Preseason Top 16: #9 Union
The Dutchmen won their second straight ECAC regular season title and won their first ever ECAC tournament championship, both of which helped them earn a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The season of firsts continued for Union as they advanced to the program's first ever Frozen Four, eventually losing in the semifinals to Ferris State
It was the best of times….
It has to be the first Frozen Four win in the history of the program. Union controlled play in much of the first two periods, but Ferris State made the most of their chances, scoring three unanswered goals to win it. The key goal came when Troy Grosenick gave up a rare easy rebound that was capitalized on by Kyle Bonis to give the Bulldogs the lead which they would not relinquish.
It was the worst of times…
It really was a dream season for the Dutchmen, who had just two losing streaks of more than one game. So rather than touching on that, their biggest low of the season has to be when they lost 3-1 in the national semifinal to Ferris State despite controlling much of the play.
The Coach - Rick Bennett (Providence '90)
As a player Bennett had a successful college career, being named a Hobey finalist in 1990. As a coach he took over for Nate Leaman two years ago and immediately had great success, winning the school's first two ECAC regular season titles, their first postseason title and advancing to their first Frozen Four.
Notable Current NHL Alumni
Players to watch
Union lost a lot of offense from last year's team, including leading scorer Jeremy Welsh as well as Kelly Zajac, who had 128 points in his career at Union. Virtually every other scorer is back however, and with Union also having one of the best defenses in the country they should be one of the favorites for a third straight regular season title.
Daniel Carr, who scored 20 goals last year, is the leading returning goal scorer for the Dutchmen. He scored 20 in his Freshman season as well, and this past summer took part in the Boston Bruins development camp. He does not need to take a step forward in order to have a productive season, but the talent is definitely there.
It is most likely that the internet's favorite player is Shayne Gostisbehere for his amazing name, but he is an incredible hockey player as well. The Florida native had 5 goals and 22 points as a Freshman and was taken in the 3rd round (78th overall) by the Flyers in the 2012 draft. He has already shown the ability to adapt to the college game both mentally and physically, knowing when to jump into the rush and he is already a great passer. He has shown tremendous improvement in terms of one on one defense as well.
Union should have one of the best defenses in the country this year. They lose just one regular defenseman off last year's team and return goalie Tony Grosenick, who had the third best save percentage in the country last year. Union allowed just 1.83 goals per game, best in the nation, last year and while it seems impossible to say they could do even better this year, there shouldn't be as many good offenses in ECAC Hockey and if Grosenick doesn't regress too much they could give up even fewer goals.
Union does not have a big recruiting class, nor one filled with big names, but they have a lot of guys who can help out immediately. David Roy had 32 goals with Brockville (CJHL) last year, which ranked second on their club last season. He won't replace Welsh or Zajac but he should step into a top 6 role immediately.
Theo DiPauli was the captain for Chicago (USHL) last year and had 35 points in 47 games over the last two seasons. He's probably Union's best two way forward recruit as well.
Playing time isn't as available on the blue line, but Sebastien Gingras can perhaps step in right away. He's already 21, and the former Maine recruit (and son of former NHLer Gaston) should be an above average offensive defenseman and could also see a lot of power play time immediately.
Tim Boyle, brother of current New York Ranger Brian Boyle, is a more defensive defenseman, standing 6'2", 185 pounds. He can pass well but his immediate impact will definitely be in his own zone. He was taken in the 4th round (106th overall) of the most recent NHL Draft.
Non conference series to watch:
Union travels to Lake Superior State, who, even if they don't live up to the standards we have set for them, still play in a tough spot to get to and will provide a tough environment to the Dutchmen. It won't be a walk in the park by any means, regardless of the talent levels of the two teams.
There is no doubt Union has the talent to win the ECAC Hockey regular season and tournament titles again. There is also no doubt they have the talent to get back to the Frozen Four. If Grosenick does not take a major step back Union is probably the best "sleeper" Frozen Four contender out there, if one can call a team who went there last year and retained much of their talent a sleeper.