Union hockey gets local flavor with Taylor
Dutchmen announce 2013-14 recruiting class
SCHENECTADY Jeff Taylor and his parents were long-time Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey season-ticket holders.
Now, Taylor’s parents will need season tickets to see their son play at Union this season.
Taylor, a Clifton Park native and 2012 Albany Academy graduate, headlines the list of eight recruits who will be joining the two-time defending ECAC Hockey tourn-ament-champion Dutchmen, Union coach Rick Bennett announced Thursday.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Taylor is one of four defensemen coming in. The others are Noah Henry from the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Powell River Kings, Matt Krug from the U.S. Hockey League’s Indiana Ice and Griffyn Martin of Avon Old Farms.
There are three forwards — Alex Gonye of Deerfield Academy, Eli Lichtenwald of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Nipawin Hawks and Mike Vecchione of the USHL’s Tri-City Storm.
The other recruit is goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos of the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
Taylor committed to Union while he was at Albany Academy. He spent last season with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, who won the league title. Taylor had five goals and 22 assists in 57 games.
But Taylor and his family were fans of RPI before Taylor began going to Union games.
“I had RPI season tickets from 2 or 3 [years old] to 14,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of ironic.”
Taylor has been impressed with what he has seen of the Dutchmen over the last few years.
“They’ve been on the rise for five years or so,” Taylor said. “It’s really incredible what [former head] coach [Nate] Leaman and now coach Bennett, and all the other assistants, have done with the program.”
With his skills, Taylor should fit right in on the blue line with senior Mat Bodie and junior Shayne Gostisbehere.
“He’s a little bit of a hybrid between Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere,” Bennett said. “[He’s a] defenseman that keeps it simple, but can jump into the offense, as well. I think he’s got a tremendous upside at Union, and I look forward to his progression.”
Former RPI assistant coach Jim Montgomery, who coached Taylor at Dubuque, believes Taylor will be an impact player.
“What impressed me the most is his ability to make plays under pressure all over the ice,” said Montgomery, who begins his first year as the head coach at the University of Denver. “He always makes an intelligent play, he never panics and always seems to put the puck right on the tape.”
Henry started last season with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees before being traded to Powell River. In 52 combined games, the 6-0, 190-pound Henry had two goals and 14 assists.
“Noah Henry is a defenseman that has tremendous speed, and that’s going to help for breaking it out, similar to what you saw last year with Sebastian Gingras,” Bennett said.
The 6-1, 198-pound Krug spent the last two seasons with Indiana. He had five goals and 17 assists in 108 career games.
“He’s going to be a stay-at-home type of defenseman, but has some offense, as well, which is a nice plus for us,” Bennett said. “We’re hoping he turns into a Shawn Stuart-type of defenseman.”
Martin, who is 6-0 and weighs 187 pounds, was Avon Old Farms’ captain last season. He was named the team’s most valuable player after collecting three goals and 14 assists.
“You try to replace what you lost, and I feel he’s like a Ryan Forgaard, [but] maybe a little more physical,” Bennett said.
The 5-10, 195-pound Vecchione originally committed to New Hampshire, but backed out of it. He spent the last two seasons with Tri-City. He was the Storm’s second-leading scorer last season with 26 goals and 34 assists in 63 games, and was the team captain.
“[Assistant coaches] Joe [Dumais] and Jason [Tapp] went after him after he decommitted from UNH,” Bennett said. “We tracked all the way until the summer time and saw him play at Paul Vincent’s camp. You get to see a lot of stuff you don’t see throughout the year — more skills and skating type of stuff. He really stood out to us, and he had a tremendous year in the USHL last year. We’re hoping that he can come in and fill one of those top spots.”
Gonye, who is 6-1 and weighs 175 pounds, played for Deerfield Academy for four years. He was tied for second in team scoring last season with six goals and 18 assists in 24 games.
“Alex will be given a very good chance to develop into a top forward here,” Bennett said. “A lot of offense. Very good vision on the ice. He can shoot the puck.”
At 6-6 and 235 pounds, Lichtenwald is probably one of the biggest recruits Union has ever had. Lichtenwald started last season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and had five goals and 14 assists in 19 games. Midway through the season, he went to Nipawin, the team he started his junior career with in 2010-11, and was the SJHL’s Rookie of the Year, finishing with nine goals and 13 assists in 19 games.
“He has skill for that size, and can move for a big guy,” Bennett said. “That’s an element that we’ve got to, basically, mold and make him consistent.”
Shortly after junior Troy Grosenick announced that he was leaving the Dutchmen to sign with the San Jose Sharks in April, the Dutchmen landed the 6-3, 215-pound Sakellaropoulos. He posted a 22-20-2 record in 48 games last season with a 3.03 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage and three shutouts.
Sakellaropoulos will compete with junior Colin Stevens, a Niskayuna native, for playing time.
“I thought Jason and Joe did a great job, when Troy signed, those guys went out and got the job done and brought in a goaltender that was excellent,” Bennett said. “His stats were a little bit better than Troy’s were coming out of the USHL.”
Forward Tyler Hynes, who was a teammate of Taylor’s at Albany Academy and had been expected to be a part of this recruiting class, will spend another year with the Lancers before coming to Union next season. Hynes, who is from Slingerlands, had six goals and three assists in 53 games last season.