#18 Union (6-4-3, 13-8-4) returns to action tomorrow night at 7:30 pm when #16 Dartmouth (7-5-1, 11-7-2) comes to Messa Rink for a nationally televised game on the NBC Sports Network.
The two teams enter tomorrow's game tied for third place in the ECAC with 15 points apiece. Union will be looking for their fourth in a row and both teams are aiming to solidify a spot in the top four with eyes on a first round bye in the league playoffs.
To get the other side of the story, I interviewed Dave Peters, the associate men's hockey head coach at Dartmouth. A college hockey veteran with over two decades of coaching experience, he's currently in his 14th season on the Big Green staff.
Peters offers thoughts on the game, what he saw from Union in November, and some of his players who could be factors.
UNION HOCKEY NEWS (UHN): If someone is seeing Dartmouth for the first time tomorrow, what type of team will they see?
DAVE PETERS (DP): We're a big team, we play hard, and try to keep the game simple. We try to get pucks deep, we try to get pucks to the net, and we try to get our forecheck going. We try to play really good tough defense and try to keep the puck out of our zone. We like to transition and get pucks behind the opposition's defense and work it low.
UHN: What were your impressions of Union when you beat them, 3-2, at your place on November 10th?
DP: We were very impressed with their team and have been the past few years. Union has a lot of talent, they're very well coached, and they have an excellent powerplay. Their whole defensive core is good, but the thing that impresses me the most is they have three defensemen who remind me of the "big three" on the Montreal Canadiens from way back (Larry Robinson, Guy LaPointe, Serge Savard). To have a defenseman on the ice at probably all times that can get you out of a jam, move the puck, control the play, and add to the offense is what sets Union apart.
Even though they lost Jeremy Welsh and Kelly Zajac, who were really good players, Union has a good group of forwards. Wayne Simpson, Kyle Bodie, and Daniel Carr have put up great numbers this year. They have a Hobey Baker caliber goaltender in Troy Grosenick. It's talent and depth at all positions and that's what is really impressive.
UHN: Your leading scorer, Tyler Sikura, was good as a freshman last year (25 pts, 33 games) but looks to be even better this year (25 pts, 20 games). What makes him dangerous?
UHN: How important is it to have a healthy Dustin Walsh (7 g, 6 a) back in the lineup?
Walsh, a senior, was a sixth round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2009 and has battled injuries throughout his Dartmouth career. He recently missed three games, but he returned last weekend and had two goals an assist.
DP: It's really important for us because he's such a talented player. What it does is give us another forward who can score goals and make plays. It takes pressure off Sikura, Matt Lindblad (9 g, 14 a), and Eric Robinson (team-leading 10 goals), who have led our team all year. To add Walsh to that group is another player who can help us offensively.
UHN: After losing a couple senior goaltenders last year (James Melo, Jody O'Neill), junior Cab Morris has stepped up and has a 1.99 goals against average and a .922 save percentage in 12 games. What can you say about his play?
DP: Morris has been very good and consistent. He has given us a chance to win almost every night out and has a tremendous work ethic. He's very prepared on and off the ice and he practices hard.
UHN: Freshman Charles Grant has also seen a healthy amount of time in goal (8 games) and has quickly posted solid numbers (2.61 GAA, .908 save %). How much of a luxury is it when you have two goaltenders you feel comfortable starting?
DP: It's been good. With Melo and O'Neill playing so much throughout their careers, goaltending was a bit of an unknown for us going into the year. Grant has also done a very good job and has given us a chance to win when he has played. We feel like we have confidence in both goaltenders. We have a third goaltender, James Kruger, who hasn't had an opportunity to play. But we're high on him and feel like he's right there as well.
UHN: Are all your guys healthy going into the game?
DP: We lost Brandon McNally (6 g, 5 a) in the Brown game (January 18th). He's not going to be available for us this weekend.
DP: We've been a little inconsistent. But we like our team and feel we've been playing solid hockey.
UHN: Your squad is the least penalized team in the ECAC, so how important is that considering Union's powerplay is best in the country?
DP: It's really important. You have to stay out of the box, play with discipline, and limit the powerplay opportunities. We've done a good job of that this year and hope to continue that.
UHN: What are a couple other keys to the game from your end?
DP: We have to play with confidence. We're playing in an opposing building, so we have to keep the game simple, play our system, and be good defensively. We have to get pucks behind their defense and play the game in their end. We need to get pucks and traffic to the net. That's what we call playing the right way, and if we do that, we should have a chance.
Can't make it to the game? Find your local NBC Sports Network channel.