Tupker twins set to face each other Friday when Ben and Union men’s hockey host Zach and Cornell

Union's Ben, left, will play against twin brother Zach Tupker of Cornell when the two teams meet Friday in ECAC Hockey action at Messa Rink. (Ben Tupker photo by Peter R.Barber/The Daily Gazette; Zach Tupker photo courtesy Cornell Athletics)

Union's Ben, left, will play against twin brother Zach Tupker of Cornell when the two teams meet Friday in ECAC Hockey action at Messa Rink. (Ben Tupker photo by Peter R.Barber/The Daily Gazette; Zach Tupker photo courtesy Cornell Athletics)

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SCHENECTADY Twins Ben and Zach Tupker have always been on the same hockey teams, from youth programs, to junior hockey and, up until last season, college hockey.

But after finishing the 2021-22 season with Cornell, Ben Tupker decided it was time for a change. He entered the NCAA transfer portal and landed at Union.

There will be a family reunion Friday night at Messa Rink when Ben Tupker and the Dutchmen host Zach Tupker and 18th-ranked Cornell at 7.

Ben Tupker, a junior tri-captain, is looking forward to facing his brother. But he is trying to be low key about it.

“It’s going to be a different experience, obviously, lining up on the different side for the first time against him,” Ben Tupker said during Union’s media availability Tuesday at Messa Rink. “But I think once [the game] gets underway, the storyline is going to kind of go away. It’s just another game. He’s going to play his game, and I’m going to do mine. That’s about it.”

Zach Tupker is looking forward to competing against his brother.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Zach Tupker said during a telephone interview Wednesday. “I know my parents will be in attendance to watch, and the family is pretty excited and definitely some bragging rights on the table, so it should be a pretty fun night.”

Ben Tupker said his relationship with Zach growing up in Collingwood, Ontario, was awesome.

“Just having somebody that you’re with 24/7 that you’ve gone through everything with, I think is pretty special and a bit unique,” Ben Tupker said. “It’s nice to always have somebody to play road hockey with or do whatever. He was always by my side. I’m sure it’ll be like that going forward, too.”

Zach Tupker concurs.

“Growing up, [we] did everything together,” Zach Tupker said. “We have a really, really good relationship. We talk every day. I’m definitely proud of what he has accomplished.”

Ben Tupker played in 34 games for the Big Red and had five goals and five assists. Cornell didn’t play in the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Ben Tupker decided that he wanted to enter the transfer portal, he spoke with his brother about it. It was a decision that Ben Tupker knew would separate him from Zach.

“We had some conversations about it,” said Ben Tupker, who has three goals in 19 games this season, including a game-winner against Dartmouth on Nov. 11. “No matter what I decided to do, he’s always going to support me. That’s why we’re brothers. He was great with it, and I think he completely understands. I’m super appreciative of how he handled it and everything like that.

“Once he heard it was Union, he was happy for me and happy that we’re going to have the chance to play against each other and see each other a couple times a year. He was great through all that.”

Being able to play hockey together at all levels growing up was a thrill for Zach Tupker.

“Just from being able to go there with your best friend every day, you can’t really beat that,” said Zach Tupker, who has three goals and three assists in 14 games for the Big Red this season and five goals and 10 assists in 66 career games. “It’s definitely really special just growing up playing minor hockey on the same team. I’m sure it saved my parents a lot of travel time and a lot of headaches of traveling to two different Triple-A games and stuff like that.”

Union head coach Josh Hauge and forward Chaz Smedsrud understand the importance of the game for Ben Tupker.

“I think it’s just awesome,” Hauge said. “To be able to play against your brother, that’s amazing. I  know Zach well. It’s one of those things like we’re all a family. Even if he’s on the opposite team, he’s still part of our family after the game.”

“Once we get going, it’s just gonna be another game,” Smedsrud said. “But going in, I think it’s pretty cool. He gets to play against his brother.”

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer has been impressed with the job Ben Tupker has been doing at Union.

“I’ve watched him on tape,” Schafer said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He’s getting lots of ice time. They put a letter on him, which shows you they recognized right away he’s a great person, very committed to the game of hockey and a great teammate. It’s not surprising with his experience that he is able to get a letter on his jersey.”

Ben Tupker will try to help Union (3-5-0 ECAC Hockey, 9 points; 8-10-1 overall) snap an 0-5-1 skid against Cornell (5-3-0, 16 points; 8-5-1). He contributed to the Big Red’s 5-2 win Feb. 12 at Messa by scoring a goal. He doesn’t remember much about the goal.

“To be honest, it’s a long time ago,” Ben Tupker said. “I remember Union had a lot of good pieces last year. They’re a good team. And I remember it was pretty tight contest. I was happy to score in that game.

“But now being on the other side of things, I’m going to try and do what I can to contribute to a win here on Friday.”

And who will Ben and Zach’s parents, Geoff and Tracy, be rooting for on Friday?

We’re excited for the game,” they wrote in a direct message on Twitter. “This will be the first time ever the boys have played against each other. We’re super proud and just want them both to do well. It’s hard because at the end of the day, somebody isn’t going to be happy. As parents, we’d be happy with an overtime tie!”

Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.

Categories: College Sports, Sports, Union College

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