College Hockey Slap Schotts Week 10 — Time for Union freshmen to step up play
The Union freshmen class certainly had some big skates to fill following the departures of key players like forwards Jeremy Welsh and Kelly Zajac, and defenseman Nolan Julseth-White. They were three important figures in the Dutchmen’s run to the Frozen Four last season.
However, I think it’s fair to say that everyone expected this class to produce some points.
Thirteen games into the season, the Dutchmen’s freshmen class has yet to make an impact. The six freshmen — forwards Nick Cruice, Theo DiPauli, David Roy and Matt Wilkins and defensemen Tim Boyle and Sebastien Gingras — have combined for three goals and eight assists.
To me, that’s a disappointment. Even more disappointing and surprising is that among the four forwards, there is only one goal, and that was scored by Cruice.
Wilkins and Roy were supposed to be the guys to help offset the losses of Welsh and Zajac. Wilkins was the top scorer in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season with the Brooks Bandits. He had 34 goals and 65 assists.
Roy came to Union as the second-leading scorer with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League. He had 32 goals and 37 assists, and the Braves in power-play goals (12), power-play points (19) and short-handed goals (three).
So far, Wilkins has three assists in 11 games. Roy has yet to record a point in eight games.
In watching Wilkins, he seems a step slow. He needs to have a nose for the net, and I haven’t seen that in the games I’ve seen him play.
With Roy, he needs to use his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage. He can’t get pushed around. He was knocked down in front of the net in Friday’s game against Quinnipiac. Also, Roy needs to move his feet. He was caught flat-footed when the Bobcats’ Loren Barron came off the left-wing boards in the Union zone, skated past Roy and sent a pass to Jeremy Langlois, who beat goalie Troy Grosenick late in the second period of Friday’s game to score the game’s first goal.
Cruice was supposed to come in next season. But the Philadelphia Flyers’ signing of ex-recruit Andrew Johnston enabled Cruice to come in this season. He looked good at times on the line with center Josh Jooris and left winger Daniel Carr.
DiPauli is a fourth-line, checking player, so, he wasn’t expected to contribute much offensively.
Boyle and Gingras have had mixed results on defense. Boyle, a fourth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators in June’s NHL draft, has played in just six games and has been so-so. Gingras got off to a good start. He scored his two goals in the 5-3 win over Bowling Green Oct. 12, and he also has two assists. But he has struggled of late.
Now, am I ready to consider this freshmen class a failure? Of course not. There is still plenty of time for them to get going. I refer to what Union coach Rick Bennett and assistant coach Joe Dumais said when the recruits were announced in July.
With regards to Wilkins, Bennett said: “I’m not going to put the stipulation where he has to be a point producer. People seem to forget that Kelly Zajac was a 20-point guy his freshman year. Matt Wilkins is going to come in and contribute right away, but within the confines of our team. We’re really looking forward to him playing a top-nine role.”
On Roy and Wilkins, Dumais said: “We were looking to bring in a couple of guys that could play on the top two lines. I think a lot of that comes from within your program, too. There are a lot of the freshmen and sophomores, right now, who are looking to step up and fill those shoes, as well.”
It make take a year for the freshmen to adjust from prep and junior hockey to college. If you need an example, just look over at RPI and sophomore Jacob Laliberte. He came into his freshman year with great offensive credentials, but only had five goals and nine assists in 31 games. This season, Laliberte is the Engineers’ top scorer with five goals and seven assists in 10 games.
Union fans will need to be patient. But the fans expect some production and improved play from the freshmen. They will need to step their games up if Union wants to make another run to the Frozen Four.
Gostisbehere should make preliminary roster
On Tuesday, USA Hockey will announce its preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. Expect Union sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to be on that list.
Gostisbehere has five goals and eight assists in 13 games. He is tied for second in the country in scoring among defensemen with an average of a point per game.
A third-round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in June’s NHL draft, Gostisbehere had two goals and two assists in four games during the U.S. National Development Camp in Lake Placid in August. During a 10-2 win over Sweden, Gostisbehere scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist.
“Most of our players have done a great job improving in the areas that we wanted to work on,” Team USA coach Phil Housley said at the end of camp. “Gostisbehere, definitely, every day has gotten better. His skating ability to get out of trouble, his knack to make the first pass in traffic and get involved in the rush have been excellent. His decision process when to join and when not to join has been really solid.
“His game really came to a new level against the Swedes, where he was able to jump up into the play and generate some offense in special-team situations on the power play.”
Gostisbehere had two goals and an assist as Union rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie Princeton, 4-4, Saturday.
Team USA will have a pair of training camps. The first will be Dec. 16-18 at the New York Rangers’ Madison Square Garden Training Center in Tarrytown. The second will be Dec. 19-23 in Helsinki, Finland. The final roster will be named on Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, Team Canada released its 37-player preliminary roster Monday, and it doesn’t have an NCAA player.
SYHA skate with Union
The Schenectady Youth Hockey Association had its annual skate with the Union hockey teams on Sunday. My son, Steven, plays for the SYHA Pee Wee “B” team.
I took some video of the event, including the annual men’s freshmen “figure skating exhibition” initiation. To see a video of the event, click here.
Union defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie’s early return from a broken left wrist wasn’t the only surprise.
RPI forward and team captain CJ Lee came back unexpectedly over the weekend. Last Wednesday, RPI coach Seth Appert said he expected Lee to be out until after Christmas with knee and back issues. He was hurt in the Mercyhurst game Nov. 16.
Also coming back was another injured player, forward Zach Schroeder, who Appert said was questionable.
Lee picked up an assist in Friday’s 2-2 tie against Princeton.
“You’ve just got to give [credit],” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “They are tough kids. They’re both playing pretty banged up, but they’re looking around and seeing other guys like Mark McGowan, Brock Higgs and Johnny Rogic and other guys that are banged up that are struggling and can’t go. That’s why they [Lee and Schroeder] are leaders in our program. They stepped forward.”
York ties Mason
Congratulations to Boston College coach Jerry York on winning his 924th career game Saturday when his Eagles beat Boston University, 5-2, Saturday. That tied York with Ron Mason for first place on the all-time NCAA hockey wins list.
ECACH Power Rankings
My weekly ECACH Power Rankings each week. WARNING: You may agree, or disagree, with my picks.
Team Last week’s ranking
1) Quinnipiac 2
2) Dartmouth 4
3) Yale 3
4) Union 1
5) Cornell 7
6) Harvard 5
7) Princeton 11
8) St. Lawrence 6
9) Colgate 8
10) RPI 9
11) Clarkson 10
12) Brown 12
Union falls in poll
Union’s 0-1-1 weekend was felt in the latest USCHO.com/NCAA top-20 college hockey poll Monday.
The Dutchmen (3-2-1 ECAC Hockey, 8-3-2 overall), fell from eighth to 12th in the poll. They lost to Quinnipiac, 4-0, Friday, and rallied from a 4-2 deficit to tie Princeton, 4-4, Saturday.
Five other ECAC Hockey teams are in the poll. Dartmouth is 10th, Cornell is 11th, Quinnipiac is 13th Yale is 15th and Harvard is 20th.
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 New Hampshire (31) 11- 1-2 977 2
2 Boston College (19) 11- 2-0 965 1
3 Miami 9- 2-3 883 4
4 Minnesota 10- 3-2 806 3
5 Notre Dame 11- 4-0 791 6
6 Denver 9- 4-1 674 5
7 Boston University 8- 5-0 644 9
7 Western Michigan 8- 3-1 644 10
9 North Dakota 7- 5-2 636 7
10 Dartmouth 6- 2-2 459 11
11 Cornell 6- 3-2 453 12
12 Union 8- 3-2 433 8
13 Quinnipiac 10- 3-2 418 16
14 Nebraska-Omaha 9- 4-1 411 13
15 Yale 6- 2-1 316 15
16 Ferris State 7- 4-3 254 17
17 St. Cloud State 8- 6-0 224 14
18 Niagara 10- 2-3 155 20
19 Colorado College 8- 7-1 145 18
20 Harvard 4- 3-0 123 19
Others receiving votes: Ohio State 59, Providence 15, Alaska 5, Michigan 3, Minnesota State 2, St. Lawrence 2, Colgate 1, Holy Cross 1, Massachusetts 1.
I have a vote in the USCHO.com poll. Here is how I voted:
2) Boston College
4) Notre Dame
8) North Dakota
9) Boston U.
10) Western Michigan
16) St. Cloud State
17) Ferris State
18) Colorado College
Daily Gazette Stick Salutes
Time for my weekly awards.
Player of the Week — John Esposito, Cornell
The senior forward had three goals, two of them game-winners, to help the Big Red sweep Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Esposito scored twice in Friday’s 3-1 win over Clarkson. He ha a goal in a 3-1 victory over St. Lawrence on Saturday.
Goalie of the Week — Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac
The senior netminder stopped 20 shots in Friday’s win over Union, and had 21 saves in a 3-1 victory over RPI.
Rookie of the Week — Nick Bligh, Dartmouth
The freshman forward picked up the first two points of his career with a pair of assists in the Big Green’s 5-2 win over Bentley on Saturday.
Teams of the Week — Quinnipiac
At 6-0 in the league, the Bobcats are on fire.
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Good Monday! Good Hockey!