January 11, 2013

ECAC Journal: Union's Simpson on cusp of milestone

By Dan Guttenplan

Wayne Simpson followed his older brother, John, to Union College in hopes of joining a hockey “program on the rise”. 

The Boxborough, Mass. resident had visited the school's campus several times during his freshman and sophomore seasons, and he got the feeling Union was building something big.

“I got to know the school through my brother,” Wayne Simpson says. “It seemed like a great fit, and the program was stronger every year.”

This weekend, Simpson could become the ninth player in the history of the Union hockey program to eclipse the 100-point mark for his career. The senior forward sits at 98 points for his career, and a team-leading nine goals on the season.

“I haven't really thought about it along the way too much,” says Simpson. “I didn't even know about it until someone told me. We've done a lot as a team so it's been a fun ride.”

Of course, the highlight of Simpson's college career was the team's run to the national championship game last season. Simpson was a top-line forward on that team, tallying 18 goals and 15 assists in 41 games.

He returned for what has been an up-and-down senior season from a team perspective. Union is 9-6-4 after losing two games to Lake Superior State last weekend.

However, the Dutchmen have been known to turn it on the second half during Simpson's collegiate career. They have logged a record of 47-22-3 after Christmas with Simpson on the team.

“We're trying to put the start behind us as much as possible,” Simpson says. “It's been up and down so far, but we're looking for a big finish. We've definitely been better at closing out seasons than opening them. Maybe it takes a while to get the chemistry going. We're trying to fix that situation. Our focus is on having a better second half than first half. We've been known to do that.”

Game of the Week

Union at Princeton, Jan. 11 (7 p.m.) at Hobey Baker Rink

Union is unbeaten (5-0-2) in its last seven meetings against Princeton including a 4-4 tie the last time the two teams met  Dec. 1. Princeton has been a tough team to play against at Hobey Baker Rink this season, winning four of five games on home ice, all in ECAC Hockey play.

Player of the Week

Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac
Senior, goaltender

Hartzell was 2-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage last weekend. He improved to an NCAA leading 16-2-2 (.800). He stopped 27 of 29 shots in Quinnipiac's 3-2 win against Dartmouth and 21 of 23 in a 6-2 win against Harvard. On the season, he ranks third in the nation with a 1.48 goals against average, and has four shutouts.

Power Rankings

1. Quinnipiac (16-3-2, 10-0-0): After a 2-1 loss at home to AIC on Nov. 6, Quinnipiac is unbeaten in its last 14 games (13-0-1). The Bobcats have won seven in a row thanks to a balanced scoring attack to go along with superb defending (No. 2 NCAA, 1.63 goals allowed/game).

2. Yale (7-4-3, 3-3-1): The Elis played their best game of the season Jan. 4 in a 3-3 tie against defending national champion Boston College. They came back from a 2-0 deficit and outshot the Eagles 48-22. Yale is 4-0-2 against nationally ranked teams this season.

3. Union (9-6-4, 3-2-3): Over the past three seasons, Union has played its best hockey of the season after the Christmas holiday. Since Christmas 2009, Union is 47-22-3 in games played after Dec. 25, with winning streaks of at least five games in each of those campaigns.

4. Dartmouth (8-5-2, 4-3-1): The Big Green's jump into the top 10 in the national polls was short-lived. They failed to earn a point last weekend, taking losses at Quinnipiac and Princeton. The Big Green have lost three games in a row, and are 4-3-1 against ECAC foes.

5. Cornell (7-6-2, 3-3-2): The Big Red had a rough weekend, losing two games at Denver by a combined score of 7-2. Cornell goaltender Andy Iles struggled in a 5-1 loss Friday, allowing five goals on 25 shots. However, he was much better Saturday in a 2-1 loss when he made 34 saves.

6. Harvard (5-7-1, 3-5-0): The Crimson snapped a six-game winless streak Jan. 9 with a 6-5 victory over Boston University, of all teams. The win brought back fond memories for the Crimson. It was the first time they scored six goals in a game since a 6-1 win over Cornell in the 2012 ECAC semifinals. It was Harvard's first overtime victory since a 4-3 win over Yale last season in the first game of the ECAC quarterfinals..

7. Colgate (11-7-2, 3-4-1): The Raiders took advantage of a mismatch over Sacred Heart last weekend by sweeping two games by a combined score of 15-2. Here's a weird stat from Saturday's game: The Raiders were outshot 28-25, but still managed to post a 9-0 victory.

8. Princeton (5-7-4, 4-3-3):  Needham (Mass.) native Mike Condon appears to have earned his starting job back after stopping 34 of 35 shots over Dartmouth Saturday to earn the win in net. Princeton has had trouble keeping the puck out of its own net, allowing three or more goals in 10 games for a scoring defense that ranks 40th in the nation (2.94 goals allowed/game).

9. Brown (4-6-4, 0-3-4): Brown is still in search of its first ECAC Hockey victory of the season. However, Bears are 1-1-2 in their past four Division I games with the lone setback being a 3-1 defeat to 11th-ranked Minnesota State in the opening round of the UConn Holiday Tournament Dec. 29.

10. RPI (6-9-4, 1-5-2): RPI head coach Seth Appert rotated three goalies nearly equally in the first half of the season. Freshman Jason Kasdorf has played 31.6 percent of the games with a 2-1-2 record, a 1.63 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. Senior Bryce Merriam has played 37.3 percent of the time, logging a 2-4-1 record with a 3.18 GAA and .897 save percentage. Sophomore Scott Diebold (2-4-1; 3.22; .873) has played 30.4 percent of the games.

11. Clarkson (4-10-5, 3-3-1): The Knights’ power play is in a drought having failed to score a goal on the man-advantage in the last six games (0 for 15). Overall, Clarkson is 11 for 77 on the power play (14.3 percent) .

12. St. Lawrence (8-9-2, 1-4-2): The Saints finally nabbed the 1,000th win in program history – after being stuck on 999 through five straight losses -- with a 4-3 win over RIT Saturday. St. Lawrence is the 16th team among 59 Division 1 programs to reach the 1,000-win mark.

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