Union Hockey looking to continue hot start vs RPI
The Union College men’s hockey team heads into this weekend’s home-and-home set with RPI in good shape. They’ve won back-to-back games, and are off to a 4-1-1 start to the season. The Dutchmen are currently led by the nation’s leading scorer: senior forward Mike Vecchione. Vecchione, the team’s captain, leads the country in goals (8) and points (13). He was awarded with the ECAC 1st Star of the Week following a weekend series in which he scored twice in a 5-2 win over RIT, and 4 times in a 5-2 win over Niagara. He isn’t the only Union skater having an outstanding season, however. Linemate and junior Spencer Foo has 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists), and is tied for first in the nation with a plus/minus of +8. Union received 8 top-20 votes this week, giving them the #29 ranking in the nation.
On the other side of things, RPI is struggling. They’re off to a 1-3-1 start to the year, but the record can be misleading. They lost twice to a strong Maine team, and once to the defending national champions, and current #1 team, North Dakota. They picked up their first win of the season with a 6-3 win over RIT this past weekend, and obviously want to turn that into a winning streak. Sophomore forward Evan Tironese has been the Engineers’ best player this season, with 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists). Goaltender Cam Hackett has been solid, with a 3.00 GAA and a .903 save %. They’d like him to play a little better, but when you factor in the level of competition they’ve faced, it’s not a huge issue. Other than Tironese, RPI has senior Riley Bourbonnais, who has 6 points on 3 & 3. However, the offense hasn’t run very deep. Other than those two, they don’t have anyone else who has been consistent this year. Just 7 players have scored goals for the Engineers this year. Most teams, Union included, have around 11-12 goal scorers this season. They’ll need the other guys to step up with Tironese and Bourbonnais for the team to succeed this year.
Union’s top line has been terrific this season. Vecchione, Foo, and Sebastian Vidmar have all been very, very good this year, and have shown tons of chemistry. Vidmar, a sophomore from Malmo, Sweden, has been a huge part of the offense with 3 goals and 7 assists, and he’s second on the team in scoring. The Dutchmen are a lot deeper this year, and the fact that they have 20 skaters with at least 1 point attests to that. The weakness, however, has been one that Union did not think they would have before the season began. Senior goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos has posted a 3.00 GAA and a .866 save %. He was named to the Richter Award watchlist in the preseason, the award that goes to the top goalie in college hockey, so Sakellaropoulos’ play has definitely been eye-opening to some, and not in a good way. That being said, Union still is off to a great start, thanks to their offense. Also, Sakellaropoulos’ play has been better, especially over this last weekend, where he stopped 39 of 43 shots he faced over two games. If he gets going, this team is really scary.
RPI has outshot their opponent only once this season, outshooting Niagara 41-33 in a 3-3 tie.
Union’s Mike Vecchione enters this weekend on a averaging 2.17 points per game, and he also has scored in 3 straight games, including 4 goals against Niagara last weekend.
Clifton Park native and Dutchmen senior defenseman Jeff Taylor has 1 goal and 4 assists for 5 points this year, which leads all Union blueliners.
RPI won all 3 meetings with Union last season, and are 5-1-0 vs the Dutchmen over the last 2 seasons.