Friendship Four preview: Union College
In the first of our four Friendship Four team previews, we take a look at the Union College Dutchmen...
After a blistering start to the season, their last five games have seen them go 3-2. Their most recent game saw them defeat #13 Quinnipiac, while they ran #18 Princeton very close in their previous game. However, before that loss they picked up wins over two impressive opponents in Clarkson and Rensselaer, two former Friendship Four competitors.
After a playing career that saw him make 15 appearances in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Bennett retired in 1999 and immediately went into NCAA coaching after earning his stripes as a player-coach with the Jacksonville Lizard Kings and Pee Dee Pride in the ECHL. After five years as assistant coach to Paul Pooley at Providence College, Bennett moved to Union in 2005 initially as associate head coach before graduating to head coach in 2011 and leading them to a national Championship in 2014.
This is Maier's second year wearing the "C" for Union, the college senior one of the more experienced members of this roster at 23-years old. From New Jersey, this Maier's final year with the team and he is so far leading by example, scoring five goals and contributing 13 points as the team's first line center.
Jake Kupsky (2.69 GAA, .891 SAV)
At 6'3", Wisconsin native Kupsky is an imposing figure between the pipes for Union, with his performances for Waukesha High in the Wisconsin High School league leading to him being drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2015. While he perhaps won't make it to the NHL given his form has dropped off since joining Union, he's still a solid netminder and will be tough to beat.
John Adams (right wing)
You won't miss Adams on the ice given his stature. At 6'5", he uses that physicality to his benefit by playing a power game on the second line, liking to drive the net and force defensemen to go toe-to-toe in the wide channels. He hasn't gotten off to the start he would have liked this season, with seven points in 11 games, but the Massachusetts native will be hoping to show this week some of the scoring potential that convinced the Detroit Red Wings to draft him in 2017.
Cole Maier (center) - 5 Goals, 8 Assists, 13 Points
Ryan Walker (left wing) - 4G, 7A, 11PTS
Brett Supinski (center) - 3G, 7A, 10PTS
Sebastian Vidmar (left wing) - 4G, 5A, 9PTS
Liam Morgan (right wing) - 4G, 4A, 8PTS
NHL Entry Draft picks
F: Parker Foo (2015, round 5, #144, Chicago Blackhawks)
F: John Adams (2017, round 6, #162, Detroit Red Wings)
G: Jake Kupsky (2015, round 7, #193, San Jose Sharks)
What have they said?
Cole Maier, captain and center
"We're getting used to the bigger sheet out there, there's a lot more space out there than we're used to but that means there's more room to make plays.
"Yale are a fast team so we're expecting a fast game. I've heard a lot of great things about the arena so I think everyone's really looking forward to getting playing on Friday night.
"We talked to the Clarkson guys who had success here and they said it was unbelievable, so winning is definitely our goal too."
What should we expect?
As the most in-form team coming in this week, and also the highest ranked, arguably Union are the team to beat at the Friendship Four. With two strong scoring forward lines that they can alternate between with regularity, they'll be fresh for most of the weekend, although they need to show more on defense - particularly the top pairing of Vasili Kolias and Brandon Estes - to protect the struggling Kupsky.
They should defeat Yale in today's semi-final, and that would set up a very exciting clash with Boston University in the Championship match. You would imagine that defeating the improving Terriers might be a bridge too far for Union though.
Belfast Telegraph Digital