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Union hockey not basking in North Dakota success

Union hockey not basking in North Dakota success

Dutchmen bringing momentum into weekend against ECAC Hockey rivals Brown, Yale
Union hockey not basking in North Dakota success
Union's Brett Supinski leads the charge up ice against Vermont at Messa Rink on Oct. 14.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY — Union College men's hockey coach Rick Bennett twice put the verbal italics on the word "last" while recounting the Dutchmen's terrific two-game set at North Dakota.

As in "last" weekend.

Union beat the then-No. 3 team in the country 4-1, then followed up with a 2-2 tie in a difficult road building, the Fighting Hawks' 11,600-seat Ralph Engelstad Arena.

But that was then, and this is now.

Junior Jake Kupsky played well enough — "amazing," according to teammate Brett Supinski, to earn the ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week. But, who knows? Freshman Darion Hanson could be back in net on Friday.

And the Dutchmen moved back into the top 20 in the national rankings, but that won't help them beat Brown and Yale this weekend.

So the Dutchmen are being careful not to get full of themselves, and are concentrating instead on the solid play that has turned around the season as they head back into ECACH play at Messa Rink against Brown on Friday and Yale on Saturday.

"You have to build on that weekend, and we have to be sure that we know that that was ... last ... weekend," Bennett said on Wednesday. "Jake Kupsky was goalie of the week. Last weekend.

"And that's crucial. If you want to be consistent and you want to be better each game and each practice, get over yourself as quickly as possible."

"It's behind us," Supinski said. "And Brown's played us hard every game we've played against them since I've been here. They always come out flying against us, and have a lot of skill. They should be great games. They always are. We need to get every point we can."

Union (5-1-0 ECACH, 8-6-1 overall), tied with Cornell for second behind Clarkson in the conference, is 7-2-1 in the last 10 games against Brown.

The Dutchmen lost their first five games, but are 8-1-1 in their last 10, and it hasn't mattered much whether Kupsky or Hanson has been in goal.

"Kupsky played amazing out there [North Dakota], especially in that rink," Supinski said. "It was tough to play in, nothing like we've seen before in our career, so it was awesome to see him rise to the challenge and really shut away just about every great opportunity they had."

"I thought the goaltending switch helped both goalies; in the fact that it kind of changes the mindset," Bennett said. "We did it again going out there. I just thought we were up front with the goaltenders about it's all determined by practice. It was the same question that was asked out there by the North Dakota press."

One takeaway from the North Dakota games is that Union can stand up to a team that plays heavy around the net.

The Dutchmen expected that, after a dominating 3-1 win by the Fighting Hawks at Messa last year, and responded to it.

"They kind of ran our show in our own building," Supinski said. "We watched that tape a lot and realized that we need to play hard and physical, so we went out there with that gameplan. We wanted to be heavy on our sticks. 

"It helps us with the Pairwise [rankings] and whatnot, but from inside the lockerroom standpoint, we don't look at any of that stuff. We approach every game like it's a must-win."

"We didn't want to give them any time and space, and I think we did a fairly good job of keeping them to the outside and not letting them run us over," junior wing Sebastian Vidmar said. "I know, with a big home crowd like that, teams like to set up the pace early and dominate the ice in the 'O' zone. But we did a nice job of coming out big and strong and hard laying the body on them to not let them get that step over us."

In the 2-2 tie, Vidmar and Supinski teamed up on a pretty goal in which Vidmar picked up a loose puck and was able to find Supinski cross-ice even though he was out of his field of vision.

Supinski used his soft hands to shift to the slot off right wing and flip a deft wrist shot to the back of the net.

"Those situations where it's a little bit of a 50-50 puck and we take advantage, that's something we need to do more," Vidmar said. "It bounced right to me, so I pulled it to the left to get the 'D' with me and then try to get it over to Brett. He was yelling, so I just put it where he was yelling."

On six goals and 13 assists for 19 points, Supinski leads the ECACH at 1.27 points per game.

Brown (3-5-0, 4-5-0) has some momentum, having won three of its last four. The Bears are tied with Yale (3-5-0, 3-6-0) in midpack.

The Bulldogs have lost four straight, but have a 5-2 victory over Harvard, picked in the preseason to win the conference, to their credit.

"This was going to be the year Brown had their older guys and their NHL-drafted players, and they're kind of following up on that. They're dangerous," Bennett said. "We have to be committed to 'D' against Brown, because we don't wan to be sitting there just trading chance for chance. We're not interested in 7-6 hockey against them."

RPI also faces Yale and Brown this weekend after playing in the Friendship Four in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Engineers (1-4-1, 2-9-3) have lost five straight.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3148 or mikemac@dailygazette.com. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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