The Dutchmen have been making incremental improvements under coach Nate Leaman, but despite having home ice in the opening round of the ECAC tournament three years in a row, they’ve been unable to advance beyond the opening round.
Last year was the closest that Union has ever come to moving on to the second round; the Dutchmen fell to Clarkson two games to one, but they played the Golden Knights well and forced all three games into overtime.
“Although the success was limited, the team felt some success last season,” Leaman said. “That’s the first playoff game Union College won in 10 years. That’s important to have experienced some success.”
“It’s also important the amount of experience that all the guys gained,” he continued. “It was just incredible — to have three playoff games and to have all three go to overtime, that’s extremely pressure-packed hockey.”
“I was really please with how the young guys played, and how [the team] stepped up. That [experience] can only make for a better hockey team.”
The return of three of the team’s top four scorers from a year ago will help to offset the loss of the offensive leadership that Jordan Webb brought to the team. Leading the forwards this season will be junior Oliver Bouchard, and seniors Jonathan Poirier and Scott Seney.
“Scott Seney is a very good hockey player; he’s definitely worthy of being a number-one center in our league,” Leaman said. “And Jon Poirier is a breakthrough player. He’s a natural goal-scorer, and a natural point-producer for us.”
Poirier has scored 27 points in each of the past two seasons; he is especially important to the success of the Dutchmen’s power play, where he tallied eight of his 11 goals last year.
With skilled players like Poirier, Seney, and Bouchard, the Dutchmen will be a strong offensive squad that can compete well against the rest of the league. It has taken into his third season to get to this point, but Leaman has seen a progression in the Union hockey program, and he believes his team is now ready to go even further.
“Home ice has become the expectation for this program,” he said. “We’ve gone from never hosting a playoff series to now we’ve hosted three in a row. And now it’s time for us to take the next step and get to the next round of the playoffs and into the Pepsi Arena.”