It seems like just yesterday the entire Union campus celebrated the Dutchmen’s win over Minnesota to capture the school’s first ever National Championship.
This Friday, Oct. 10, the Dutchmen return to the ice to begin their title defense and open the 2014-15 season against American International at 8 p.m. in Messa Rink.
While the Dutchmen saw a number of key players that were instrumental in their championship run last year graduate, including Mat Bodie, Shayne Gostisbehere and Daniel Carr, they still remain an extremely dangerous and confident team.
A couple weeks ago, Union was ranked 2nd in the ECAC Coaches and Media polls. Two returning seniors were also selected to the preseason Coaches and Media teams: forward Daniel Ciampini ’15 and goaltender Colin Stevens ’15.
Ciampini and Stevens will be very instrumental contributors in Union’s title defense this year. Stevens led the nation in wins last season (28) and finished second in shutouts (6). He also was seventh in goals-against-average (2.05) and ninth in save percentage (.929).
Stevens also became the first Union goaltender to record a shutout in his playoff debut, when the Dutchmen defeated Dartmouth last year in the ECACH Quarter-Finals.
Stevens will most certainly be the backbone for the Dutchmen this year as he looks to improve even more from his spectacular numbers last season.
Ciampini was recently named one of Union’s alternate captains.
He finished second on the team in goals and points scored last season, tallying 23 goals and 41 points.
He was also the star of last year’s 5-4 Frozen Four victory over Boston College, in which he scored a hat trick and helped send the Dutchmen to the championship game that they inevitably won.
Along with Stevens and Ciampini, the Dutchmen are led by a well-rounded group of returning seniors, including defenseman and recently named captain Charlie Vasaturo ’15, and forwards Sam Coatta ’15, Max Novak ’15 and Matt Wilkins ’15.
Appearing in 42 games last season on the defensive line with All-American and former captain Mat Bodie, Vasaturo led the Dutchmen in blocked shots (62) and was recognized as the team’s “Scott Richardson Unsung Hero Award” winner.
Novak finished third on the team in goals last season (15), and scored the winning goal against No. 2-ranked Minnesota to seal the National Championship victory.
Head Coach Rick Bennett will also look to Mike Vecchione ’17 and Michael Pontarelli ’17 to improve from their very impressive freshman seasons — combined, the duo scored 57 points last season.
As a first-year, Vecchione finished tied for fifth on the team in points, notching 14 goals and 20 assists in 38 games played.
As four of Union’s top five leading scorers from last year are no longer here, look for Vecchione and Pontarelli to step up as leading offensive producers for the Dutchmen this season.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, the Dutchmen defeated Prince Edward Island, 6-3, in an exhibition game here in Schenectady at Messa Rink.
Goaltender Colin Stevens stopped all 18 shots he faced before being pulled in the second period to give opportunities for his back-up goaltenders to show what they could do.
Vecchione opened the scoring for Union just 44 seconds into the game on an unassisted shot from the slot.
Ciampini then scored a power-play goal approximately two minutes later, pushing the Dutchmen lead to 2-0.
Kevin Shier ’18 and Sam Coatta ’15 added goals in the second period, followed by goals from Pontarelli and Spencer Foo ’18 in the third.
Sunday was a great effort for Union as they prepare for their season opener this Friday.
Overall, it should be another exciting season of hockey here in Schenectady as the Union community heavily anticipates the Dutchmen’s national title defense.