March 21, 2012

ECAC Journal: Union captures first ECAC title

By Dan Guttenplan

The Union hockey team snapped a 22-year drought by collecting the first ECAC Hockey tournament championship in school history Saturday in Atlantic City. 

Union's Troy Grosenick earned Goalie of the Year honors in the ECAC. (Photo courtesy of Union College Athletics)

The Dutchmen seemed to have the odds stacked against them in their pursuit of a tournament championship. Paired with the fact that they had never won an ECAC Hockey title was the fact that they were the hunted in Atlantic City as the regular-season champions.

The only other teams to sweep the regular-season title and ECAC tournament titles during the same season in the last nine years were Cornell in 2005 and Yale in 2009.

As it turned out, Union was the deepest team in the league under first-year coach Rick Bennett. The Dutchmen (24-7-7) had the most productive scoring line in championship weekend with Josh Jooris, Jeremy Welsh and Daniel Carr, which accounted for seven of the nine goals in victories over Colgate and Harvard.

Union also had the best defensive system, led by Shayne Gostisbere and Matt Bodie. And the Dutchmen certainly had the best goaltending, with Hobey Baker finalist Troy Grosenick.

A quick weekend recap:

The championship game

Third-seeded Harvard looked primed to stamp its own ticket to the NCAA tournament when it took a 1-0 lead over Union in the third period of Saturday's championship game. Harvard senior captain Alex Killorn continued his monster tournament by depositing the goal 4:52 in.

Union then showed its championship resolve with an immediate answer from Welsh at 5:29. Carr added the game-winner at 9:34. Jooris deposited an empty-netter to cap a 3-1 victory at 19:38.

Upset of the weekend

Third-seed Harvard not only beat second-seed Cornell in a semifinal game Friday, the Crimson dominated the Big Red to the tune of a 6-1 defeat.

To be fair, Harvard had more to play for, as the Crimson needed to win the tournament to earn an NCAA tournament berth. Cornell only needed to win its third-place game against Colgate to earn the bid, a feat the Big Red achieved the next afternoon.

In Harvard's semifinal win, Killorn and Marshall Everson scored two goals each. Freshman Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) had four assists.

Hobey Baker watch

The ECAC has two finalists for the Hobey Baker Award -- Colgate senior Austin Smith and Grosenick, the ECAC goaltender of the year.

Grosenick came out on top when the two players matched up in a semifinal matchup Friday night. Smith had one assist in the 6-2 loss. Grosenick made 28 saves.

NCAA tournament

East Regional, Friday, 3 p.m., Bridgeport, Conn.: No. 1 Union (24-7-7) vs. No. 4 Michigan State (19-15-4)

Midwest Regional, Friday, 9 p.m., Green Bay, Wis.: No. 1 Michigan (24-12-4) vs. No. 4 Cornell (18-8-7)

Did you know?

ESPN analyst Barry Melrose picked Union to make the NCAA championship game.

In his words

Harvard coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) on his team's near-miss for the NCAA tournament:

“It's disappointing to get that close. With the number of ties we had, you start to think about how many posts we hit and all of the missed opportunities. It's all done by numbers now. There's no subjectivity on how a team is playing at the end. It's not really weighted like it used to be. Now, a great non-conference win on the first weekend of the season has as much weight as a powerful win with three weeks left. We understand what it is. We feel like we were playing great hockey, and we're disappointed we couldn't experience some success in the NCAA tournament."

ECAC Hockey tournament

Most outstanding player: Jeremy Welsh, Union

All-Tournament team: Jeremy Welsh, Union; Daniel Carr, Union; Shayne Gostisbere, Union; Troy Grosenick, Union; Alex Killorn, Harvard; Danny Biega, Harvard.

ECAC Hockey regular-season awards

Player of the Year: Austin Smith, Colgate

Goalie of the Year: Troy Grosenick, Union

Defensive Defenseman of the Year: Danny Biega, Harvard

Defensive Forward of the Year: Kelly Zajac, Union

Rookie of the Year: Brian Ferlin, Cornell

Coach of the Year: Rick Bennett, Union

ECAC Hockey final power rankings

1. Union (24-7-7, 14-4-4 ECAC): Union is the top seed in the East Regional and the No. 3 team in the country.

2. Cornell (18-8-7, 12-4-6): The Big Red rebounded after allowing six goals in the semifinal loss to Harvard, by posting only the fourth shutout of Colgate on the season in the third-place game.

3. Harvard (13-10-11, 8-5-9): The Crimson finished the season with the most ties in NCAA history, playing only 28 games as opposed to the 34 most Division 1 teams play. They also had the nation's best power play.

4. Colgate (19-17-3, 11-10-1): The question becomes whether Austin Smith can earn the Hobey Baker Award after tallying one point on an assist in Colgate's two losses on ECAC Hockey championship weekend.

5. RPI (12-24-3, 7-12-3): The Engineers were not a tough team to play over the first two months of the season. They started 3-16-0. They were a tough team to play come tourney time. They won a tournament series and finished the season 9-8-3 in their last 20 games.

6. Yale (16-16-3, 10-10-2): Yale captain Brian O'Neill signed a one-year NHL contract with the Los Angeles Kings last week. He reported to the team's AHL affiliate in Manchester.

7. Quinnipiac (19-12-6, 9-8-5): Bobcats goalie Dan Clarke signed with the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers last week. He will play for the top affiliate of the New York Islanders.

8. Dartmouth (13-14-4, 8-11-3): The Big Green had the most productive freshman class in terms of offensive production in the ECAC.

9. Clarkson (16-16-7, 9-9-4): Clarkson goaltender Paul Karpowich was named third-team All-ECAC. He had a league-best 638 saves.

10. St. Lawrence (14-19-3, 10-11-1): During the ECAC Hockey regular-season awards ceremony Thursday night in Atlantic City, league officials showed a tribute video for recently retired St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh (Lynn, Mass.).

11. Princeton (9-16-7, 6-12-4): Princeton defenseman Michael Sdao was named second-team All-ECAC.

12. Brown (9-18-5, 5-13-4): And on March 12, the Bears had their first 6 a.m. lift of the new season.

Dan Guttenplan can be reached at