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Union women's hockey goal is ECACH playoff spot

Union women's hockey goal is ECACH playoff spot

Dutchwomen lose home opener
Union women's hockey goal is ECACH playoff spot
Union junior forward Katelynn Russ was the Dutchwomen’s leading scorer last season with 16 goals and eight assists.
Photographer: Union College Athletics

SCHENECTADY — Head coach Josh Sciba would prefer not to man the goalie position by committee this season.

On the other hand, he would like to get some scoring by committee, instead of relying on one player.

If the Union College women’s hockey team can find the right combination of scoring throughout its lineup, the Dutchwomen believe they can put themselves in position for one of eight playoff spots in the 12-team ECAC Hockey.

In the meantime, their early non-conference schedule hasn’t given an indication that the offense will be flowing the way Sciba and the Dutchwomen want it to, after a 4-1 loss to Lindenwood at Messa Rink Friday night.

Coupled with a 3-0, 4-1 sweep last weekend at Merrimack, Union is 0-3-0 and has scored just two goals in three games.

Nevertheless, an ECACH playoff spot will remain the ultimate goal.

That would be a huge breakthrough for a long-suffering program that hasn’t had double-digit victories in any of the last 15 seasons, but showed improvement in each of Sciba’s first two seasons at the helm.

“I would say there’s a less of a gap in talent now,” junior forward Katelynn Russ said during Union hockey media day Tuesday. “My first year here, there was a huge gap in the talent levels, and I feel like we’re closing that. It’s also the work ethic. We all have a set goal to make playoffs, and you can feel that in the locker room, whereas my freshman year you couldn’t always feel it.”

Union won five games that season, Sciba’s first as head coach, then the Dutchwomen were 7-22-5 overall and 5-15-2 in ECACH play.

Russ was by far the most productive goal scorer, with 16, and Haley Shugart (10) was the only other player with double-digit goals. No one else on the roster had more than six, something Sciba wants to change this season.

“We’re still looking for our top line,” Sciba said at media day. “We’re looking for Russ to continue to do what she did last year and continue to produce.

“In terms of our back end, we’re still looking to add into the offense from our defensemen, players like Ari Kosakowski, Ava Reynolds. But overall, I think our scoring is going to be more by committee. That was kind of our project over the offseason, to try and create more of an identity where we could be more dynamic as a committee. We want to get it from different places, not just one line.”

Despite the 2017-18 record, Union takes solace in the fact that some of those games could have swung its way with a little bit more offense.

Besides the five ties, the Dutchwomen were 2-6 in games decided by one goal.

On Friday, Shugart tied the score at 1-1 early in the first period, but Lindenwood’s Sierra Burt scored the first of her two goals less than five minutes later, and the Dutchwomen couldn’t find the back of the net the rest of the night.

Niskayuna’s Alli First scored for Union in the 4-1 loss to Merrimack.

“Every game really does matter, even though in the back of our head we are always thinking about getting to that [playoff] spot,” Russ said. “Especially these out-of-league-play games, it’s important to hammer down the details so that when we get to league play, we’re spot on from the drop of the puck for that first game and don’t have to try to catch up halfway through the season.”

Lindenwood    2 1 1 — 4
Union    1 0 0 — 1

First period — 1, Lindenwood, Paisley 1 (Girard, Burt) 2:26. 2, Union, Shugart 1 (de Perio, Kosakowski) 6:56 (pp). 3, Lindenwood, Burt 1 (Girard, Ganske) 11:42. Penalties — Kirwan, LIN (Elbowing) 5:04; Jane Jacobs, LIN (Cross-Checking) 14:46; Bench, UNI (Too Many Players) 17:00.
Second period — 4, Lindenwood, Marchant 1 (Morris-Reade, Kirwan) 12:46. Penalties — Pimm, LIN (Tripping) 8:01; Marchant, LIN (Interference) 17:46; Bench, UNI (Too Many Players) 19:40.
Third period — 5, Lindenwood, Burt 2 (Paisley) 12:56 (pp). Penalties — Kirwan, LIN (Hooking) 5:00; Harris, UNI (Boarding) 11:14.
Shots on goal — Lindenwood, 6-8-10—24; Union, 6-6-10—22.
Power-play opportunities — Lindenwood, 1 of 3; Union 1 of 5.
Goaltenders — Lindenwood, deBruyn 1-1-0 (22 shots-21 saves); Union, Francis 0-2-0 (24-20).
A — 135. T — 2:10.
Referees — Peirce Marston, Patrick Dapuzzo.  Linesmen — Jamie Colacino, Matt Luther.

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