Although he is just a freshman, Mike Vecchione is already being labeled a superstar.
Vecchione came to the Warriors as a Squirt Minor and played all of his youth hockey with the program! He now centers Union College's top line and has been one of the reasons why the Dutchmen captured its first NCAA Championship title.
For Vecchione, this represents a continuation of a journey that began years ago when he first pulled on the blue and gold Warrior jersey.
Over the course of his hockey career, Vecchione played for the Warriors and then led Malden Catholic to a Super 8 title during his senior season. He played alongside fellow Lancers and former Warriors Ryan Fitzgerald and Tyler Sifferlen, to name just two.
Vecchione - a Warrior since he was a squirt minor - scores Union's
fourth goal against Boston College in the NCAA Hockey Championship
Semifinal (top) and his team's all-important second goal in the
championship game against Minnesota.|
Vecchione faced off against Fitzgerald again
during the NCAA Championship semifinals when Union took on Boston
College. Heading into that semifinal contest, the Saugus native had
competed in 35 contests for the Dutchmen and netted 12 goals and
registered 19 assists. He was also named to the ECAC All-Rookie team,
and received Rookie of the Week honors by the league twice this season.
In the game against the Eagles, Vecchione
scored the game's fourth goal to help his team earn a championship game
showdown with Minnesota.
"I grew up watching BC and watching them
dominate and everything," said Vecchione following that game. "So to
come out here and play them and end up beating them in the end is just
an amazing feeling. We came out here to win a national championship, so
getting past them was the first step."
Vecchione and his Union College
teammates capped off its magical journey when they won their first NCAA
hockey title Saturday night, scoring three times in a 1:54 span of the
first period in a 7-4 victory over Minnesota. Vecchione once again
played a major role in the outcome as he tied the game at two with 4:01
left in the first.
Union won its final 12 games, and went 16-0-1 in its last 17.
Read more about this former Warrior and his journey to the NCAA Championship below.
NCAA Hockey Tournament: Union's Mike Vecchione makes best of opportunity
By Jeff Cox @JeffCoxSBNation on Mar 29 2014, 10:50a
BRIDGEPORT, CONN. - The old
notion that everything happens for a reason and everything works out
for the best is something that can be attested to by Mike Vecchione.
The freshman center is
getting his first shot at the NCAA Tournament this weekend as some of
his teammates are making their fourth appearance in college hockey's
version of March Madness.
Union, the regular season
and tournament champions in ECAC Hockey, is the No. 1 seed in the East
Regional and will face No. 3 Providence Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU
after defeating Vermont, 5-2, in the first round.
It almost didn't work out
this way for Vecchione. The high scoring schoolboy hockey star was
committed to New Hampshire, but the Wildcats chose to go in a different
direction, something that ultimately was a blessing in disguise for
The Saugus, Mass. native and
Malden Catholic alum committed to Union College after the recruitment
process with UNH fell through.
Vecchione played two seasons
with the Tri-City Storm in the USHL following his terrific high school
career at MC. He committed to Union in August before his final season
in the nation's top junior league.
"I didn't know what to do
when I was de-committed from UNH. I got a couple calls from schools and
then I got a call from [Union assistant] coach [Joe] Dumais. They got
right back to me. They really wanted me here. I talked to coach Bennett
over the summer and he said ‘if you want to come here, we'd love to
have you,'" said Vecchione.
It's a decision that Vecchione believes has benefited him tremendously already and will continue to in the long run.
"Everything happens for a
reason. Looking back at it, UNH is a great school, but the success I've
had here, I don't know where I would have been if I went there,"
With the confidence of
knowing his college destination, Vecchione had a terrific second season
of junior hockey. He potted 26 goals and added 34 assists in 63 games
played during his final season in the USHL.
Vecchione believes the
similarity of junior and college hockey helped prepare him for the NCAA
level this season as well as making him a better player in his own end.
"[Junior hockey] is very
defensive. It's a 64-game season. It's grinding with long bus rides.
It's very similar. Playing those 64 games for two years helped me build
and give me the stamina to play at the college level," said Vecchione.
"It was a great two years. I
had a lot of fun and we had a lot of success out there. It definitely
made me into the player I am now," added Vecchione.
Vecchione has become an
integral part of the Dutchmen team in his rookie season, posting 12
goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games played.
"Mike has had a very good
freshman year for us," said third year Union head coach Rick Bennett,
who has led his team to the NCAA Tournament in each season behind the
Vecchione, a winger in high
school and junior hockey, has transitioned well to playing center in
college. He has been responsible in his own end and has taken many
important faceoffs for his team.
"I played wing all through
high school and juniors. I just started playing center this year. It's
just getting low and being strong and quick on the stick. I look at
what other guys are doing and watch film on the other guys," said
Vecchione, who has a plus/minus rating of +23.
Vecchione is one of the
most hockey savvy freshmen in college hockey this season and uses all
the tools at his disposal to be good in the faceoff circle.
"I try to see [the opposing
center's tendency] of going forward or backhand. I try my best to beat
him at the puck. It's about wanting it more and getting in there and
fighting for it," he added.
"Part of his overall game
has been the faceoffs. He has a nice low center of gravity. He's built
really well. He uses his strength to help himself in those faceoffs,"
said Bennett, a former player at Providence College.
Everything wasn't easy
about his freshman season. Vecchione had to battle through some
injuries and illnesses that hampered his development during the first
part of the season.
"I struggled with mono halfway through the year. It was a battle to get back in the lineup and get healthy," said Vecchione.
"He's battled a lot of
adversity through his freshman year. Battling through all that adversity
has really helped him. The injuries and through a bout of mono, he's
starting to hit his stride right now," said Bennett.
Get healthy and back in the
lineup he did. Vecchione joined the top line with star senior Daniel
Carr and junior Daniel Ciampini and took off, finding the back of the
net seven times and adding 11 assists in 16 games following his return
"Once I got healthy and was
at 100 percent, I started playing with Carr and Ciampini. We've just
been on a roll. It's been an unbelievable season. I couldn't ask for a
better freshman year," explained Vecchione.
Vecchione was quick to praise Carr, the school's all-time leading scorer at the Division I level, and Ciampini.
"You can't say enough about
those guys. Carr is just an unbelievable goal scorer. His shot is just
unbelievable. Ciampini is another great player who sees the ice very
well and makes smart plays," said Vecchione.
Vecchione was part of a great high school program at Malden Catholic, which he says has a lot in common with his new school.
"[Union and Malden
Catholic] are very similar. Both are really small schools. Coming from
MC really helped me be the player I am," said Vecchione.
Vecchione, who was part of
the first of four straight state championships for MC, credits a lot of
his success to the late Chris Serino, his high school coach.
Serino, a former Merrimack
head coach and UNH assistant as well as a legendary high school bench
boss, constantly pushed Vecchione to be better.
"I learned everything I
know from Chris Serino. He always preached to me to be a leader on and
off the ice, even when I was an underclassman. He wanted me to be the
best player I could and work hard every shift, every game and every
practice," said Vecchione who also credited skating guru Paul Vincent
for his help during the summer.
Vecchione said he still
keeps tabs on his former teammates that just won the school's fourth
straight Super 8, including ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey winner Tyler
"I couldn't be more proud
of those guys. I still talk to Sifferlen. I wish him good luck before
the games. When I was a senior, he was a freshman. I knew he was going
to be a captain his senior year. His work ethic is second to none. He
definitely deserves it. He did a terrific job of keeping that winning
mentality alive," said Vecchione.