The Dutchmen had a fairly successful campaign last season, in no small part because they finally ditched their postseason albatross. On the way to vanquishing Clarkson in the first round, Union also came across some young point-producers and didn’t stumble through many prolonged ruts. The team endured only four losing streaks, the worst of which were two three-game skids straddling the winter break.
The Dutch took Princeton to three games in the Garden State before falling, and second-year goaltender Corey Milan was respectable in posting a .907 save rate and a 2.57 goals against average. Junior Adam Presizniuk led the team with 16 goals and 38 points, while juniors Mario Valery-Trabucco and Jason Walters weren’t far behind with 15 and 13 goals, respectively. Sophomore StÃ©phane Boileau also tipped the double-digit mark in goals, potting 10 in 39 games.
Milan looks to hold the edge in net, but is expected to improve on last year’s performance if he wants to stay between the pipes. The Dutchmen lose 31 goals with the departure of last year’s seniors, but the production they will especially miss came from defender Lane Caffaro, who scored 23 goals with 59 assists in his career in Schenectady. Fortunately, Nate Leaman’s team has seven double-digit point producers back in the fold for this year’s run.
“We graduated five boys, and four of them signed pro contracts,” Leaman said. “So any time that 90 percent of your class that’s graduating has signed contracts, you’re losing something. Three of the boys were on defense, so we’re taking a little bit of a hit on defense, including Lane Caffaro, who led the league in points among defensemen. Brendan Milnamow had nine goals from the blue line, which I think was up there within our league, and I believe he set a Union record for goals by a defenseman in a season. We lost Matt Cook up front, who was our captain and our half-wall guy on the power play, and Chris Potts, who was a tremendous penalty-killer. We didn’t lose any of our top-four scorers, but a lot of the points we lost were on our blue line.”
One of Leaman’s big concerns is with his greenhorn defensive unit.
“I think we’re going to be young and inexperienced back there. That’s our challenge, of trying to bring our D-corps along. It’s also about playing a smart game early on, and making things as easy as possible for our young defensemen. On the flip side, I really like our set of forwards. I feel like we have three very good recruits coming in, and we only graduated two. We scored 111 goals last year, with us not losing much up there. I think that could be a real strength.”
In goal, “Corey probably didn’t have the year that he’s capable of last year, but he wasn’t getting pushed from behind at all. We have a freshman coming in by the name of Keith Kinkaid who, in my opinion, has to be one of the top five goaltenders coming into college hockey, if not top three. He was the MVP of his league, he was the MVP of the playoffs in his league, they won a championship, he went to the New York Rangers’ prospect camp and he went to the St. Louis Blues’ prospect camp. So Keith has a lot of experience. He did everything he could possibly do in junior hockey, and he performed very well at the [camps].
“We feel in net, with Corey coming back as a junior and having a lot of experience and with Keith coming in to push Corey and compete for that job, I like where we’re at there. I think our No. 1 position is up for grabs, and [senior] Rich [Sillery] is in there as well. Rich doesn’t have the experience that Corey has, but he’s going to get a crack for sure.”
Leaman makes no bones about his team’s early-season priorities: supporting its young defensive corps.
“Our game’s going to revolve around making things easy for our young D,” he said. “We don’t know if we’re going to have one [experienced] pair or if we’re going to split those guys up, but I will tell you about Mike Schreiber: I think Mike Schreiber has outstanding offensive potential. He’s got as good a stick as I’ve seen at that position at Union College.
“Mario [Valery-Trabucco] is extemely gifted,” Leaman continued. “He led us in goals last season, and he had a lot of his goals in the second half of the season. There’s no doubt in my mind he can get to the high-30s [in points]. Jason Walters is heading there as well: Jason led us in points in ECAC play last year, and Adam [Presizniuk] had 38 points last year and was really consistent all year long. I doubt there were two games in a row that Adam didn’t have a point last year. He’s just a really consistent player, and he brings it every night for us. StÃ©phane Boileau, when he put up points, they were always in big games and big situations. I really like our set of forwards and I think that’ll be one of our assets, that we’re going to be deep in that position. Hopefully we’ll be able to be more than a one-line team.
“Justin Pallos is a smart, gritty player who has the potential to be one of our top penalty killers because he’s such a smart player. He’s a guy that has performed exceptionally at practice, and it just hasn’t translated completely to the games. I feel that it can for him, without a doubt. He’s still putting weight on, and I think that’s helping his game every year.”
Among the freshmen, “Wayne Simpson is a terrific player, he led all of prep school in scoring last year. He has the potential to really be able to put up points at this level,” praised his new coach. “Jeremy Welsh is 6-3, he has a very good skill set for a player who’s 6-3. We feel we can play him at center or the wing, and I think he’s going to add a dimension that we don’t have to our team. Kyle Bodie finished third in the league in the British Columbia league in scoring. He’s a tremendous offensive player, he’s got great vision, he competes well. We’re excited about all three; I think all three … have a chance to make an impact. On the D-corps, I know Greg Coburn coming from Saskatchewan has really been a tremendous player out there. He led his team in scoring as a defenseman, which doesn’t happen very often. We know he has a good deal of potential.”
Overall, Leaman isn’t quite sure what he’s got, but he knows it will be exciting.
“We have potential to be [a run-and-gun team]. We’re going to make some mistakes, but I think we’ve got the right goalies back there. We’ll have to live through those, we’ll have to make some saves and on the other end, we’ll have to score some goals.
“I truly believe that we underachieved last year. I know that we had 19 wins, but our record was 3-7 in games in which we gave up 20 shots or less. That’s a remarkable stat. This year if we give up 20 shots or less in 10 games, I’ll be a happy guy. I definitely thought our record could’ve been better in those games.”