Tuesday, March 22, 2011
A Few Words About Union
Can't say I saw Union play. I have no idea how good they are, who their top players are, or how often they are guilty of dirty hits.
To give myself and others a better idea about Union -- and the city they hail from -- I figured I'd best ask someone who knows.
Daniel Greene writes for the Union Hockey Blog, and he was kind enough to provide answers to my questions.
1. How did you get interested in Union hockey?
I am currently a senior at Union College. Since freshman year I've covered the team for the school newspaper, the Concordiensis. My passion for covering the Dutchmen has grown over my four years as I have become the sports editor of the newspaper, co-sports director of the school radio station (WRUC, 89.7FM), arena reporter for USCHO, and created the Union Hockey Blog in my junior year. The blog has grown so much over the past two years, and I love doing it.
I've been a college hockey fan my entire life. My family has had season tickets to Army Hockey since the mid-1990s and have been to almost every Frozen Four for the past decade, along with many other college hockey tournaments and games.
2. Tell us about Schenectady and the college atmosphere there.
The city is located about 30 minutes north of Albany, which is the capital of New York. I'm not much of a Schenectady historian, but Schenectady is famous for where General Electric was founded. There is still a huge GE Factory in the city (which reminds me of Willy Wonka's factory) that is still a major GE facility (President Obama visited the site a few months ago). Schenetady is an urban area that had a bad reputation for a number of years, but is currently on the rise. Personally, I really like Schenectady.
While the city is very urban, the college campus is very suburban. It's almost like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit. The center piece of the campus is the Nott Memorial, which is the only 16-sided building in the world (I think). Union was founded in 1795 and is the first college to have a planned out campus. There are about 2,100 undergraduates at the school, and most of them are from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. There is a lot of tradition at Union because of it is so old and is known as "The Mother of Fraternities" (the first fraternities were founded by Union students in the 1800s). The school is mainly known for the high level of education, engineering, traditions, Greek life, and now men's ice hockey.
3. Union seems to have been building to the team they have this year. Talk about the impact Nate Leaman has had on this program.
It is absolutely amazing what Coach Leaman has done here during his eight years. Since Union's move to D-I in 1991-92, the team was, for the most part, the laughingstock of the ECAC and D-I hockey. During his first four years the team still struggled, but in the four years that I've been in school the team has improved tremendously. They received their first First Round bye in the ECAC playoffs (2008), won their first ECAC playoff series (2009), made it to their first ECAC Championship game (2010), and are now going to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance (2011).
The amazing thing about all of this is that Leaman has done all of this without athletic scholarships, a booster club like bigger college hockey programs have, and other resources. He's been able to find talented players that have been overlooked by other teams and like his system and staff. I'm pretty sure Union is the only team in the ECAC without an NHL draft pick. Leaman has taught these guys how to play hard and be disciplined, and has brought a sense of winning to the program.
4. How good is this power play? What makes them so dangerous?
Union's power-play is excellent, which is evident by their 31% conversion rate (tops in the nation). What makes the PP unit so dangerous is that there are 10 guys on the team that can be on the PP and contribute, so no matter what unit is on the ice they're going to be very dangerous. Union has three big time finishers on the PP in freshman forward Daniel Carr (12 goals), and sophomore forwards Wayne Simpson (9 goals) and Jeremy Welsh (8 goals).
5. What is the impact of a guy like Keith Kinkaid on the team?
Having a great goaltender is always important, especially in the playoffs, because he solidifies the team and picks them up when they're down. Keith has done a great job keeping the Dutchmen in games all season, and has been the reason why Union has won a good amount of games this season. He's not a flashy goaltender, since he is great positionaly and uses his big frame to his advantage. Keith is the first big time NHL prospect Union has had in a while.
6. What -- if anything -- scares you most about playing UMD?
I guess what I'm most scared about is the FCC line, which essentially has three guys with 50 points. It also scares me a little that these guys have done this in the WCHA. The ECAC isn't known for their scorers, so it will be interesting to see how Union handles an offensive skill set they probably haven't seen this season.
7. Who are the key players that will catch our eye and make an impact on the game Friday?
Personally, senior forward Adam Presizniuk is the best player on the team. He is Union's all-time leading scorer at the D-I level and is very talented. I also love his linemate, freshman Matt Hatch, who is extremely fast and hard-working. He's always going 110% and causing havoc on the ice. I'm also a fan of freshman defenseman Mat Bodie, who is great offensively. Even though he has a "untraditional" skating style, he has still managed to break all of Union's scoring records for defensemen in his first season.
8. It may never come down to a rematch, but how do you feel about being in Yale's bracket? Would you rather be in a regional with teams outside the ECAC?
I'm actually happy about it. I feel that Yale is the weakest of the top seeded teams. While I've only seen Yale live, I have watched BC, North Dakota, and Miami on TV and I think they are just on a different level. I think it's also a good thing that we're familiar with them, so we know what to expect (that is if we play them). I'm also not convinced that Yale goaltender Ryan Rondeau is that great.
9. How much does it bug you when people judge Union and the ECAC based on past perceptions of the league?
It really doesn't bug me because I know it's true. I've seen enough college hockey during my life to understand that the WCHA, CCHA, and Hockey East have talents that the ECAC doesn't have. It just seems like the ECAC will have a handful of stars, while the other leagues have teams full of stars. Also, history supports this judgement since the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003, and the last ECAC team to win the championship was Harvard in 1989. The ECAC needs to end both streaks in order to gain respect.
I think Union has gained a lot of respect this season, but need to make some noise in the national tourney to gain more national recognition for the program and the ECAC.
Other Notes: Senior John Simpson and sophomore Wayne Simpson are brothers from Massachusetts. They play on the same line... freshman defender Mat Bodie and sophomore forward Kyle Bodie are also brothers from Manitoba. Mat plays every game, while Kyle is in and out of the lineup and usually plays on the 4th line.