Beware of the shot of Jeremy Welsh. If you want to get in front of the hard missiles the Union junior center fires, especially from the right point on the power play, be prepared to take your life into your own hands.
“If you’re willing to go down and block that shot, I’ll pat you on the back myself,” Dutchmen senior center Kelly Zajac said. “It’s going to scare guys all the way. It’s going to make guys hesitant. But if you can get those through and on net, it’s probably a for-sure goal.”
Welsh’s deadly shot has produced 25 goals this season for the ECAC Hockey regular-season- and tournament-champion Dutchmen. Union (24-7-7) is the top seed in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional and the tourney’s No. 3 seed overall. Welsh and the Dutchmen take on fourth-seeded Michigan State in the East semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
Welsh, who needs four points to become the eighth Dutchmen Division I player to get 100 career points, puts every bit of his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame into his shots. The one-timers are the most impressive because they are so hard and so fast.
“The one-timer is the only shot I never worked on,” the 23-year-old Welsh, who has 51 goals and 45 assists in 116 career games, said Tuesday at Messa Rink. “I never practiced it when I was a kid. I never worked on it. I guess it’s just kind of a natural [thing]. I just try and hit it as hard as I can.
“I’m pretty strong. I’m athletic enough to get down low to get the swing down low and make good contact with the puck.”
Dutchmen sophomore defenseman Mat Bodie works the left point on Union’s first power-play unit with Welsh. They seem to have a nice chemistry going.
Bodie believes Welsh, who is tied with Daniel Carr for the team lead with nine power-play goals, has an NHL-caliber shot.
“He treats every shot like it’s his last shot,” Bodie said. “He’s putting everything he has into every shot. It pays off. Even, sometimes, he can fan on the puck, and still get quite a bit on it, a lot more than most guys get. He’s a natural shooter, and he’s got a great shot.
“We like to let [the situation] play out. We both feel we can play that spot at the top of the blue line and just let things roll. It seems to be working pretty well for us.”
Welsh, who hails from Bayfield, Ontario, eclipsed the record for most goals in a season by a Union Division I player (formerly held by Mario Valery-Trabucco), during last weekend’s semifinal game against Colgate. He then scored Union’s first goal against Harvard, tying the score 37 seconds after the Crimson took a 1-0 lead on Alex Killorn’s goal early in the third period.
Welsh rushed end to end and then fired a hard wrist shot from the right circle between the pads of Harvard goalie Raphael Girard.
“I worked on my wrist shot a lot as a kid, shooting a lot of pucks in my garage,” said Welsh said, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the ECACH tournament. “I worked on my release and stuff like that.”
Union coach Rick Bennett agreed with Bodie’s assessment about Welsh treating every shot like it’s his last.
“As we always say, he’s a pretty violent shooter,” Bennett said. “It’s an example to a lot of our players. For people to come watch and see him shoot is kind of fun. If he doesn’t have the hardest shot in college hockey, he’s right up in the top 10, for certain.”
Welsh is getting plenty of attention from NHL scouts. In fact, Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was at Saturday’s game and spoke with Welsh afterwards. Welsh participated in the Blackhawks’ prospect camp last summer.
Welsh is trying to block out the NHL attention because he wants to help Union win an NCAA title.
“Right now, we’re in such a good spot and it’s such an exciting time that it’s pretty easy to put that stuff aside and not think about it,” Welsh said. “Whatever happens will happen. No one really knows. But this is a chance [of winning an NCAA title] that doesn’t come around too often. We have a good shot here, so all of my focus is going into that, and I know everyone else is in the same boat. I’m just excited about the next couple of weeks.”
Bennett believes Welsh’s effort in the ECACH championship round helped his stock.
“The NCAAs will be a great test for him,” Bennett said. “I think he took a major step with his performance in the ECAC final four, for certain. He always seems to come up pretty big.”
Two Dutchmen honored
Union right winger Josh Jooris and goalie Troy Grosenick were honored by ECAC Hockey on Tuesday.
Jooris was named player of the week. The sophomore had a goal and three assists in Friday’s 6-2 win over Colgate in the ECACH tournament semifinals. In Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Harvard in the championship game, Jooris assisted on Carr’s tiebreaking goal midway through the third period. Jooris clinched the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Grosenick, also a sophomore, made 44 saves in the two games. He was named to the all-tournament team.