Union’s Vecchione comes home, looks for strong finish

January 9, 2017

COURTESY PHOTO BY UNION ATHLETICS
Union College hockey star and Saugus native Mike Vecchione stands second in the nation in both points (39) and goals (18) and third in faceoff wins (329) through just 21 games. 

By JOSHUA KUMMINS 

Mike Vecchione and the Union College hockey team spent much of December on the road, and that’s where they were again last Thursday night.

However, this was no ordinary road game for the Saugus native and Malden Catholic product. This time, Vecchione was back home to lead the Dutchmen into Boston University’s Agganis Arena.

“It was definitely a special night,” said Vecchione, a second-year captain for the nation’s No. 11 team. “You get a lot of fans at Harvard, but the support I had at BU was overwhelming with all my friends texting me to say they were going to be there and wishing me luck.”

A 5-4 overtime loss was not the outcome Vecchione had hoped for against the Terriers, but he continued a stellar senior campaign with two assists.

Vecchione scored 34 points as a freshman and followed that effort up with 16 more to finish his sophomore year as ECAC Hockey’s second-leading scorer. While his nine goals and 29 points last season may pale in comparison, sixth-year head coach Rick Bennett saw Vecchione learning important lessons on the fly.

“People looked at Mike’s points and feel that he had an off year, but we felt as a staff that he actually had a good year,” said Bennett. “His points did suffer a bit, but he learned a tremendous amount in the fact that if ‘I’m going to play great defense, I’m going to have that puck a bit more.’”

That learning has paid dividends as Vecchione was the top scorer in Division 1 college hockey for more than a month, until New Hampshire’s Tyler Kelleher passed him with five points against Brown the other day.

He now stands second in the nation in both points (39) and goals (18) and third in faceoff wins (329) through just 21 games, and needs just six points to pass his two-year teammate and current Montreal Canadien Daniel Carr as Union’s all-time leading scorer at the D1 level.

While reaching milestones (including being named a Sports Illustrated Face in the Crowd last week) are special, the greatest are the trophies that lie ahead in March and April. With a 14-5-2 overall record and first-place mark (8-1-1) in the ECAC, the Dutchmen are making steps towards the postseason and the ultimate goal of a national championship that Vecchione experienced as a freshman.

“That’s kind of what us seniors are trying to do. We want to go out with a bang,” Vecchione said. “I want to win some of those trophies back, so that’s our No. 1 goal. I think the (national championship) experience does help and definitely fuels the fire. You want to get back to that place and enjoy it, because it was such a special moment.”

Two great linemates have also helped Vecchione write a strong Hobey Baker Award resume, as sophomore Sebastian Vidmar and junior Spencer Foo have formed one of the nation’s best combinations and combined for nearly 45 percent of the team’s point scoring.

College hockey’s top prize has resided in the Boston area for the last three years as Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau, Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey won it in succession. All three were on outstanding lines, and Vecchione’s scenario is no different.
“I think our games just complement each other pretty well,” Vecchione said. “I’m out there trying to win faceoffs, get puck possession. Me and Foosy are the faster of the two, so we’re getting up ice with speed and transition. We all have good hockey sense and know where each other are going are going to be and what they’re going to do with the puck.”
It is that long-standing local hockey tradition that appealed to Vecchione, who was a senior captain when Malden Catholic won its first-ever Super 8 title in 2011.

“When I was growing up, me and my friends or my father would go to the BU-BC games and watch them duel it out because they were winning national championships every other year,” Vecchione said. “That’s what drew me into college hockey, being around that.”

After watching some of the nation’s best while growing up, he committed to the University of New Hampshire. It didn’t work out, but he said “everything happens for a reason” and made his way to Schenectady, N.Y., and has put together a banner career.

Vecchione has been a leader in hockey for a long time, and Bennett too saw no better leader for his program.

“Everyone in our locker room respects him because he not only brings it on the ice, but in the classroom,” Bennett said. “I don’t think he’s missed much in his four years here. And, you never have to ask it. There’s a huge difference in asking players versus players who are willing to do it. To me, that’s a hockey player. He checks off all the boxes.”

 

Names and notes

  • Lynn’s Marcos Echevarria led all scorers with 25 points and hit a running jumper as time expired to lift the Nichols College mens basketball team to an 85-84 win over Gordon in a clash of two Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) unbeatens last Tuesday night in Wenham. Echevarria posted a team-high five rebounds and three steals in the contest and remains the CCC’s leading scorer with 24.9 points per game.
  • Lynn’s Stephen Basden grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in the Endicott mens basketball team’s 84-83 win Thursday over Gordon. Five came on the offensive glass, moving the Governor’s Academy product into ninth on the Gulls’ career list with 130.
  • Lynn’s Katie Burt led the sixth-ranked Boston College womens hockey team to a pair of positive results this past week as she posted 28 saves ― matching her second-highest total this season ― in Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Hockey East archrival Boston University and 25 in a 4-3 win over Syracuse last Wednesday. The Eagles are unbeaten in their last eight games entering tonight’s Frozen Fenway game against Harvard.
  • Saugus native Norma Waggett shot 14-of-28 from the field and averaged 5.5 rebounds in the Salem State womens basketball team’s most recent action against conference foes Framingham State and Worcester State. She was team’s leading scorer in both contests, posting 22 points and five rebounds in the latter.
  • Danvers’ Allison Butler scored two goals and added two assists in the Saint Anselm womens hockey team’s 5-1 win Saturday at Franklin Pierce. She ranks in a tie for fourth in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) with 18 points this season.