Union sophomore center Mike Vecchione had an outstanding season, and the numbers he has put up in his first two years with the Dutchmen are the kind that can bring contract offers from National Hockey League teams.
But NHL teams will have to wait at least one more year to bid for Vecchione’s services.
Vecchione will return to the Dutchmen for his junior season. The 22-year-old from Saugus, Mass., tied senior right winger Daniel Ciampini for the team lead in points with 50 (19 goals, 31 assists). In 77 career games, he has 84 points. He should become the third Union junior at the Division I level to reach 100 career points. Jeremy Welsh was the first, doing it in the 2011-12 season, and Daniel Carr did it the following year.
“Mike has the inner passion and the energy to make things right again,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “I think he wants to be a leader of that, and he has every chance to do that.”
While Vecchione has put up some impressive offensive numbers, he believes that his game isn’t where it should be. And he isn’t happy that the Dutchmen didn’t get to win a fourth straight ECAC Hockey tournament championship and didn’t get a chance to defend their NCAA title. Union finished 10th in the league with an 8-13-1 record. After sweeping Cornell in the first round of the ECACH tournament, Union was eliminated by Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals.
“I, obviously, had a pretty good season,” Vecchione said. “But I have lot more to improve on in my game. I have a little unfinished business at Union. I don’t want to leave on this kind of note. I like to get the program back where it should be.
“Like I said, there’s a lot of stuff in my game that I need to improve on. Staying for the next couple of years will do me good. The coaching staff will help me improve. I already sat down with them, and I’m coming back next year.”
The biggest aspect that Vecchione wants to work on is being a consistently dominant player. It starts with working on his conditioning. He pointed to Harvard junior forward and ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Jimmy Vesey as the type of player he wants to be.
“To be able to go to the next level, you’ve got to be able to dominate all the games,” Vecchione said. “This year, I felt like I did some games. But other games, I wasn’t. You look at a guy like Vesey, he dominated all the games and got 30 goals. My game needs to get to that level before I even think about moving to the next level.
“I’m never satisfied. I know I can always get better. I don’t think I’m ready for the next level. College hockey is great right now. My best [move] would be to stay in college and try and get a degree from here. I’ve seen past players do it. It’s the right move.”
Vecchione lets his family advisor, Mark Toof, handle inquiries from NHL teams. Vecchione will attend at least one NHL development camp this summer. He was in the Florida Panthers’ development camp last summer.
“My advisor has done a great job of having teams contact him and not bother me during the season because I want to concentrate on the season,” Vecchione said. “After the season, I talked to my advisor and coach and sorted out the best options for me. Right now, we’re just talking about [development] camps and the best places to go.”
Vecchione became an alternate captain in December. He would like to get the opportunity to be the team captain next season. Union’s hasn’t had a forward serve as captain since Matt Cook in 2008-09.
“It’s a definitely a possibility,” Vecchione said. “When I sat down with coach, he said that nothing is guaranteed. I’ve got to continue to be a leader and prove myself, and make sure we have the team on the right track in lifts this spring. I took on that leadership role in December. I just have to continue to do what I do and be a leader on and off the ice and keep the guys focused.”
At this time next season, Vecchione wants to be leading Union into the NCAA tournament. Being off at this time of year doesn’t suit him.
“It’s a little upsetting. I’ve never really had a spring break,” Vecchione said. “I’m always playing in the playoffs. Watching the ECAC finals and the [NCAA] seedings, it’s frustrating, knowing that we can compete with those teams and beat those teams. But it’s the kind of season that we had. We weren’t a full-time team. Coach always said we were part time. It came to bite us in the butt in the end. It’s just upsetting. We could be there, but we’re not. We have the talent.”