The Huskies face a stiff test this weekend in a non-conference road trip to Schenectady, NY to face the defending national champion Union College Dutchman. It’s not just the 16 game winning streak or the 23 game unbeaten streak that’s intimidating but the culture of winning this tiny liberal arts college near Albany, NY has been able to create.
The ascent to the top of the college hockey world started in 1998-99 with the hiring of former NHLer and Union assistant, Kevin Sneddon (now at U of Vermont) as head coach. He turned the reigns over to Nate Leaman in 2003-2004 (now at Providence) and ultimately to another former NHLer and former Union assistant, Rick Bennett in 2011-12. Bennett was a big, physical, forward for Providence College in the late 80’s who coincidentally played in St. Cloud at the old Municipal rink vs the fledgling Huskies. Well, the rest as they say is history. In 2013-14, the Dutchman amassed a 32-6-4 record and seemingly scored at will vs college hockey Goliath and #1 seeded Minnesota in a 7-4 win in the national championship game..
The unique thing about Union College is they’ve cultivated a culture of success at a college with less than 2500 students competing not only with some very prominent schools in the ECAC but also nationally. And, they’ve done so with seemingly under the radar recruits who have blossomed in the Union program. The proof is in their 161-79-36 record since 2007-08, three conference titles in the past four seasons and a National Championship in 2014.
Union was hit hard after the championship season with the departure of Daniel Carr – 50 points, Mat Bodie- 41 points, Kevin Sullivan -39 points and Shayne Gostibehere – 34 points. Bodie and Gostibehere anchored a two headed defense that was as scary and as productive as any in the nation. They created the Union style of play – create offense from defense and made teams pay as a result of mistakes. Although early in the 2014-15 season, they seem to be working their formula to success with a 4-0 start and a road sweep of Maine last weekend. Forward Mike Vecchione is off to a solid start (4-3-6-9) as is Daniel Ciampini (4-2-4-6) and Minnesotan Sam Coatta (4-2-1-7). Goaltender Colin Stevens could be a 2014-15 All-American.
The 9th ranked Huskies will have to be on their toes in this series. They certainly have the horses to compete with Union but will have to be sharp and limit turnovers. Easy to say but SCSU goaltender Charlie Lindgren needs to rival his counterpart, Stevens this weekend. As the Huskies experienced vs Colgate two weekends ago, a big Friday night from your goaltender pays dividends. The Huskies play well on the road and adapt well to a smaller ice surface. Road trips are always tough – particularly against a team with confidence. This series should be a dandy.