Frozen Four Notebook: Union
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
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PHILADELPHIA As Union came into the Wells Fargo Center for Wednesday's practice, it learned that coach Rick Bennett had another honor to add to his list — the Penrose Award as national Coach of the Year in Division I.
This season the Dutchmen finished with a 30-6-4 record, the best among the Frozen Four teams.
Union is the ninth team since the ECAC was created to win 30 games in a season. The Dutchmen are on a program-best 10 game winning streak and are unbeaten in their past 15 contests.
“I really do believe it’s a staff award and actually should be a player award,” Bennett said. “Our players are the ones playing this game that make it look good and these guys have certainly done that in my time here at Union College and I’m grateful to them, grateful to the staff.”
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Bennett came to the Frozen Four with a new haircut. Last Saturday, Bennett participated in “Shave in Solidarity,” where he shaved his head in a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The charity works on finding cures for childhood cancer.
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Union holds the nation’s fourth-best defense, allowing 2.05 goals per game. The Dutchmen have allowed 11 goals in their past 10 games, and have recorded four shutouts over that span. A big part of that success has been netminder Colin Stevens. He missed four games after sustaining an injury in the season opener, but holds a 26-4-2 record and a .932 save percentage.
He’s a part of what Bennett dubs the “Sacred Seven,” which includes Union’s six defensemen.
“Colin has to save the puck and our D have to get it up to our forwards,” Bennett said. “That’s what they do and Colin is the backstop of that. He’s a very humble guy, honest, so it’s easy to play for him. These guys enjoy playing for him.”
Stevens holds single-season records for wins and shutouts.
“Through his work the guys see this with Jason Tapp and other coaches, he works tremendously hard,” Bennett said. “He’s very willing to get better and I think through that [is] why he’s had the season that he’s had.”
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Defenseman Charlie Vasaturo, who’s from Sewell, N.J., learned how to skate from Guy Gaudreau — the father of Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau.
“I’ve played on teams with Johnny since we were four and we still stay in touch and train together during the summers,” Vasaturo said.
Vasaturo wasn't able to play against Boston College in last year's NCAA's because of an injury, so this will be his first college game against Gaudreau.
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When the Dutchmen face Boston College, they’ll be playing against the nation’s top line, featuring Gaudreau, who leads the nation with 77 points.
“They’re a tremendous line and it’s going to be about limiting the damage,” Bodie said. “They haven’t really been kept off the score sheet all that much all year so it’s going to be both taking time and space away.
“It’s not simply a line matching up or a D-pair matching up, it’s the five guys on the ice.”
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This will be the first game at the Wells Fargo center for Shayne Gostisbehere, a Flyers draft pick.
“During development camp, we came here and had a tour of the locker room and stuff,” Gostisbehere said. “Nothing too big. We saw the ice. I’ve never skated here until an hour ago.”
Like Vasaturo, Gostisbehere also has a connection to Gaudreau, having roomed with him at the 2013 World Junior tournament.
"He's just a humble kid, you would never guess he was one of the best college hockey players," Gostisbehere said. "He's just having fun out there, taking it day by day. But he's an amazing player, and every time he's got the puck there's a chance the crowd will be on their feet. ... Don't let him get the puck or your jockstrap may be left on the ice."
Gostisbehere rarely plays at the same time as Bodie, but he's learned a lot from him.
"Personally I think he is the best defenseman in the country," Gostisbehere said. "Being with him three years has been great, because he's taught me on and off the ice how to be a great hockey player and great person. He's a special player out there. I rarely see him make a mistake out there, and when he does, he makes up for it in the next five seconds.
"Of course I'd want to play with Bodes, but in my three years I've never played with him. We get a little glimpse in those 6-on-5 shifts or 5-on-3, but definitely it would be interesting seeing us play together."
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This is Union’s second trip to the Frozen Four. Two years ago, the Dutchmen made the program’s first Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.
“Guys were a little bit awestruck with everything in Tampa, but definitely not so here,” senior captain Mat Bodie said. “I think the upperclassmen did a great job of preparing the younger guys.”
That year, the Dutchmen fell to Ferris State in the semifinals.
“Guys are just kind of a little more focused on what we’re here to do and more understanding we’re here to play a hockey game, a couple hockey games,” Daniel Carr said. “It’s a more business trip than it was last time we went to Tampa, I think kind of the pageantry of the event was a bit of a whirlwind for us the first time going.”
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Union watched Rocky II on the way to Philadelphia instead of Rocky I.
“That’s why we threw in Rocky 2, because he won,” Bennett said. “And it was just a phenomenal movie a guy with a lot of heart I think this team embodies that, has a lot of heart and they come to work every practice, every game.”
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The senior class for Union, which features Daniel Carr, Mat Bodie, Kevin Sullivan, Cole Ikkala and Matt Hatch, has had four successful years. The seniors made it the NCAA tournament in every season, won the ECAC championship — postseason and regular season — three times and has won at least 20 games in each season.
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Senior Daniel Carr, Union’s leading scorer, has netted a point in each of his last 10 games. He’s recorded 18 (9g, 9a) over that span. The last time Carr failed to score was on Valentine’s day.