Schenectady, NY — The 18th-ranked Union College Men’s Hockey team hasn’t played a game in nearly three weeks, and the last ones they played must have left a sour taste in their mouths. A 2-2 tie with #19 St. Lawrence and a 3-1 loss to Clarkson ended a stretch of 4 consecutive home games, and it wasn’t the way the Dutchmen wanted that to end. Union rolled to an 8-2-1 start before that weekend set, which took place on November 11th and 12th, respectively. By the time they drop the puck in New Jersey against Princeton on Friday, it will have been exactly three weeks since the start of that last weekend series. Princeton has not been a very good team this season, but Union can’t take them lightly, as they have a knack for upsets.
The Princeton Tigers have limped to a 2-6-1 record this season, and are currently sitting dead last in the ECAC, with only 1 point in conference play. However, they had a tremendous weekend that will certainly give them tons of momentum. They went down to Minnesota and swept the #13 Bemidji State Beavers, by scores of 4-1 and 3-1. Albany Academy grad Ben Halford made 43 saves in the latter game, in his first start of the season. His excellent performance means that he will most likely see action again this weekend, especially with starting goalie Colton Phinny struggling this year. However, their offense has struggled to score, averaging just 2.20 goals per game. With Union goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos continuing to improve throughout the season, that doesn’t bode well for the Tigers.
Union’s second game is against a much more accomplished team. They’ll travel to Hamden, Connecticut on Saturday for a matchup with the #5 Quinnipiac Bobcats. Quinnipiac is the defending ECAC champion and went all the way to the national title game last season. They’re led by senior forward Tim Clifton, who leads the team with nine goals. The Bobcats have a very deep team, as their numbers will suggest (Clifton 14 points, Brogan Rafferty 14, Craig Martin 12, Chase Priskie 10, Landon Smith 9, KJ Tiefenwerth 9). Junior goaltender Chris Truehl has been great this season, with a .926 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average. They’re currently 9-4-2 after finishing second at the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Ireland over the weekend.
For Union, they’re still led by the dominant top line. Mike Vecchione still leads the nation in points with 26, despite not having played a single game in 3 weeks. Spencer Foo has also been great with 21 points, and their other linemate, Sebastian Vidmar, has 18 points as well. They’re the highest-scoring line in the country. It’s not just them, however. Senior defenseman, Albany Academy grad, and Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Jeff Taylor has stepped up big time this season with 12 points. Forwards Brett Supinski and Cole Maier have been stepping up big when the Dutchmen need them, as well.
Overall, it will be a tough challenge for Union, but it will be a huge confidence boost for the Dutchmen if they can get a sweep, and would send a message throughout the rest of the ECAC that they mean business this season.