It’s almost become a tradition seeing ESPN’s John Buccigross call a Union game in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional.
Asked if he feels a kinship with the Dutchmen, Buccigross said no.
“I would call it a familiarity,” said Buccigross, who will call the top-ranked Dutchmen’s semifinal game against Vermont at 2 p.m. Friday on ESPNU. “I am uncomfortable establishing very close friends with the people that I cover. I don’t think that’s my place. It does make it easier to memorize the numbers, and that’s something I work very hard on.
“[In] too many college hockey games on TV are the broadcasters having a conversation while the game is going on. That would never be tolerated in football. And I think that happens because they don’t take the time to learn the numbers. It’s hard, especially for four teams, but the players deserve that respect. They work hard and commit themselves to this great game. They are part of the fabric.”
Buccigross, who will be joined by analyst Barry Melrose and reporter Quint Kessenich for the East Regional games, likes Union’s chances of advancing to the Frozen Four.
“They are the favorite in the East Regional, and have the complete game to compete with anybody,” Buccigross said. “More importantly, I think they believe that in their bones.”
Two people impress Buccigross the most, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and coach Rick Bennett.
“Shayne Gostisbehere, like all great defensemen from mites to the NHL, makes everybody’s job easier,” Buccigross said. “A beautiful skater with a great shot. Him being better this year makes them better.
“But they have a great team unity and fire fueled by their coach. He is a serious, big man, and he has everybody’s attention. I could see him coaching in the NHL.”
Buccigross sees Gostisbehere, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 draft, as a solid NHL player. But Buccigross believes Gostisbehere needs to add some muscle, and that it would be wise for him to play his senior season.
“You don’t see NHL defensemen at 170 pounds. You don’t find many at 180,” Buccigross said. “[Boston Bruins defenseman] Torey Krug texted me he is 183 pounds right now. But he can run a power play and carry the puck. Shayne can do that, too. If he can play at 185-190, that would be huge, but it could take a few years to get to that weight. He may be able to play in the NHL next year, or he may need a couple of AHL years. Because he could be on a power play and be a quasi-specialist on a good blue line group, he could play next year.
“But everyone is so damn strong in the NHL, he will need to figure it out to survive. That’s why, if I were him, I would definitely return to Union next year and keep trying to slowly add his weight and strength.”
Friday’s other semifinal, between Quinnipiac and Providence, will also be on ESPNU at 5:30 p.m. …
Saturday’s final will be at 3 p.m. on ESPN2.