The #5-ranked Union Men’s Hockey Team opened their season with back-to-back wins over American International and #15-ranked New Hampshire last weekend.
Prior to the game on Friday night, students, faculty, alumni and local fans gathered at Messa Rink to celebrate the Dutchmen’s historic championship run last season. As a spectator at the ceremony, it was a really special moment to witness.
For the first time in school history, a National Championship banner rose to the rafters in Messa Rink. Union Hockey alumni and their families joined the Dutchmen on center ice, while the voices of hockey analysts John Buccigross and Barry Melrose played over the loud speaker, recounting the incredible moment when Union defeated Minnesota.
Before a sold-out crowd of 2,254 fans, Union took on the American International Yellow Jackets in a non-conference matchup to start off their title defense. As heavy underdogs entering the contest, the Yellow Jackets shockingly struck first with a goal 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the first period.
Union quickly responded however, as captain Charlie Vasaturo ’15 launched a slap shot from the point to tally his first goal of the season and tie the game at 1-1.
Heading into the latter half of the second period, Union found themselves down 2-1 to AIC, before Eli Lichtenwald ’17 and Noah Henry ’17 scored one minute and 33 seconds apart to give the Dutchmen a 3-2 lead heading into the 3rd.
The Dutchmen came out hot in the 3rd period and continued scoring with tallies from Jeff Taylor ’17 and Mike Vecchione ’17, to extend their lead to 5-2.
The Yellow Jackets then posted a small threat by answering with a third goal before Union sealed the win with goals from alternate captain Sam Coatta ’15 and Spencer Foo ’18, capping off a 7-3 victory for Union.
Goaltender Colin Stevens ’15 stopped 23 of 26 shots on goal.
“Our sophomores really came through for us today,” stated Sam Coatta. “We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but we turned it on at the end and finished with a good result.”
The following night, #5 Union hosted #19 University of New Hampshire in a Top-20 matchup that was sure to be a more difficult contest than AIC.
After a scoreless 1st period, the Wildcats struck first in the 2nd before Union answered with two short-handed goals (just 58 seconds apart) from Sam Coatta and Sebastien Gingras ’16 in a wild swing of momentum for the Dutchmen.
Two minutes later, Mike Vecchione added a third goal for Union, which would stand as the final tally for either team in the contest, and cap off an impressive 3-1 win over a tough team.
Colin Stevens was outstanding between the pipes for Union, as a he stopped 33 of 34 UNH shots on goal.
The 3-1 victory over UNH also marks the third straight time Union has beaten the Wildcats by that same score. The Dutchmen have now also won their last 14 home games dating back to last season, signifying the longest active streak in the country.
Union looks to improve their 2-0 record this weekend as they travel to Maine for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday night. Union’s next home matchup will be against St. Cloud State on Friday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in Messa Rink.