Ice hockey’s season ends, players’ careers only beginning

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The men’s hockey team’s terrific season ended in disappointing fashion on Mar. 25, as the Dutchmen suffered a heavy 10-3 defeat at the hands of Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite the loss, it was fitting the team’s six seniors saw their Union career end in the NCAA Tournament, the same tournament where they helped the program capture its first ever national championship as first-years in 2014. Before Penn State began their onslaught of seven unanswered goals late in the second period, the Dutchmen had been able to respond quickly each time they fell behind.

First, it was Brendan Taylor ’19 scoring 67 seconds after Brendan Biro gave the Nittanny Lions a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. It was Spencer Foo’s turn to answer back 24 seconds after Penn State regained the lead with 6:34 left in the opening period with his 25th goal of the season on a one-timer off a feed from Cole Maier ’19. Foo’s second of the game, a power play goal, tied the score at 3-3 early in the second period, nearly six minutes after Penn State defenseman play.

A week before facing Penn State, the Dutchmen’s run in the ECAC Championship was stopped in a 4-1 loss to Cornell in the semifinals. Although the season ended on a sour note, the activity and buzz surrounding this year’s team didn’t stop with the final buzzer against Penn State. As expected, there was intense interest in the future of Vecchione, who enjoyed a spectacular individual season. Vecchione finished tied for first in the nation in points, second in the nation in goals, and became Union’s all-time leader in points and assists on his way to being named the ECAC Player of the Year.

He is also one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker, the award given out each year to the top collegiate player in the country. Following a week of speculation, Vecchione signed an entry-level contract last Thursday with the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL, where he will once again play alongside former Dutchman Shayne Gostisbehere.

Following the announcement of Vecchione’s contract, Union head coach Rick Bennett called Vecchione in a statement, “one of the finest student-athletes ever to represent Union College and the men’s hockey team.” Vecchione was not the only player to be rewarded for an excellent season and collegiate career. Defenseman Jeff Taylor ’17 signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that took him in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft. “This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” said Penguins’ assistant general manager and former NHL great Bill Guerin about Taylor back in December to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Furthermore, Michael Pontarelli ’17 signed an amateur tryout with the East Coast Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals this past weekend. Union will also be without two more of their top players next season as Nick DeSimone ’18 and Spencer Foo ’18 have both elected to turn professional. DeSimone quickly signed with the San Jose Sharks, and like Taylor, is suiting up in the American Hockey League for the remainder of the season as a member of the San Jose Barracuda, the same team former Union goalie Troy Grosenick has starred for this year. Foo, who had 26 goals and 62 points this season, just one point behind Vecchione and two other players for the most in the nation, will most likely sign an NHL contract this summer. He also set a program record with 36 assists in a single-season, and finished as a finalist for ECAC Player of the Year.

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