The Union College men’s hockey team passed a major test last weekend when it took a pair of 3-1 victories over Yale and Brown last weekend.
The test the Dutchmen passed was their ability to erase the memory of the disastrous 10-1 loss to Cornell on Feb. 4 at Lynah Rink in Ithaca. They proved that was just a game where everything went right for Cornell — the Big Red scored six first period goals, five of which were on the power play, including four on a five-minute major penalty — and there was nothing Union could do to stop them.
But the Dutchmen have to pass another test Friday night when they visit ninth-ranked Harvard at Bright Landry Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Union has to show that it can play with the top teams in ECAC Hockey.
That hasn’t been the case this season. The last time Union faced Harvard, the Crimson had an easy 5-1 win at Messa Rink on Nov. 12 at Messa Rink. The Crimson scored a pair of goals during a 4-on-4 situation late in the second period when referees Kevin Graber and Anthony Dapuzzo mistakenly had coincidental five-minute majors placed on the scoreboard (Union coach Josh Hauge said a few days after the game that the conference acknowledged an error was made by the officials). But Union never recovered.
Union has been blown out a few times this season. ECACH-leading Quinnipiac, Union’s opponent next Friday, blitzed the Dutchmen 8-1 on Dec. 10 in Hamden, Connecticut. Cornell cruised to a 6-1 win over Union at Messa on Jan. 6. In early October, the Dutchmen lost 7-1 and 7-0 at UMass.
Hauge was pleased to see how his players responded to the Cornell drubbing by playing two of their better games of the season.
“I think you look at our season as a whole, and we’ve had some games where we’ve been punched in the face and maybe not responded very well,” Hauge said during Tuesday’s media availability at Messa. “I think this is another opportunity for us to prove that we’re growing up. We’ve done some good things, but until you can knock off that top-10 team, that’s a hurdle we haven’t cleared.”
It’s particularly important for the Dutchmen (7-10-1 ECACH, 23 points; 13-15-2 overall) to have a good showing against Harvard. Union is tied for seventh with Princeton, so it is right now in a home-ice slot for the ECACH tournament sudden-death first-round game in two weeks. The Dutchmen are a point behind sixth-place Clarkson.
“We have a little bit more confidence in our game,” Union goalie and Hudson Falls native Connor Murphy said. “I think last time we played them, they were 10th in the country. It might have intimidated us a little bit, and we didn’t play our best hockey. “Knowing that we’re able to play with them, and realizing that we’ve been playing some good hockey lately, that’s going to take us a long way. and we’re going to be able to bounce back and hopefully get a win.”
I didn’t pick the Dutchmen to win against Harvard. But if they can play a more competitive game than the one in November, that will be an encouraging sign as they prepare for the postseason.
The Union women’s hockey team will close out the regular season this weekend at Messa, hosting two of the best teams not only in the ECACH, but in the country.
Third-ranked Colgate visits at 6 p.m. Friday, and No. 14 Cornell is in at 3 p.m. Saturday.
A promising season fell apart over the last 12 games. Since setting the Division I program record for overall wins with 10 after beating Saint Michael’s on Jan. 2, the Dutchwomen (4-15-1 ECACH, 12.5 points; 11-20-1 overall) have gone 1-11. The skid began with a 7-2 at Cornell on Jan. 6, followed the next day with a 1-0 setback at Colgate.
Union enters this weekend on a six-game losing streak.
One goal Union is striving for is a winning record at home. The Dutchwomen are 6-5-1 at Messa.
“We have a chance to have a winning record at home, I think for the first time in program history,” Union head coach Josh Sciba said. “I think that’s something special for our group to be able to finish the season on that note. That would make a huge mark on what we’ve already achieved this season.”
NO GOALIE PULL
I’m still trying to figure out why Yale coach Keith Allain failed to pull goalie Luke Pearson with 32 seconds left in last Friday’s game with his team on the power play.
Union’s Cullen Ferguson was called for holding, giving Yale some hope of maybe pulling off a miracle. Pearson went to the bench during the delayed call, and was planning on staying there when Allain told him to go back to the net.
Pearson had to be stunned. You could tell he wasn’t happy. He just leaned back against the net and watched the final 32 seconds tick off the clock.
In an era when coaches are pulling their goalies with three minutes left and down one or two goals, you would have thought Allain would have at least pulled Pearson and make it a two-skater advantage. If you get a quick goal, you have some time left to try and get the tying goal and send the game to overtime and at least get a point.
Instead, Allain quit on his team. I guess he just wanted to get out of Messa.
Ironically, Allain did pull Pearson for an extra attacker with under two minutes and down 4-2 to RPI the next night. The Bulldogs didn’t score.
MORE UNION NICKNAME THOUGHTS
I received another comment about the possible Union College nickname change for its athletic programs. This comes from former men’s hockey player Daniel Ciampini, who played for the Dutchmen from 2011-15 and helped win the 2014 NCAA title.
“I did recently see it briefly and have mixed reviews about it. I haven’t read too much in depth about it, but obviously if it were offensive to a particular group or culture, I would understand the change, although, from what I’ve read, that isn’t the case.
“I’m not sure how the nickname or mascot is going to benefit their ‘rebranding.’ I understand the school and city has undergone lots of upgrades and facelifts since I’ve been gone, but I feel like a nickname/mascot change would do more harm than good in terms of history and tradition. It’s been amazing to see the transformation the school has gone through, but something like a school nickname is deeply rooted and I don’t see a need for it.
“All I know is, I’ll forever be a Union College Dutchmen.”
The RPI men’s team recently received three verbal commitments. Two come from the Alberta Junior Hockey League — Easton Adrian, a defenseman for the Drumheller Dragons, and Lucas Lemieux, a defenseman for the Camrose Kodiaks. The third commitment comes from Jérémie Payant, a forward for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Nanaimo Clippers.
Adrian will join RPI for the 2024-25 season. He has five goals and 25 assists in 44 games.
“I am proud and excited to announce my commitment to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where I will continue to pursue my academic and hockey goals,” Adrian wrote on Twitter. “I’m excited to continue this journey with the great coaching staff and people of RPI. I would [like to] thank everyone who made this possible!”
Lemieux expected to join RPI for the 2025-26 season. He has five goals and nine assists in 47 games.
“I am proud and excited to announce my commitment to play Division 1 hockey and further my education at RPI,” Lemieux wrote on Twitter. “Thanks to all my family, teammates, billets, advisor and coaches for believing in me. Huge thanks to the Camrose Kodiaks organization for pushing me to reach my goals.”
Payant is coming to RPI next season. He has 17 goals and 17 assists in 39 games this season.
“Extremely proud and excited to announce my commitment to play D1 hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute university!” Payant wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to all my family, friends, teammates and coaches who have helped me along the way.”
The Union women’s team received a couple of commitments.
Karianne Engelbert, who plays for the Durham West Girls’ Hockey Association, has committed to the Dutchwomen for the 2024-25. Also coming in that season is Giavanna Mancy, who plays for The Hill School.
The college hockey community is mourning the passing of Omaha assistant coach Paul Jerrard. The school announced Thursday that Jerrard died after a long battle with cancer. He was 57.
Jerrard was one of three active Black assistant coaches in NCAA men’s Division hockey. The others are Union’s Lennie Childs and St. Thomas’ Leon Hayward.
Childs wrote on Twitter, “PJ was a mentor, so special, so forthcoming, so genuine, and an elite hockey mind. He helped mold me more than he will ever know. Prayers to his family. The hockey world was blessed to have had his presence in this game.” The tweet ended with a broken heart emoji.
Jerrard has ties to the Capital Region. He played seven games for the ill-fated Albany Choppers of the International Hockey League. The Choppers, who moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to play at Knickerbocker Arena (now MVP Arena), folded midway through the 1990-91 season because of financial difficulties. It was their only season in the area.
Jerrard played for Lake Superior State from 1983-87, and then went onto a 14-year pro career, mainly in the minors. He spent several years as an assistant coach in the NHL, AHL and college hockey. Jerrard was in his fifth season as an assistant coach at Omaha.
Time for my latest ECAC Hockey men’s power rankings.
1) Quinnipiac — Back on top of the polls.
2_ Cornell — Has four-point weekend against travel partner Colgate
3) Harvard — Crimson beat travel partner Dartmouth, then lose the Beanpot final to Northeastern in a shootout.
4) Colgate — Gave Cornell a tough time in the two games last weekend
5) Union — Dutchmen shake off the Cornell rout with impressive wins over Yale and Brown.
6) St. Lawrence — The Saints take care of business against Princeton.
7) Clarkson — The Golden Knights get a much-needed win against Clarkson after losing to Quinnipiac.
8) Princeton — Didn’t have a good time in the North Country.
9) Brown — Split the Capital Region road trip.
10) RPI — Tough loss to Brown, but big win over Yale on Big Red Freakout night.
11) Yale — Plain and simple, head coach Keith Allain quit on his team last Friday by not pulling the goalie for an extra attacker and getting a power play with 32 seconds left in the game.
12) Dartmouth — It’s a lost season for the Big Green.