College Hockey Slap Schotts: Depth a big key to Union's success
So, who out there thought Union would be closing in on a third ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup regular-season title in four years?
Be honest, I don’t think many fans did, nor did members of the media. I thought that there was enough talent there that the Dutchmen would get, at least, a first-round bye for the ECACH tournament. I had Union finishing fourth this season. We know now that, with four games left in the regular season, the Dutchmen will finish no lower than third.
What has been the key? This past weekend’s games at Cornell (a 4-1 win) and Colgate (a 4-4 tie) showed why Union is closing in on another Cleary Cup.
The depth this team has is incredible. Lose forward Cole Ikkala to a lower-body injury after blocking a pair of shots against St. Lawrence on Jan. 31? Insert little-used forward Theo DiPauli. Forwards Daniel Carr and Max Novak suffer injuries Friday against Cornell? Put Mark Bennett and Nick Cruice in for the game against Colgate on Saturday. A stomach bug prevents forward David Roy from playing in the Colgate contest? Just have defenseman Matt Krug play left wing.
“It’s a really good squad,” Dutchmen defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. “We have a lot of guys that can play. Anytime you have a defenseman playing forward, you’re just hoping that he doesn’t make any mistakes out there. I thought ‘Krugger’ did a great job playing on the fourth line and giving us some energy.
“It’s a tough roster to crack. Guys just do whatever they’re asked of them. It was a real gutsy effort in the face of adversity.”
The Dutchmen rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to earn the tie with Colgate. They did it with a makeshift lineup that had 11 forwards, one less than normal, and seven defensemen, one more than usual, dressed.
Earlier in the season, Novak missed time while recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. In the opening game of the year against Bowling Green, goalie Colin Stevens and forward Eli Lichtenwald were injured and were out about a month each.
“Depth plays a factor throughout the season,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It really rears its head toward the end of the season. For guys to go in and get some valuable minutes hopefully helps us here for the last four games and beyond. Obviously, it’s no guarantee, but we do like the guys. Anybody goes in, anybody plays. It’s their job to provide value that night when they’re in the lineup.”
DiPauli, who was a healthy scratch for 22 straight games and 24 of Union’s first 26 contests, has proven himself since getting into the lineup Feb. 1 against Clarkson. In his last three games, he has two goals and an assist.
“When guys do what they’re supposed to do, they get rewarded,” Bodie said. “Theo’s been great since he got into the lineup for us.”
Krug, who has been splitting playing time with fellow freshman defenseman Noah Henry, filled in admirably on the fourth line against the Raiders.
“He did a good job,” said Bennett, who kiddingly referred to Krug as a young Luc Robitaille, the Los Angeles Kings great and Hockey Hall of Famer. “We were happy with his performance.”
Getting the first weekend will allow all of the Dutchmen to get some extra rest and prepare for their quarterfinal-round opponent.
“Last year, we had to battle until the end for the first-round bye, so it’s definitely nice to clinch the first-round bye early and know you have it,” said Union forward Kevin Sullivan, who missed three games earlier in the season because of a concussion. “For the most part, it lets us rest up our players that need to heal, and it gives us time to watch some other teams.”
The Dutchmen remained third in the latest USCHO.com/NCAA Hockey top-20 poll, and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll.
The Dutchmen (14-3-1 ECACH, 20-6-4 overall) earned 884 points in the USCHO poll, five less than last week. Union got 411 points in the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine poll, four more than last week.
Union is the highest-ranked ECACH team in both polls.
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 Boston College (49) 24- 4-3 999 1
2 Minnesota ( 1) 21- 4-5 948 2
3 Union 20- 6-4 884 3
4 St. Cloud State 17- 6-5 832 6
5 Quinnipiac 21- 6-5 778 4
6 Ferris State 21- 7-3 755 4
7 Massachusetts-Lowell 20- 7-3 740 7
8 Wisconsin 17- 9-2 655 8
9 Northeastern 17-10-3 563 12
10 Michigan 14- 9-3 487 10
11 North Dakota 16- 9-3 435 17
12 Providence 15- 9-6 428 9
13 Cornell 12- 7-5 411 11
14 Yale 13- 8-4 336 13
15 Notre Dame 17-12-2 255 20
16 Vermont 15-11-3 205 15
17 Maine 15-10-3 175 NR
18 Denver 14-10-6 157 18
19 Colgate 14-11-5 138 19
20 Minnesota-Duluth 13-11-4 112 16
Others receiving votes: Clarkson 95, Minnesota State 65, Ohio State 29, New Hampshire 6, Air Force 5, Western Michigan 4, Nebraska-Omaha 2, Mercyhurst 1.
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Rank School Last Week’s Ranking
1. Boston College, 509 (33) 1
2. Minnesota, 477 (1) 2
3. Union, 411 3
4. St. Cloud State, 398 6
5. Ferris State, 360 4
6. Quinnipiac, 356 5
7. UMass Lowell, 309 7
8. Wisconsin, 281 8
9. Northeastern, 217 12
10. Michigan, 168 11
11. North Dakota, 144 RV
12. Providence, 129 9
13. Cornell, 110 10
14. Yale, 82 13
15. Maine, 43 RV
Others receiving votes: Notre Dame, 34; Denver, 14; Vermont, 14; Colgate, 9; Minnesota State, 7; Minnesota Duluth, 5; Clarkson, 2.
I have a vote in the USCHO.com poll. Here is how I voted.
1) Boston College
4) St. Cloud State
6) Ferris State
11) North Dakota
14) Notre Dame
16) Minnesota State
Union is tied with St. Cloud State for third in the PairWise Rankings. The Dutchmen are on target to be the top seed in the NCAA tournament East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.
Quinnipiac dropped from fifth to sixth. Cornell tumbled from ninth to 14th after losing to Union and RPI. Colgate is tied with Minnesota Duluth for 16th. However, that’s not a good spot for either team to be in because the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion will get an automatic bid. The highest-ranked Atlantic Hockey team is Air Force, which is tied for 31st with Brown.
The PairWise Ranking is a system which attempts to mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.
To see the rankings, click here.
Daily Gazette/ECACH Four Stars
Time for my four stars of the week.
Player of the Week — Andrew Ammon, Princeton
The senior forward figured in all of Tigers’ goals over the weekend. He had three assists in a 3-2 victory over Brown on Friday. In a 7-5 loss to Yale the next night, Ammon had two goals and three assists.
Goalie of the Week — Steve Michalek, Harvard
The junior netminder helped the Crimson to a 2-0-1 week. He made 25 saves in last Monday’s 6-2 win over Boston University in the Beanpot third-place game. Michalek stopped 31 shots in Friday’s 1-0 overtime win at Clarkson. He had 39 saves in Saturday’s 2-2 tie at St. Lawrence.
Rookie of the Week — Luke Esposito, Harvard
The freshman forward had two goals, including the game-winner and an assist in the Beanpot game.
Team of the Week — Dartmouth
It’s been a rough year for the Big Green, but they go to the North Country and beat St. Lawrence, 3-1, and routed Clarkson, 6-1.
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Good Tuesday! Good Hockey!
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