January 17, 2008
Union Learns Lessons From Canadian Voyage

By Joe Gladziszewski

Years from now, when people look back on Union's 2007-08 season, the overall record of the team won't include three contests in the Canadian Maritimes but they may prove to be some of the most important games played on the Dutchmen's schedule.

ECAC Hockey Notebook

Union sophomore forward Mario Valery-Trabucco has six goals and 12 points through 19 games.

National TV Schedule

Instead of participating in a holiday tournament at another American college or university, Union headed to Fredericton, New Brunswick for two games against the University of New Brunswick and one against St. Thomas University. The trip gave Union a chance to play three games in three nights against good competition – UNB defeated New Hampshire and Maine earlier this year – and allowed Union's coaching staff to get a look at several lineup combinations by awarding quality minutes to a number of different players.

Union coach Nate Leaman challenged his team to play with poise on that trip, which he described as "composure in all circumstances," and the players responded. Strong third-period efforts were especially pleasing to Leaman as his team faced 16 conference games over the final two months of the regular season. In ECAC Hockey, where games are close and points are difficult to earn, a good third period is often the difference between success and failure.

Since returning to NCAA play, Union is a perfect 4-0-0 including last weekend's home sweep of Colgate and Cornell. The Dutchmen made a one-goal lead stand up in the third period against the Raiders and broke a 1-1 tie with an early third-period goal against the Big Red and held on for the final 16 minutes.

Those league wins gave Union an 8-8-3 overall record and 3-3-2 ECAC Hockey mark, moving the Dutchmen into a tie for eighth place in the standings, despite having played the fewest games of any ECAC team. Talk about standing and home-ice has been uncommon this year, as several coaches have been more apt to focus on "the process" or "taking one game at a time" or "playing our best at the end of the year."

Union's taken a different approach, and embraced the standings, despite ranking near the bottom of the table for most of the season. A big part of that is because the Dutchmen only played six league games prior to last weekend's series. Now is the time that they're making up some of those games in hand, and after the win over Colgate, the Union coaching staff re-ordered the standings for the team and directly addressed it in preparation for the Cornell game. They ranked teams via league standings points per game played, and Cornell was in first.

"We have to use the standings. One of the major things is that we only played six games before Christmas and we're trying to see how we measure up and we want to have a feel and a pulse on what areas we can improve," Leaman said.

Union has 14 games remaining in its schedule. All of them are ECAC Hockey games, but the Dutchmen will travel outside of the state of New York just twice, for the closing weekend of the year at Yale and Brown.

His team responded with a gritty win over Cornell when it withstood a Big Red barrage in the early going, grabbed a couple of key goals, and made strong defensive plays when needed – especially in the third period.

Poise? Check.

Third-period success? Check.

Consider those games in New Brunswick a success.


Spreading Wealth Sparks Wins: The Quinnipiac Bobcats own the nation's longest unbeaten streak with an 8-0-1 record in their last nine games. During that run, Quinnipiac has scored three or more goals in eight of the games, with the other being a 2-1 win over Western Michigan at the Catamount Cup in Vermont. One reason why Quinnipiac is scoring so many goals is that they're not relying on just a few players to get the job done.

The line of Brandon Wong, Jean-Marc Beaudoin, and Dan Travis picked up the slack last weekend; but at other times the duo of Ben Nelson and Bryan Leitch joined up with Jamie Bates or David Marshall to carry the load. When not on the Nelson line, Marshall and Eric Lampe have done nice work as a forward group.

"We've got three lines that we can count on for scoring," Quinnpiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "It doesn't have to be just one group."

Defensively, Quinnipiac is a better team than they were last year, and juniors Dan Henningson and Andy Meyer have led the way. Reid Cashman graduated, and returning senior Matt Sorteberg was lost for the season due to injury in late November, pressing Henningson and Meyer into an increased role. They have responded by playing a greater number of minutes and playing at a high level in front of three goaltenders that have played significant minutes this year.

Special teams play has also boosted the Bobcats, who rank first in the league in overall power play and second in penalty killing. Their rank isn't as high when considering conference-only games, but that's OK with Quinnipiac, because they tend to look at things from an overall perspective.

"Every game is so important when it comes to NCAA tournament consideration if you want to make it as an at-large team," Pecknold said. "Every game means so much, both in the league and the non-conference games that you have to treat them all as important if your objectives and goals are to make the NCAA Tournament."

Quinnipiac will have an opportunity to enhance its NCAA tournament chances and extend its unbeaten streak on Saturday when the Bobcats visit Holy Cross of Atlantic Hockey. Next weekend, Niagara visits Quinnipiac for a pair of games.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Rensselaer at Union (Fri.)
Union at Rensselaer (Sat.)

The Albany-area teams have developed a nice rivalry, highlighted by their games on the ice but accented by meetings in other sports in the Division III Liberty League. The teams enter the weekend tied for eighth place. Fans of both sides have easy travel to each rink, ensuring a lively atmosphere in both barns.

While You're There: It's early enough in the season to maintain full-out optimism of your favorite team making the league's championship weekend in downtown Albany, but not too early to head down to Pearl Street to scout potential bar stools, restaurant tables, or accommodations.

Stick Salute

Union goalie Justin Mrazek made an uncommon save that combined relevance, balance, and concentration late in Saturday's 2-1 Dutchmen win over Cornell. In the closing minutes, as Union protected the lead, a scrum near the crease ended with a stick of a Cornell player wedged into Mrazek's goalie skate between the blade and the boot. It hindered Mrazek's ability to get to his feet, but he had the awareness to kick out his right pad to deflect a point shot and keep the lead.

Bench Minor

Just nine players from the 12 schools in ECAC Hockey are averaging better than a point per game so far this season, and seven of those players represent just three teams. Where are the goals?


• ECAC Hockey will be featured on ESPNU for the second straight week, as Sunday's 4 p.m. game at Cornell when the Big Red host Clarkson will be shown on the cable network.

• St. Lawrence and Dartmouth put on an entertaining show last week on ESPNU with several momentum changes, lots of goals, and impressive performances by SLU's Brock McBride and Dartmouth's J.T. Wyman. It may not have been the prettiest game from a coach's perspective, but was enjoyable to watch.

• Travis Vermeulen of the Saints scored two short-handed goals in the third period of that win over Dartmouth, becoming the first player in ECAC Hockey history to score two shorties in the same period and the first since Jayson Greyerbiehl achieved the feat for Colgate in 1989.

• That loss by Dartmouth fell in between a win over Clarkson and Tuesday's victory at Boston University. The Big Green have another non-league test this weekend when they face New Hampshire at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

• ECAC Hockey has launched a live scores page suited for mobile devices on its Web site, in conjunction with online services partner PrestoSports. Point your Web browser on your mobile device to: www.ecachockey.com/m

• Rensselaer's Erik Burgdoerfer will miss Friday's game against Union while he serves a one-game suspension, which was issued by ECAC Hockey on Thursday. Burgdoerfer was assessed a game disqualification for a checking-from-behind penalty in last Friday's game against Cornell. The DQ meant that he missed last Saturday's game against Colgate and will miss an additional game this weekend.

• A note if you're planning to see Brown's home game against Merrimack on Sunday. The start time is 1 p.m., not 4 p.m. as was originally published. (Patriots conflict anyone?)

• Goaltender Mathias Lange has started five straight games for RPI.

• Colgate will wear special alternate sweaters this weekend for home games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. The jerseys are being sold for $250 each to benefit ECAC Hockey Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Hockey Coaches Care fund.

• Where does Clarkson sign up for the Beanpot? Last week's win over Harvard was Clarkson's sixth in a row and they have an active winning streak of 10 games over Boston College. They did, however lose their last game against Northeastern (2002-03 season) and split a home-and-home with Boston University in the '97-'98 and '98-'99 seasons.

• Yale goalie Alec Richards made his first start of the season in a 3-0 loss to Quinnipiac and was victimized by some bad luck, as the first goal he allowed was a centering pass that eventually deflected into the net off of a skate. Sean Backman has a goal in six straight games for the Bulldogs.

• Union has been dividing playing time between freshman Corey Milan and senior Justin Mrazek and will likely stick with that pattern in the coming weeks, as the team and goaltenders have responded well to the situation.

• Princeton and Harvard are on exam break and don't play again until late January, as the Tigers return to action on Jan. 29 at Robert Morris and Harvard plays at Dartmouth on Jan. 26.

• Not college-hockey related, but definitely worth noting: While I was compiling this week's notebook, Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets did this to the Phoenix Coyotes.

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