Union coach Nate Leaman is pleased with the way his team has started this season — five non-league games that have produced a 3-1-1 record.
The results do matter, but not as much as they will starting tonight.
The Dutchmen open the ECAC Hockey season at 7 when they host Dartmouth at Messa Rink.
“All the games count,” Leaman said. “They do, if your goal is to make the NCAA tournament, and that is certainly our goal. But we know it’s going to be a new challenge. We’re excited to get started on that.
“Ultimately, we’re still taking it one game at a time. We’re off to the start that we kind of wanted to have, and now we have to try to build on that start with league play.”
The Dutchmen had their best finish in league play ever last season, placing fourth. In the league preseason polls, the coaches picked Union to finish fifth, while the
media predicted a sixth-place finish.
With such high expectations, it was important for the Dutchmen to get off to a good start in those non-conference games. Now that they have accomplished that, the players are ready for league play.
“We look at the non-conference games as a warm-up to right now,” forward Matt Cook said. “Now is when we start league play. We know every game on our schedule counts, but these count a little bit more. They carry a lot of meaning, as far as the value we put on them, and also what they mean for standings in the ECAC. We’re very ready, we’re excited to get this
going and excited to get out journey going in the right way.”
For the Dutchmen to start on the right path, they must realize that they aren’t a fancy team.
Despite their 3-2 win over Connecticut last Friday, the Dutchmen weren’t happy. Instead of continuing to shoot the puck, they tried to be cute and make the extra pass.
“It’s always stressed on this team [to shoot the puck],” forward Jason Walters said. “We’re a team [that has] to work for our offense. When you’re not getting the puck to the net, it makes it difficult on our defense.”
Since Leaman became Union’s coach in 2003, the Dutchmen haven’t lost at home to Dartmouth, showing two wins and three draws. Last year’s game ended in a scoreless tie.
“They’re typically a physical team,” Leaman said. “If you look back at all of the games in our rink, . . . they’re typically pretty low-scoring in our rink, for whatever reason. They’re great games. They’re always close games. We’re not expecting anything different.”
READY FOR REMATCH
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Seth Appert can’t wait to get another shot at Harvard. Now, if the Engineers can just get their power play going.
The Engineers (0-1, 1-5-1) host the Crimson (2-0, 2-0) in their annual Black Friday jersey game tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.
RPI dropped a 3-1 decision at Harvard on Tuesday.
“I hope it turns a little ugly,” Appert said. “That’s what you want. That’s why I enjoy playing the same team two nights in a row. It was pretty physical [Tuesday] night,
especially with the amount of special teams.”
Each team went 1-for-10 on the power play. However, RPI failed to score on six straight power-play chances in the second period, which included a two-man advantage for 1:19.
Harvard’s power-play goal came in the third period, just as its two-man advantage ended, giving it a 2-0 lead.
Appert was disappointed that his power play couldn’t come through in the second.
“It should have turned the outcome of the game,” Appert said. “That’s where you need your power play to perform.”
Leaman said forward Justin Pallos and defenseman Mike Wakita have recovered from undisclosed injuries, and will be back in the lineup tonight. Pallos missed the Connecticut game, while Wakita has been out the last three contests. . . .
Appert said Mathias Lange will start again against Harvard. He made 33 saves in Tuesday’s game. . . .
RPI forward Kurt Colling (sprained ankle) will miss both games this weekend. Colling hasn’t played since injuring the ankle against Bentley Oct. 18. . . .
The Union and RPI women’s teams are on the road this weekend. Tonight at 7, Union is at Darmouth and RPI visits Harvard. At 4 p.m. Saturday, the Dutchwomen are at Harvard, while the Engineers take on Dartmouth.