Union's Dutchmen are off to a, well, flying start
“I don’t know if we’re there yet,” Bennett said with a slight chuckle. “We’re far from that. There are similarities, but there are a lot of differences at the same time. Nobody knew what that team would do back then, but in 2014 I knew we were strong on the back end with a lot of offensive guys who helped us break out of our zone. Now, that’s an area of growth for us.
“Each team each year takes on its own identity, and I think that’s one of the great things about college hockey.”
So, who are the Dutchmen?
They are the Comeback Kids, for starters.
Last season they were 0-10-2 when trailing after two periods. This season they are 3-2-1 and have trailed in eight of their 14 wins. Six of their game-winning goals have come in the final five minutes of the third period. The next closest team in Division I to rally like that has done it twice.
They are explosive. Senior Mike Vecchione and junior Spencer Foo have turned into the most prolific scoring tandem in college hockey this season, ranking 1-2 in points scored. Vecchione leads the nation with 18 goals and his 19 assists rank second to Foo’s 21. Foo also has 13 goals and scored or assisted on 11 of 14 game-winners this season.
They are at their best late. The team has combined for 50 points — 20 goals and 30 assists — in the final five minutes of the third period. The next closest team has 33 points.
They are focused on returning to glory.
Vecchione was a freshman when he scored the game-tying goal against Minnesota that led to the school’s national title. With more than 150 career points, the undrafted free agent was courted by several NHL teams this past offseason, but elected to return because he wanted to be a key player in resurrecting the team.
“I applaud Mike for how he handled the situation,” Bennett said. “He had many offers, but he called some players who stayed four years here and he called some who left after three for the pros. Then he talked to his family and came to a decision he felt was best for him.”
Foo is also undrafted and will likely face a similar decision following this season. However, his younger brother Parker has committed to joining the Dutchmen next season.
Meantime, Bennett wouldn’t mind other teams grabbing the headlines until April rolls around.
“We’ve got some kinks to iron out,” he said. “They say if you’re always playing from behind you’re losing because it will catch up to you. It’s been fun, but we can’t keep doing that.”
Above: Union's Mike Vecchione leads the nation with 18 goals this season. (Photo courtesy Robert Dungan)
Middle: Spencer Foo, who leads Union with 21 assists, has scored or assisted on 11 of 14 game-winners this season. (Photo courtesy Robert Dungan)