One of the unique characteristics of the 2011-12 Union team is that even though there is some star power in the lineup and individuals who garner some attention, that’s not what defines the team. Enough contributions come from enough different places that it would be unfair to label Union as being carried by a player such as Troy Grosenick or Jeremy Welsh.
One of the lesser-known contributors who plays a key role is the team’s senior captain, defenseman Nolan Julseth-White. It’s a fitting choice for Julseth-White to wear the C, as his demeanor and level-headed approach is emulated by the rest of the team. There’s a good mix of recognizing and celebrating success without getting too caught up in the moment to distract the team from obtaining future goals.
Julseth-White’s role has become larger for the Dutchmen each year since arriving on the Schenectady, N.Y. campus as a freshman, when he played in just two games. He slotted in 25 times as a sophomore and played 32 games as junior. The man teammates call “Juice” has been in the lineup every game this season, and the Frozen Four semifinal will mark his 100th career game on Union’s blueline.
INCH caught up with Julseth-White as Union prepares for next week’s Frozen Four.
Joe Gladziszewski: First off, congratulations on a successful two-week stretch with two wins in Atlantic City at the league tournament and two wins at the regionals. How is the mood around the team right now?
Nolan Julseth-White: We’re definitely proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we know we’re not done yet. We celebrated a little bit on Sunday when we had the day off, but then it was right back to work with a lift on Monday and a skate on Tuesday. Now it’s just about focusing on executing every day in practice.
INCH: What did the team take from last year’s postseason experience, the playoff series loss to Colgate and the NCAA game against Minnesota Duluth, in winning the ECAC Hockey title this year and advancing to the Frozen Four?
Julseth-White: We’ve been asked that question a lot over the last few weeks and I’d say the experience helped somewhat but not that much, because we have a really mature group. It’s a group of guys that grew as the season went on. We took experience from all of the games, win or lose, and tucked that away, but didn’t get too high or too low.
INCH: That seems to be a big part of this team’s personality, the mindset and attitude of keeping an even keel and never swinging too far emotionally no matter what the score is or what kind of streak you’re on. As a senior, and a captain, is that the type of leadership you try to provide?
Julseth-White: Our leadership is a group effort. I have a great supporting cast as well as (assistant captains) Kelly Zajac and Jeremy Welsh, and as I mentioned it’s a really mature group. We know what it takes all around. When it comes time everyone can hold each other accountable for doing what they need to do and we know when to offer encouragement when someone needs a pick me up.
INCH: How has it been this season playing in front of goalie Troy Grosenick, who won the Ken Dryden Award as best goalie in ECAC Hockey and is a Hobey Baker Award finalist?
Julseth-White: He’s an outstanding worker and a very gifted goaltender. He fights to see every puck and to stop every puck, and he tries to make every save. He never gives up on a play. As a defenseman, it’s good to work with him because he’s always talking. He said in a recent interview that he was mostly talking to himself, not to us, but he’s talkative and just an outstanding goalie.
INCH: What is preparation like in this time before you head to Florida and go through a busy week down there with the events surrounding the Frozen Four and the semifinal game next Thursday?
Julseth-White: This is our first week back at school and definitely this week we’re getting the academics taken care of. There’s a lot of communicating with professors and getting our schoolwork taken care of and out of the way as much as we can. Also, we’re taking care of family and friends and tickets as much as we can right now so it’s not as big a distraction when we get down there next week. And, no offense to you, talking to media and fulfilling those kinds of requests, all of these things we’re just going to deal with as they come and then stay focused in practice.
INCH: You’ve got a lot of talented forwards on your team, and it’s not just the Welsh line with Daniel Carr and Josh Jooris. Tell me what it’s like to play against those guys in practice every day.
Julseth-White: We generate a lot of competition and it ends up being the defensemen against the forwards and I’d say that the defensemen have about a 98 percent winning percentage in practice (joking) and make sure you write that in there. But the group of forwards are all very competitive. They are skilled, and as you mentioned there’s depth and it’s spread out through all of the classes, not just one class. Each of them brings a different set of skills.