The last time the Union Dutchmen were on the ice, they had just been defeated by Yale in five overtimes. For the second year in a row, the Dutchmen had earned home ice in the ECACHL playoffs, but could not advance to the next round.
This year, the Dutchmen hope things will be different.
The Dutchmen have promise and hope as they return five of their top six scorers, four of them forwards. Olivier Bouchard (14-12-26) returns as the leading scorer; he will be helped out by now-sophomores Augie DiMarzo (7-16-23) and T.J. Fox (8-12-20). Josh Coyle (9-9-18) rounds out the top four forwards returning.
The Dutchmen will need them to get off to a strong scoring start, as Bouchard was the only double-digit goal-scorer for them last season. Offense may be a concern for those following Union’s fortunes.
The other area in which the offense will need to turn it up is on special teams. Last season the Dutchmen only converted 11.6 percent of the time on the power play, which in this day and age quickly translates to missed opportunities to win games.
Jason Walters and Jason Shaffer will hope to continue the hot scoring which was not a problem at the previous level, while contributions from Andrew Estey and Mario Valery-Trabucco will also help.
On defense the Dutchmen return six, while adding four. If they can get the experience from the six and add more with the four newcomers, the defense will be a strong point as the season goes on. Returning is captain Sean Streich.
“We were very impressed with Sean’s leadership last year as captain as a junior,” said head coach Nate Leaman. “I feel he’s going to do a terrific job, and more importantly that the leadership from this team will come from five or six different guys each and every night. I think we have a strong leadership cast on this team despite that we only have three seniors.”
It is a plus that the defense will be deep, since Kris Mayotte has graduated from between the nets leaving the job in the hands of junior Justin Mrazek and freshmen Rich Sillery and Shaun Williams. Mrazek had a wonderful freshman campaign, but Mayotte took over last season in his final year.
If Mrazek is as good as he was two years ago, the Dutchmen will have the goaltending question erased.
The Dutchmen have added depth but need to improve the power play and the overall offense in order to finish higher in the league and finally advance out of the first round of the playoffs.
“For four years straight we’ve had home ice for the playoffs even though we’ve been ranked lower than that in the preseason polls,” Leaman said. “We just continue to move up, and our goal every year is to win the league.”
A sense of fraternity on the squad won’t hurt, either.
“I think we’re going to have a close team chemistry-wise this year,” said Leaman. “We’re working on getting the new players integrated into the team and the way we do things right away.
“We’ve set up a big-brother system where the older players can kind of pull them aside. I think the onus is really on our upperclassmen and our leadership. I don’t think we’re going to have really one pure leader on our team; it’s going to be more leadership by committee and it’s going to be up to the upperclassmen to pull the younger guys in and help show them the way and how things are done here.”
Thanks to Mike Volonnino for his contributions.