senior forward Owen Farris said. “We’re going to have seven forwards in the stands every night, so it’s going to be difficult to fight for roster spots. It’s meant that practices have been more intense. No one feels quite safe in their spot, and everyone’s always going as hard as I can.”
Here’s an analysis of the 2022-23 Dutchmen.
STRENGTH IN GOAL
One player who probably has job security is senior goalie Connor Murphy.
The Hudson Falls native was outstanding in his first season with the Dutchmen after transferring from Northeastern. Murphy was 14-18-3 with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts. He made a program-record 1,060 saves. He started all 37 games, and never asked for a game off.
His play in goal gives the Dutchmen confidence. If Murphy has another outstanding season, he could steal a few wins for the Dutchmen.
This could be an issue. Union’s top four scorers are gone.
Defenseman Brandon Estes, who was the leading scorer with seven goals and 22 assists, graduated. Forward Colin Graf, who was second with 11 goals and 11 assists in his one season at Union, transferred to ECAC Hockey-rival Quinnipiac. Forward Gabriel Seger, the third-leading scorer with seven goals and 14 assists, transferred to Cornell. Defenseman Dylan Anhorn, the fourth-leading scorer with seven goals and 13 assists, transferred to St. Cloud State.
Junior forward Liam Robertson is Union’s top returning scorer. He was fifth on the team with 13 goals and six assists. Robertson was sharp on the power play, leading the team with eight power-play goals. He will get better and could become Union’s first 20-goal scorer since Ryan Scarfo collected 20 goals in the 2017-18 season.
More production must come from junior forwards Chaz Smedsrud (5-11-16 last season) and Tyler Watkins (4-12-16) and sophomore Michael Hodge (5-5-10).
One player I’ll be interested in watching is freshman forward Colby MacArthur, who comes to Union from the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. MacArthur led the league in scoring last season with 18 goals and 57 assists. In his three seasons with the Capitals, MacArthur collected 47 goals and 116 assists in 127 games. He could be a good playmaker for Union.
Union’s defensive unit took a hit with the departures of Estes, Anhorn and Ryan Sidorski, who graduated and had an extra year of eligibility, so he joined North Dakota.
I was impressed with defenseman Cullen Ferguson, who is a sophomore this season. He can play physical, and he can generate some offense. He had 10 assists.
Some of the returnees who need to step up are juniors Nick Petruolo and Nathan Kelly.
A player to keep an eye on is freshman Cal Mell. He comes to Union from the North American Hockey League’s Janseville Jets, where he had three goals and 36 assists.
Two first-year players have caught the attention of Hauge, forward Nate Hanley and defenseman John Prokop.
Hanley comes to Union from the U.S. Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, where he had nine goals and 18 assists in 53 games and was an assistant captain.
Prokop is another USHL alum. He had a goal and 14 assists in 58 games for the Des Moines Buccaneers last season.
“As far as first-year guys, I think Nate Hanley’s really grabbed a center position for us and [is someone that can be dependent on and can make plays as well,” Hauge said. “John Prokop, on the back end, as a first-year player, has shown he can get up in the play and really moves the puck well and has a high ceiling.”
HAUGE IN CHARGE
After spending seven seasons as an assistant coach at Clarkson, Hauge gets to run his own program.
From what the players have told me, they like Hauge and are impressed with him. He brings a calmness that’s needed after the tumultuous 2021-22 season that was highlighted by head coach Rick Bennett’s resignation in late January.
There will be growing pains as the season goes on. How Hauge handles it will determine the course of the season.
One other item. The program is not only in a transition on the ice, there are changes off it. Hauge will have the ability to award athletic scholarships starting with next season’s recruit class. That’s a game-changer for the Dutchmen.
I believe Union will finish sixth in ECAC Hockey play and reach the quarterfinals again. The Dutchmen will win 16 games.