by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
Union reached its first Frozen Four after winning the ECAC regular season and tournament championship. It then defeated Michigan State and Mass.-Lowell to win the East Regional.
Players to Watch
Jeremy Welsh, Jr. F (27-16-43)
The 6-foot-3 power forward will likely have a bevy of NHL offers once the season is over, as he ranks fourth nationally in goals and has come up big down the stretch. He has nine goals and 10 assists in 13 games since the start of February, including two goals and an assist in Bridgeport last weekend. Welsh, who centers the second line, does a good job of protecting the puck and using his size to assert himself around the net.
Kelly Zajac, Sr. F (8-34-42)
Union's first-line center and assistant captain put together his second straight 40-point season and established himself as one of the country's top playmakers, as he ranks fifth nationally in assists. The senior has struggled down the stretch, though, as he has just three points in Union's last eight games. The Dutchmen are a deep team up front, but they'll need Zajac and the rest of the top line to pick it up if they hope to win the national title.
Mat Bodie, So. D (8-21-29)
Bodie is a solid two-way defenseman, as he is second on the team in plus/minus and is one point shy of his second straight 30-point season. He is a calming presence in the defensive zone and is capable of starting the breakout with his skating or passing. He also quarterbacks Union's top power-play unit and has helped the Dutchmen to a 24.3-percent success rate on the man advantage, good for fourth in the country.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Fr. D (5-17-22)
Gostisbehere plays a similar game to Bodie (not to mention that they're the same size at 5-foot-11, too) and has emerged as one of the country's best rookie defensemen. He plays well in all three zones and sees time on both the power play and penalty kill. As an 18-year-old freshman, Gostisbehere has turned enough heads to get mentioned as a potential mid- to late-round pick in this summer's NHL draft.
Troy Grosenick, So. G (22-5-3, 1.64 GAA, .936 save%)
Goaltending was a major question mark entering the season after All-American goalie Keith Kinkaid departed for the pros after last season. Grosenick has answered that question with an exclamation point, though, as he ranks second nationally in both goals against average and save percentage and was named one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists. He hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game since Nov. 12.
The Run Begins
It might not be 17-0-0 like BC, but Union is riding quite the hot streak of its own, as it heads to Tampa with a 17-2-1 record in its last 20 games. That run started with a 7-1 beatdown of Dartmouth on Jan. 7. The Dutchmen picked up some big wins at Michigan and Merrimack in the first half, but they started the second half with a pair of losses at Denver and Colorado College and a tie against Harvard. Starting with the win over Dartmouth, Union has allowed more than three goals just once and has been held under three goals just three times.
A New Trophy
That stretch run helped the Dutchmen capture their second straight ECAC regular-season title. Unlike last season, though, this year's squad was able to parlay that into the program's first tournament title. The Dutchmen swept rival Rensselaer in the quarterfinals, then beat Colgate 6-2 in the semis and Harvard 3-1 in the championship game. The second line of Welsh, Daniel Carr and Josh Jooris led the way in Atlantic City, as they combined for seven goals and seven assists in those two games.
More Program Firsts
The Dutchmen won their first-ever NCAA tournament game last Friday when they beat Michigan State 3-1. They then clinched their first Frozen Four berth the next night with a 4-2 victory over Massachusetts-Lowell. Welsh led the offense with two goals and an assist, while Union's stifling defense held the Spartans and River Hawks to 21 shots apiece.
Union became a Division I program under Bruce Delventhal in 1991-92, after Army left the ECAC
Union had a program on and off from 1903 to 1949, then disbanded until restarted in D-III by Ned Harkness in 1975. Harkness' dad, "Pop" Harkness, was a Union lacrosse and hockey coach in the 1930s.
Harkness had previously coached Cornell and RPI to national titles, then went to the NHL before going back to Union.
Harkness quit Union amid questions over the academic eligibility of his recruits. Eventually Union went to two D-III final fours in the 1980s.
Union has no NHL draft picks on its roster, and no former Union player is in the NHL.