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Farris firmly rooted in Union lineup

Farris firmly rooted in Union lineup

Freshman from Dallas has been centering grinding line with Emelifeonwu, Kosack
Farris firmly rooted in Union lineup
Union's Owen Farris (25) and St. Lawrence's Andrew McIntyre battle for the puck at Messa Rink on Nov. 9.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- Union men's hockey head coach Rick Bennett is a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

So he and freshman forward Owen Farris, from the Big D itself, should have a lot of football to talk about.

Or not.

The 19-year-old Farris is a San Francisco 49ers fan, having grown up in Vancouver until he was 12 ... "I'll just tell him I'm a Cowboys fan," Farris said with a laugh on Wednesday afternoon.

Farris has done enough in 12 college games to get in the good graces of his coach without resorting to lying about fan allegiances. He scored his first goal in a 3-2 overtime loss to St. Lawrence last time out and, among the 12 freshmen on the roster, he is one who has entrenched himself in the lineup heading into road games at Quinnipiac and Princeton this weekend.

Of the 12, five have been in uniform for all 12 games, including the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Farris, centering a gritty, grinding line with upperclassmen Zachary Emelifeonwu and Josh Kosack.

"Owen brings some hockey sense, some size, he's good on faceoffs, plays hard," Bennett said. "He kind of plays like those guys do, and when you have three guys that work hard, it's going to be successful."

"He's been a good player for us," said fellow Texan Brandon Estes, a junior defenseman from Arlington, a few miles north of Dallas. "He's really reliable in the D-zone and a big player for us on the penalty kill, as well."

In one of those weird coincidences with utterly no explanation, Union's two players from Texas have chosen home games against St. Lawrence as the launch point for scoring.

Estes has notched his first goal of the season under those circumstances in each of his three seasons at Union, including the second goal of last Saturday's game against the Saints, and Farris scored at 10:04 of the first period in that game.

It came on a typical play from the Emelifeonwu-Farris-Kosack line, as they hacked away at rebounds near the net and finally got it to go in.

"It was very big," Farris said. "I had some offensive pressure, and our line kept cycling the puck. We've worked a lot on keeping the puck deep, keeping the pressure on, grinding teams down. We've got a couple big guys and guys that like to play heavy.

"We got up to the point, I rolled out in front coming out of the corner and I was lucky enough for it to be on my stick. I got one whack at it, off the pad, and another to me. Kosack and I were banging away at it, and it happened to be off my stick. It kind of surprised me, I didn't see it go in, but I'll take it."

In a season with a tremendous amount of flux that has opened the door for many freshmen to get extended ice time, one constant for the last eight games has been Farris' line.

They don't play in a way that's pretty to watch, but bring a valuable component to the lineup.

"At the beginning of the year, they had looked at us being a line, a key role line to shut down the top offensive producers for other teams," Farris said. "I really enjoy playing with them, I trust both of them, they're both upperclassmen that know where they're supposed to be and know what to do. And I play a simple game, I know where they're going to be and they know where I am, and we just grind it out and be really hard to play against. I enjoy playing with that style of player."

In juniors, Farris got a taste of both the North American Hockey League, with the Lone Star Brahmas, and the United States Hockey League, with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

He has a goal and three assists with offensively challenged Union.

"The North American tends to be an older, more physical league, and then last year I played in the USHL, which is a faster, more skilled league," Farris said. "So college is a combination of both, and being able to be physical and heavy while also knowing that if you miss your hit, that guy's going around you and he's gone. So getting the exposure to both sides in juniors that I got was huge and has really made me successful at the start.

"You come into a situation not knowing what to expect. I knew we had 12 freshmen, I knew they had put myself in a good spot to play with how I train in the summer and how I take care of myself. But I'm also very young and came in with the understanding that there was a lot I had to learn. I'm fortunate to play in an expanded role. Definitely more than I thought I was going to have. But I think I've earned it, and I'm going to keep going with it."

One of the aspects of college hockey he has learned is how the games are officiated.

At Army in the second game of the season, Farris was called for hitting after the whistle when he came to the defense of goalie Darion Hanson after an Army player banged into Hanson, wiping out the net.

The Dutchmen took seven penalties in the game, and afterward Bennett singled out that one as the one he didn't particularly like, because it was totally unnecessary.

"Haven't seen it since," Bennett said Wednesday. "He's very coachable, a very intelligent player, and it's going to be fun to work with him. He kind of reminds me a little bit of -- I'm not saying offensively -- but like a Jeremy Welsh-type player. Just really kind of a student of the game, prepares like a pro, and it's only going to help him in his time here."

WEEKEND SCOUT

The Dutchmen are 1-3-0 in ECAC Hockey and 2-10-0 overall heading into two games this weekend followed by a break in action until Dec. 6.

Bennett said Quinnipiac (0-1-1, 4-4-1) and Princeton (0-2-0, 1-2-1) present similar challenges in that both teams have good speed.

"If we're not tight-gap, it's going to be a long night, if we're not smart with that puck," he said. "I think we've showed signs that we're better, at least on Saturday night against St. Lawrence, so that's the kind of game we need. We need puck management against these teams, because Princeton is just as fast, going north."

"They're always a fast, skilled team, and we've got to play heavy against them and real smart in the neutral zone," Estes said of the Bobcats. "Can't turn pucks over there and feed their offense."

Although there is no concrete timetable, Bennett offered a glimmer of optimism that Union would regain the services of forwards Jack Adams and Parker Foo, both out all season with injuries, at some point.

"It's going to be later, but I think they're looking in a positive direction, which is a good sign for our program," he said. "It can only help us."

When asked about defenseman Joseph Campolieto and center Sam Morton, benched after last Friday's 5-1 loss to Clarkson, Bennett grinned and went to one of his favorite index cards: "Stay tuned."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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