SCHENECTADY — Josh Hauge didn’t waste much time hitting the recruiting trail shortly after he was named the head coach of the Union College men’s hockey team on April 15.
The first players he landed have turned out to be pretty good players for the Dutchmen in their freshmen season.
Center Nate Hanley and defenseman John Prokop have made an immediate impact in their first year with the Dutchmen, who take on Yale at 7 p.m. Friday and Brown at 4 p.m. Saturday in ECAC Hockey games at Messa Rink. Hanley leads the team in scoring with four goals and 15 assists. Prokop is second with four goals and 13 assists.
The duo could become the third pair of Union freshmen to finish 1-2 in team scoring in the program’s Division I history. It was first accomplished in 1993-94 by forwards Chris Ford (20-15-35) and Troy Stevens (6-28-34). The last time it happened was in 2007-08, when forwards Adam Presizniuk (7-18-5) and Stephane Boileau (6-15-21) led the way.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hanley, who is from Rocky Point, came to Union from the U.S. Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The 6-3, 185-pound Prokop, who is from Wausau, Wisconsin, joined Union from the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers.
Hauge was happy to land Hanley and Prokop so quickly after taking the job.
“When you look at Nate, he [has] an extremely high hockey IQ,” Hauge said during Tuesday’s media availability at Messa Rink. He can slow the game down. He makes players around him better. He’s a winner. He’s going to find ways to win in whatever he does, whether he’s playing tennis, running cross country, playing hockey. He’s successful in everything he does, and he brings that mentality to our locker room.
“John has an unbelievable skating ability. He can get up and down the ice [and has] a ton of poise. We’re really fortunate that a lot of schools have overlooked them, and we’re able to bring them in here.”
Hanley, a New York Islanders fan, styles his game after former Islander John Tavares, who is now with the New York Islanders, and current Islander Josh Bailey.
Hanley doesn’t say much when he is interviewed, but he lets his game speak for him.
“It’s good,” Hanley said when asked about the possibility of being in the top two in team scoring. “Being able to produce a lot and help out the team as much as we can [is important].”
Prokop started his hockey career as a forward before shifting to defense his junior year of high school.
“I just grew really fast, so my coach put me on the backend because my boots weren’t that quick,” Prokop said.
Prokop’s style could be compared to one of the Dutchmen’s all-time greatest defensemen, Shayne Gostisbehere, who helped Union win the 2014 NCAA title. Like Gostisbehere, who is now with the Arizona Coyotes, Prokop moves the puck well. He’s not afraid to skate from the point and drive to the net.
“I’ve been on the offensive side of the red line more often than not,” Prokop said. “I think it’s working on my defensive game that will help the team in the end.”
Prokop models his game after Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski.
“I remember watching him when I started watching the NHL,” Prokop said. “He was a rookie coming into Columbus, and he was always fun to watch. He played with a good pace.”
While Union (5-10-1 ECACH, 17 points, 11-15-2 overall) has had an up-and-down season in Hauge’s first year as head coach, the play of Hanley and Prokop gives Dutchmen fans optimism for the future.
“It’s obviously always a little bit intimidating coming in as a freshman,” Union senior goalie Conner Murphy said. “They both have, I’ve been really comfortable since the start of the year, and they’ve been really contributing to the team’s success. They’re obviously a huge part of making plays and getting some offense.”
“Everything they’ve done, it doesn’t mean nothing if they don’t continue to work and continue to put the effort in,” Hauge said. “But they’re guys that are going to help set this program up for the future. They have that kind of ability and, hopefully, they continue to have success for the rest of the year for us.”
Contact Ken Schott by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @slapschotts.
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