College Hockey Slap Schotts: Time has come for Union to consider a new rink
I hope you had the opportunity to read my article in Saturday’s Daily Gazette and on the website concerning Messa Rink and whether it’s time for Union to consider a new facility. With the success the team has been experiencing over the last few years, the Dutchmen may be the hottest ticket in the Capital Region.
If you didn’t see the story, click here to read it.
I posted the article on the various Facebook pages I have, as well as Twitter, and the response was incredible. Many fans would like to see a new rink, while some think it’s fine, but it does need some improvements.
I have covered the program since its elevated from Division III to Division I, so I have a good perspective as to whether the time is right for a new facility.
I say yes.
It would seem to me that Union would want to have more fans in the building. The Dutchmen have had seven standing-room only crowds this season, and have been playing to 95 percent capacity. The rink only holds 2,054. A chance to have increased revenue with more fans would seem a smart move.
A new facility would address major issues. The seating in a new arena should have back support. I’m not sure how fans can sit in the bleachers without the back support. Also, there is a need for more bathrooms and concession areas.
Selfishly, I want the press box on the side. The end zone press box is nice when the action is down at that end, but it’s difficult sometimes to see how some of the goals are scored down at the other end.
Another issue related to the rink is parking. There are very few spaces in front of the rink. Many times, people park on the street in back of the rink.
The big question is where to build it. The only place on campus would be the old soccer field near Memorial Fieldhouse. There seems to be plenty of room there.
But the one thing that stood out from the interviews I conducted was the home-ice advantage the Dutchmen enjoy at Messa. When the rink is full, it’s loud. The noise bounces off the roof, and it makes it difficult to hear. It can be very intimidating, too.
It will be interesting to see if the college does start looking into a new facility. To me, the time has come for it to happen.
Another disappointment for RPI
Coming off last year’s second-place finish, RPI expected to contend for its first regular-season title since 1985. The media picked the Engineers to finish first in its preseason poll, and the coaches had them picked second.
But RPI didn’t meet those expectations, finishing seventh. It had a chance to make some noise in the postseason against 10th-seeded Dartmouth at Houston Field House.
Instead, the Engineers must once again answer questions as to why they came up short yet again.
RPI was eliminated by Dartmouth Sunday night. The manner of how the Engineers were ousted will linger with the program throughout the offseason.
They won the first game handily, 4-1. They dropped a 3-2 decision Saturday that forced a Game 3. The Engineers appeared in control of that game, taking a 4-2 lead into the third period. But the Big Green rallied to score three third-period goals and stun the Engineers, 5-4.
A lot of people will point to the season-ended shoulder injury starting goalie Jason Kasdorf suffered in a practice early October. But any RPI fan that blames Scott Diebold for the loss is a fool and not looking at the bigger picture. Diebold was 14-15-6 with a 2.50 goals-against average, a 916 save percentage and one shutout.
There are two bigger issues with the Engineers. One is their lack of secondary scoring. Junior forward Ryan Haggerty led the way with 28 goals. After him, it was senior forward Brock Higgs (14) and junior forward Matt Neal (10) who reached double figures. That was it.
Junior forward Jacob Laliberte and sophomore forwards Mike Zalewski and Milos Bubela saw their goal production drop. Laliberte went form 11 goals to eight. Zalewski dropped from 12 to nine. Bubela’s goals dropped in half, from eight to four.
The Engineers’ offense was so inconsistent. One night, they would produce 39 shots on goal. The next night, they would be lucky to crack 20 shots.
The lack of a killer instinct also showed in Sunday’s game. There is no excuse for giving up a two-goal lead in the third period of a series-deciding game. It seems like when RPI does get a lead, it goes into a prevent defense. And you know what they say about what playing a prevent defense does — it prevents you from winning. RPI needed to step on Dartmouth’s throat. Instead, when Eric Neiley scored 2:10 into the third to make it 4-3, it gave Dartmouth life.
This has to be the most bitter defeat for RPI coach Seth Appert since he took over the program from Dan Fridgen in 2006. He hasn’t won a home playoff series in four tries. Overall, Appert has won just two of 10 playoff series.
Instead of playing this weekend for a chance to make it to the semifinals for the first time since 2002, the Engineers will have to think long and hard about what went wrong this season.
The ECACH tournament best-of-three quarterfinals get underway Friday. Here is my quick synopsis of the four series. I will have my predictions on Thursday.
No. 10 Dartmouth at No. 1 Union
Three years ago, 12th-seeded Colgate pulled off the Capital Region daily double, eliminating fifth-seeded RPI in the first round in three games and top-seeded Union in the quarterfinals, also in three games. Can history repeat itself after the Big Green’s upset of the No. 7 Engineers over the weekend?
It will if Union (24-6-4) thinks the Dartmouth team it played in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 1 shows up. In that game, the Dutchmen rolled to a 7-2 win.
But the Dutchmen know that the Big Green team they faced Dec. 11 at Messa is the truer one. Dartmouth (10-18-4) outshot Union, 39-30, and had a 2-1 lead after two periods before the Dutchmen rallied for a 3-2 win.
It will be a bruising series.
No. 8 St. Lawrence at No. 2 Colgate
The Raiders (17-2-5) won the season series, outscoring the Saints, 12-6. St. Lawrence (15-7-4) is coming off a pair of 3-2 wins over Brown in the first round.
I’m expecting this to be a much tighter series than in the regular season. The big focus will be on Raiders freshman goalie Charlie Finn. He had a strong second half and was a big reason the Raiders went 10-3-3 at the start of 2014. Is he ready to handle the playoff pressure? If he can, the Raiders will be headed to Lake Placid.
No. 6 Yale at No. 3 Quinnipiac
The New Haven, Conn., area will be shut down this weekend as the area rivals renew their hostilities. The teams met in last year’s NCAA title game, with the Bulldogs upsetting the Bobcats, 4-0.
The Bobcats won the season series, 1-0-1. The teams played to a tie Nov. 9 at Quinnipiac. The Bobcats won at Yale, 4-0, Feb. 14.
This series will be a war. Quinnipiac is probably still angry over losing to Yale last April in Pittsburgh, the only loss the Bobcats suffered against the Bulldogs in the four times they played last year.
Yale will be playing for its NCAA tournament lives. It is below the bubble, tied for 18th. The Bulldogs will need to win the series to keep their NCAA hopes alive. Otherwise, there will be a new NCAA champion.
No. 5 Clarkson at No. 4 Cornell
The Golden Knights (20-15-4) needed to go the distance in order to eliminate No. 12 Princeton. Now, they must go to a hostile environment at Lynah Rink to face the Big Red (15-8-5).
The teams split the season series, each winning by 3-2 scores. The Big Red has been struggling with their offense. They have scored over three goals only twice in their last 14 games. Also in that stretch, they scored just one goal five times and were shutout once.
If Clarkson can crank up its offense and shut down Cornell, it might have a chance to win the series. This series three games written all over it.
Union remains third
Union remains third in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey top-20 poll on Monday.
The Dutchmen (24-6-4), who have the nation’s current longest unbeaten streak at nine games (8-0-1), got one first-place vote and earned 899 points, 13 less than last week.
Minnesota remains first, followed by Boston College.
Union is still third in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 Minnesota (29) 24- 4-6 978 1
2 Boston College (19) 25- 5-4 965 2
3 Union (1) 24- 6-4 899 3
4 St. Cloud State (1) 21- 8-5 841 4
5 Wisconsin 21- 9-2 788 5
6 Ferris State 25- 9-3 719 7
6 Quinnipiac 22- 8-6 719 6
8 Massachusetts-Lowell 21- 9-4 669 8
9 Providence 19- 9-6 569 10
10 North Dakota 20-11-3 554 9
11 Notre Dame 21-12-2 481 11
12 Cornell 15- 8-5 428 13
13 Michigan 17-11-4 365 12
14 Northeastern 18-12-4 348 14
15 Vermont 19-12-3 318 15
16 Yale 17- 9-5 254 16
17 Colgate 17-12-5 213 18
18 Minnesota State 22-13-1 205 17
19 Maine 16-13-4 68 20
20 Minnesota-Duluth 16-14-4 62 19
Others receiving votes: New Hampshire 18, Clarkson 8, Western Michigan 8, Ohio State 7, Denver 6, Nebraska-Omaha 5, Air Force 4, Alaska 1.
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Rank School Last Week’s Ranking
1. Minnesota, 506 (30) 1
2. Boston College, 480 (4) 2
3. Union, 439 3
4. St. Cloud State, 401 4
5. Wisconsin, 371 5
6. Ferris State, 324 7
7. Quinnipiac, 319 6
8. UMass Lowell, 268 8
9. North Dakota, 219 9
10. Providence, 199 10
11. Notre Dame, 161 12
12. Cornell, 133 13
13. Michigan, 86 11
14. Northeastern, 67 14
15. Vermont, 47 RV
Others receiving votes: Yale, 25; Colgate, 22; Minnesota State, 13.
I have a vote in the USCHO.com poll. Here is how I voted.
3) Boston College
4) St. Cloud State
7) Ferris State
8) UMass Lowell
10) Notre Dame
11) North Dakota
17) Minn. State
20) Minn. Duluth
Union is tied with Wisconsin 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 remains seventh. Cornell is 13th. Colgate is 16th, but that final spot will go to the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion. There are no AH teams in the top 16.
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 — Eric Neiley, Dartmouth
The junior forward had three goals and two assists in the final two games of the Big Green’s series against the Engineers and help them advance to the quarterfinals.
Goalie of the Week — Charles Grant, Dartmouth
The sophomore netminder made 35 saves in Sunday’s decisive win over RPI. Grant stopped 20 shots in Saturday’s game, and had 33 saves in Friday’s 4-1 loss.
Rookie of the Week — Steve Perry, Clarkson
The freshman goalie rallied the Knights past the Tigers in their first-round series. He stopped all 24 shots he faced in Saturday’s 4-0 win that evened the series at a game apiece. Perry made 21 saves in Sunday’s 3-2 triumph.
Team of the Week — Dartmouth
The Big Green were the only low seed to win, and they won the last two games of the series to oust RPI.
If you have any comments, post them below, or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on Twitter @slapschotts. Also, please become a fan of two Facebook pages — The Daily Gazette On Ice, and my "Slap Schotts" college hockey segment page.
Good Monday! Good Hockey!
Follow @dgazettesports on Twitter.