SCHENECTADY — There were echoes to Union College’s 2016-17 season at Messa Rink on Thursday.
A player with the name “Foo” stitched to the back of his sweater posed for the annual team photo.
And a member of the media inadvertantly wore a golf shirt with a Penn State logo on it.
The Dutchmen, of course, finished the season by flaming out badly against the Nittany Lions 10-3 in the NCAA quarterfinals in Cincinnati on March 25.
That marked the final game for all-time leading scorer Mike Vecchione, Spencer Foo and several other players who formed the core of a team that produced a sparkling 25-10-3 record, but clunked its way to 2-2-1 over its last five postseason games.
The final game left a sour taste, but Rick Bennett was able to chuckle off the Penn State shirt at the annual media day, which a head coach can do when he has a promising young team that includes another Foo, Spencer’s talented brother Parker.
“It starts when the media wears the Penn State stuff. So that’s the beginning,” Bennett said. “And you never forget, which is not a bad thing.
“But, honestly, that’s in the rearview mirror, the whole season. That means the championship we won, getting to the NCAAs, yeah, that was a tremendous accomplishment by those players. But that’s over now.”
The championship to which Bennett referred was the Cleary Cup for winning the ECAC Hockey regular season, which the Dutchmen shared with Harvard.
Union was knocked out of the ECACH semifinals in Lake Placid by Cornell, but still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Between the departed Vecchione, Spencer Foo, Jeff Taylor, Nick DeSimone, Michael Pontarelli, Eli Lichtenwald and Matt Krug, Union lost almost 54 percent of its goal-scoring, as well as graduated goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos, who played over 78 percent of the total minutes despite missing some games due to a knee injury toward the end of the regular season.
Bennett said there’s a three-way competition for goalie time between Jake Kupsky, little-used fellow junior Joe Young and first-year player Darion Hanson from East Bethleh, Minn.
The Dutchmen open the season on Sept. 30 at Boston University.
“We have a nice problem,” he said. “It’s wide open. People may say it’s probably not a great thing, because if you have three you have none. But eventually, through the month of September, getting ready for BU on the 30th, one of those guys is going to push the pace, and he’s going to be the guy playing.”
Assembling lines will be another juggling act.
The Dutchmen have nine first-year players, and Parker Foo figures to see plenty of playing time as he makes the transition to the college game.
The 18-year-old is coming off a Alberta Junior Hockey League championship season with the Brooks Bandits.
“I think a couple guys have [called Parker ‘Spencer’],”
junior Brett Supinski said with a chuckle. “ ‘Foozie’ is usually the safe bet.”
“There are some similarities,” he said, of his brother. “We’re both pretty good skaters, so hopefully I can bring some speed and some scoring to the front end.
“But I also take pride on my defensive play, so if I can get on the penalty kill as much as I can and make sure things are taken care of in the ‘D’ zone, that’s kind of my game and I’ll fit in real well here.”
Although the Dutchmen were ousted by Penn State in the NCAA Tournament, that’s invaluable experience for the players who are back this season, playing for a program that has come to expect deep postseason runs under Bennett.
“It left a bad taste in our mouth, certainly for the guys in the room,” senior Ryan Scarfo said. “Any time you go down like that, especially in the last game of the season, it doesn’t feel good. We sort of used that for motivation throughout the summer, and we’re looking forward to September 30th, for sure.”