October 25, 2007
Union's Centers Deserve Attention

By Joe Gladziszewski

The best part about relying on two freshmen centers to play important roles over an entire season is that they'll eventually become sophomore centers, and Union is already seeing benefits from that.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

Matt Cook leads Union in scoring, and coach Nate Leaman described the hard-working junior captain from Belle Mead, N.J. as a "self-made player."

National TV Schedule

Sophomore pivots Jason Walters and Mario Valery-Trabucco have been outstanding for the Dutchmen so far this season after turning in solid rookie campaigns one year ago. Union heads into this weekend's Citizens Bank Governor's Cup in Albany with a 2-0-0 record. The Dutchmen swept two home games from Ferris State two weeks ago and also won an exhibition game against Trois-Rivieres.

Union is finding success by being strong through the middle, despite the loss of T.J. Fox, last year's first-line center and leading scorer who signed a professional contract with the San Jose Sharks organization following his sophomore season.

All of this took place despite an injury in the first period of the first game to one of Union's most important forwards, senior Josh Coyle. Coyle started that Oct. 12 game versus Ferris State on the right wing with Walters and Matt Cook. After he was injured, Union coach Nate Leaman tried a few players on the right wing of that first line, including freshman John Simpson and senior Torren Delforte. Cook leads Union with four points on the season and Walters has three.

"I was very pleased with the way we responded, especially when we lose probably our most dangerous goal-scorer in the first period of what we had been working for," Leaman said. "In Matt Cook, you're not going to meet a harder worker. He's always doing things to get better. Jason (Walters) has the ability to be a very good player in this league."

Don't think that Union is just one line deep. The second line features Valery-Trabucco and freshman winger Adam Presizniuk and has been just as dangerous as the first unit thus far. Those two players each have two points on the year and helped set up Dutchmen goals in the exhibition tie last weekend.

"The guys that not many people are talking about are Trabucco and Presizniuk and they've been outstanding thus far," Leaman said.

One other factor for Union's success is the play of senior goaltender Justin Mrazek, who hasn't consistently played to his potential thus far in his collegiate career. Over the summer, Mrazek participated in a rookie camp with the Washington Capitals, the team that drafter Mrazek in 2005 and retains his rights. Mrazek came back to Schenectady with confidence and in the best physical and mental shape he's been in since arriving on campus three years ago.

Mrazek stopped 43 of the 44 shots he faced in the two wins over Ferris State, earning two victories and one shutout.

"It's the best summer he's had, and he's coming back strong and is where he needs to be," Leaman said. "If you're going to be good in this league, it starts from the net out."

Union has started seasons well in recent years, only to struggle through the rigorous part of the schedule when the days get shorter and the games get tougher. The key for them to avoiding such a slump this year, according to Leaman, is to count on freshmen to maintain consistency and play at a high level without "hitting the wall" later on in the season.

With strength at the center position, Union might have enough depth to sustain a high level even if a slump does occur. And just imagine what Union can expect when Valery-Trabucco and Walters are seniors.


More puck for your buck: Two events this weekend will allow fans to check out multiple games involving ECAC Hockey members without leaving the arena.

The Citizens Bank Governor's Cup event at Times Union Center in Albany features Colgate, St. Lawrence, and Capital District travel partners Rensselaer and Union. Games are Friday and Saturday at 4 and 7 p.m. and will be played under a tournament format where Friday's winners will play on Saturday for the championship, and Friday's losing teams will play in a third-place game on Saturday afternoon.

At Ingalls Rink in New Haven, Conn. the Yale Bulldogs will host the Shootout at Ingalls and will be joined by Brown, Princeton, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. This is the first of a three-year agreement between the four institutions, where the games between ECAC Hockey clubs will count as non-conference regular season games and games involving UOIT will count as exhibition contests for the Ivies. Next year's Shootout will be hosted by Brown, and Princeton will host the Shootout in 2009. Each year, the host school will play regular-season games against the other two ECAC opponents while the traveling teams will get one regular-season game and one exhibition game against UOIT.

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Citizens Bank Governor's Cup
Times Union Center – Albany (Fri.-Sat.)

St. Lawrence and Colgate play in the first semifinal and RPI and Union play immediately following on Friday evening in Albany. The Saints are the only team participating this weekend that played in the Times Union Center last spring at the ECAC Hockey championship weekend. All four hope that this weekend's games foreshadow a return trip in mid-March.

While You're There: Longtime readers of this notebook know that Bayou Café on Pearl Street in Albany is an INCH favorite. TREMOR isn't your typical cover band, and probably makes for good background music following Friday's games.

Stick Salute

It's early in the season and we've had a very seasonable fall throughout the Northeast (and no ECAC Hockey games were canceled due to fog). Here's a salute to all of the fans who've taken advantage of the nice weather and managed to get to their local rinks ahead of time for some tailgating before the puck drops. You're capturing the spirit of the thing.

Bench Minor

It's a power crisis for three ECAC Hockey teams as Rensselaer (1-for-25), Quinnipiac (1-for-17), and St. Lawrence (1-for-15) are all converting at less than 10 percent on the power play so far this season.


• Clarkson claimed first place in ECAC Hockey by winning the only league game that has been played thus far. The Golden Knights fell behind 3-0 in the first period and rallied for a 5-4 win in overtime. Chris D'Alvise scored the game-winner on the power play 1:26 into overtime. The Golden Knights play at Lake Superior State on Friday and Saturday this weekend.

• Union's Leaman said Josh Coyle is back on the ice and skating, and could possibly play as soon as this weekend at the Governor's Cup in Albany, and will almost certainly be ready for Union's first pair of ECAC Hockey contests against Brown and Yale on Nov. 2-3.

• When Cornell fans talk about that huge non-league neutral site game at a professional arena, they probably aren't referring to this weekend's contest against RIT at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. Of course, the Big Red face Boston University at Madison Square Garden approximately a month from now. Saturday's Big Red game against the favorites in Atlantic Hockey starts at 7 p.m.

• RPI announced that five games will be broadcast live on Time Warner Cable sports network in the Albany area, including the Big Red Freakout! on Feb. 2 against Princeton.

• After opening the season at home with wins over Sacred Heart and RIT, Colgate traveled to Michigan State and lost twice to the defending national champions. As expected, senior forwards Tyler Burton and Jesse Winchester have led the Raider offense. Each has seven points through the first four games. Freshman Brian Day has four goals in four games.

• Harvard played an exhibition game against Prince Edward Island on Oct. 14, a 6-3 victory for the Crimson in which Doug Rogers scored two goals. They won't return to the ice in an actual game until they visit Clarkson and St. Lawrence on Nov. 2-3.

• Quinnipiac is 1-2-0 on the year after losing twice at Air Force last weekend. The Bobcats started their season with a 3-0 win over Bentley. In the two losses last weekend, Quinnipiac was outscored 7-2 despite outshooting the Falcons in both games.

• Dartmouth prepared for its regular-season opener this weekend at non-league rival Vermont by winning an exhibition game 2-1 over York University and by scrimmaging Yale. The Big Green and Catamounts play Sunday at 4 p.m. at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

• B2 Networks will have live online broadcasts of all four games of the Citizens Bank Governor's Cup in Albany as well as Sunday's Dartmouth-Vermont game.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Joe Gladziszewski can be reached at gladdy@insidecollegehockey.com.