2018-19 Union College Hockey Preview

The Union College hockey team enters the 2018-19 campaign with the goal of returning to the ECAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament. The Dutchmen finished the regular season with a 21-13-2 record and it seemed like they were on track for a date in Lake Placid and the ECAC Championship. However, Princeton had other thoughts sweeping the Dutchmen in the two-game quarterfinals of the ECAC playoffs, ending their season.

"How we finished, I'm not gonna lie...I don't want to use the word disappointing but I have to say of all losses since I've been here...those two hurt a lot going into the summer and then re-watching them about 52 times has really helped us prepare for this year," said head coach Rick Bennett about losing to Princeton last season.

Union returns several key pieces from last season, including four of their top five scorers in seniors Cole Maier, Sebastien Vidmar, Brett Supinski, and junior Anthony Rinaldi. Add in the fact that return their top two goalies in sophomore Darion Hanson and senior Jake Kupsky and the Dutchmen could be in line for a deep run at the ECAC Championship. 

"We've got a lot of guys coming back and six new guys who look good so far, so I'm excited to see them going and just hopefully be able to play all four lines and all our defense and hopefully the depth will wear people down," said second-year team captain Maier about the depth that his team has this season.

Union will need to use all that depth in an extremely tough ECAC this year. Cornell (#7), Princeton (#14), and Clarkson (#17) all cracked the USCHO.com preseason Top 20. Union sits just outside the Top 20 and won't see one of those teams until they play Clarkson in the ninth game of the season. For Union, it is about getting off to good start against non-league opponents and they can ill-afford a repeat early season slump. Union starts the season with Army, who is looking make noise in the AHA this year. Then the following week they host two games with Nebraska-Omaha, who like Union is just outside the Top 20. After it doesn't get much easier as they travel to Boston to face #15 Northeastern.

The toughest month of the schedule for Union will be November when they have to face Clarkson and Princeton in back-to-back weeks, and then travel to Ireland to play Yale and possibly Boston University in the Championship of the Friendship Four. The schedule and travel could wear on this team, so their depth will play a key role if they hope to be successful.

The Dutchmen should be one of the most explosive offensives in the ECAC this season with Vidmar, Maier, Rinaldi, and Supinski. Vidmar finished last season with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) after finishing the previous season with 41 points (14 goals, and 27 assists).  Maier finished with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists), Rinaldi had 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists), and Supinski with 28 points (9 goals, 19 assists).  All have great skills with the puck and score from anywhere in the offensive zone. 

Projected Top 2 lines: 
Vidmar - Maier - Rinaldi
Supinski - Walker - Adams

The Dutchmen will be young on defense this year with six of their eight defensemen being underclassmen. The only upperclassmen will be senior Glen Campbell and junior Vas Kolias.  Even with the lack of upperclassmen on their roster, the Dutchmen will be solid. Sophomores Joseph Campolieto and Brandon Estes look to be two of the top defensemen for Dutchmen. Both Campolieto and Estes played in 33 games as freshmen for Union last season. A player to watch is freshman Michael Ryan, who is solid puck handler and is a very offensive minded defenseman. Ryan had 75 points (20 goals, 55 assists) in 111 games with the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL. 

Projected Top 2 Defensive Pairs:
Campolieto - Kolias
Campbell - Estes

The biggest strength for Union this season may be their goaltending situation, as the Dutchmen return all three goalies from a season ago in Kupsky, Hanson, and senior Joe Young. Kupsky, a San Jose Sharks draft pick (2015 seventh round 193rd overall) saw a majority of the playing time in net posting a 2.43 GAA and .917 save percentage in 25 games. Hanson came on late in his freshman season and helped the Dutchmen make a late season surge finishing with 10-4 record and a 2.32 GAA and 90% save percentage. 

"When ever I get in net, I wanna give our group the best chance to win...the same with Jake (Kupsky), him and I are going to compete for games this year and it's a good competition. It's going to be similar to last year who ever the coaches feel gives the team the best chance to win and given night will go...we both know we need to come in here and earn our starts," Hanson said.

Projection: Union has a great balance of speed, toughness, depth, and skill which should help them rise to the top the ECAC early in the season. They'll need to an avoid an early season slump against non-league opponents (which will help their Pairwise ranking) and take care of business against ECAC foes Cornell, Clarkson, and Princeton if they hope to advance deep in the ECAC Tournament and have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. 

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