The disappointment on the face of Union hockey freshman center Mike Vecchione was very visible.
This was the weekend that Vecchione was looking forward to with excitement. He was going to go up against the team that he originally committed to play for.
Unfortunately, what Union coach Rick Bennett described as a “full-body injury” will keep Vecchione off the ice when the sixth-ranked Dutchmen (13-4-3) head to Durham, N.H., to take on the 17th-ranked University of New Hampshire (13-10-1) for a two-game series. The first game is tonight at 7:30. Saturday’s contest starts at 7 p.m.
Vecchione had committed to UNH for the 2012-13 season. But late in 2011, the Saugus, Mass., native decommitted because the coaching staff wanted him to play another year in the U.S. Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm.
“Things just didn’t work out there,” Vecchione said. “I agreed to some different things than they thought they agreed to. It didn’t really work out for me in the end, so I thought it would be best for me to find a different place to play.”
Vecchione was disappointed in how things fell apart with UNH.
“It was one of the schools that first recruited me,” Vecchione said. “I really wanted to go there. It didn’t work out, but I found a really great place in Union.”
The Dutchmen coaching staff was quick to move in and get Vecchione. Before going to Tri-City, Vecchione had 26 goals and 44 assists for Malden Catholic in 2010-11.
“As soon as I decommitted from UNH, [Union assistant coach Joe] Dumais called me up,” Vecchione said. “He was really interested in me. I was interested in the school and how great they were doing. It’s a great school for academics, and they were in the Frozen Four when they recruited me. It was a no-brainer.”
Vecchione, who has five goals and eight assists in 18 games, was looking forward to skating on the Whittemore Center ice and showing the Wildcats what they are missing. But unless a miracle cure happens, Vecchione will have to wait to face UNH when it comes to Messa Rink next season.
“It would have been fun,” Vecchione said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and family that were going to be there. I’ve got a lot of friends at the school that were going to create some havoc. It would have been nice to play up there. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to.”
Bennett understands Vecchione’s disappointment.
“You always come back against a team that you used to be committed to,” Bennett said.
Vecchione has won 136 of 249 faceoffs. His .546 winning percentage tops the Dutchmen, who could have used his skills in last Friday’s 2-1 loss to Quinnipiac. They lost 48 of 68 faceoffs in the game.
“We work on it in practice almost every day,” Vecchione said. “I grew up being a centerman. I played wing mostly through high school and juniors. Transitioning back to center wasn’t too tough for me. I don’t know what it is, but I have a knack for winning faceoffs. I do work on them a lot.”
Bennett said Vecchione has been excellent on faceoffs since the start of preseason practices. He believes Vecchione will continue to get better as he progresses at Union.
“He’s provided a lot of depth for us at that position and taken to it,” Bennett said. “He’s come in and taken to it. It’s similar to Eli [Lichtenwald] and the guys that are in the lineup now.
“[Vecchione] is definitely a top-six forward in the future. He puts the work in [during] the summer. He goes to Paul Vincent’s, so his skating and skills are always constantly getting better. How guys get better is [training] throughout the summers, and working hard and being willing to practice hard throughout the year.”
Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who was injured in last Saturday’s game against Princeton, remains questionable for the series. He practiced for the first time Wednesday and participated in most of the drills. . . .
Union forward Matt Wilkins is questionable for the series with an undisclosed injury. . . .
This is Union’s fourth straight trip to UNH. The Dutchmen dropped a 2-1 overtime decision in their last visit Oct. 28, 2011.