Watch Union for just a fleeting moment and even the casual observer would be able to pick out the team’s stars.

There’s Jeremy Welsh, a ferocious forechecker who combines a power game with an array of moves and patience. He broke the school’s single-season goal record and has drawn attention from the NHL.

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In net, Troy Grosenick, ECAC Hockey’s Ken Dryden Award winner for top goalie and a Hobey Baker Award finalist, has been a stalwart all season. First-line center Kelly Zajac is a slick passer and excellent presence on the back check.

But those who watch the Dutchmen will also quickly recognize their success isn’t all about their top players. It’s a team with zero NHL draft picks that’s gotten this far thanks to contributions up and down the lineup, including their captain, senior defender Nolan Julseth-White.

Coach Rick Bennett was blunt when asked about what his captain, who enters Thursday’s national semifinal against Ferris State with no goals in 99 career games, means to his team.

“I don’t think we’re here without him; I really don’t,” Bennett said. “He’s paid his dues through the course of four years.”

That includes playing in two games his freshman year in 2008-09, which also was the last time Union finished with a losing ECAC record.

“I persevered; it was an uphill battle,” Julseth-White said, adding that a deep defensive group and his struggles to convert from one end to the other were the main reasons for spending most of the year in the stands.

“He really made a step this past summer,” Bennett said, pointing to his captain’s attendance at Paul Vincent’s skating camp in North Andover, Mass. “For a kid from British Columbia to stay and go to a skating camp in Massachusetts speaks volumes for his work ethic and character.”

Those traits have helped the senior captain, who’s known to his teammates as “Juice,” head a strong group of leaders among the Dutchmen’s upperclassmen.

“It’s meant so much,” Grosenick, a sophomore, said of the team’s veteran presence. “Nolan, Jeremy and Kelly each kind of bring something different to the table. Juice is always there to make sure the guys are taking it seriously. [Nothing] gets by Juice.”

The steady blueliner continues a line of strong leadership that Union has been fortunate to have. Bennett pointed to former Dutchmen players Brock Matheson, Matt Cook and Lane Caffaro as key figures in the program’s recent development.

“Nolan kind of has that father figure-type approach,” Bennett said. “But one thing that separates him from a lot of leaders is when he needs to talk to a player, [he can give] constructive criticism or sometimes he’s going to get in his face and give him the business. But he comes across where he’s not offensive. And I think that’s a gift, I really do. He’s done a great job with that.”

For the second year in a row, and second time in as many NCAA appearances, Union was sent to the Bridgeport, Conn., regional.

But while the Dutchmen fell 2-0 to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth last year, it was different this time.

“We can say it now, but it was huge,” Welsh said two weekends ago about making the NCAA tournament last season. “We had a huge selection show and everyone was patting us on the back. We felt like we had already accomplished something, being the first Union team in the NCAA tournament.

“This year it was a completely different mind-set. If we didn’t win two games it was going to be a disappointment. Last year we were happy to be here and it showed.”

That strict, calm and no-nonsense approach has defined Union through the ECAC playoffs and into the Frozen Four. If you’re looking for bushy playoff beards or wild locker room celebrations, you won’t find them here.

“You’d have to be in the locker room to see it,” Bennett said. “They are pretty calm, but on the same token they have a lot celebrate about. It’s not scripted; it’s not something that we go over. It’s just their demeanor. When we recruited them, that’s the stuff we really liked about them: their demeanor and the way they approach the game. When we recruit, character is No. 1 because that locker room is sacred.”

Still, once they got over the disappointment of their brief stint in the NCAA tournament last season, the Dutchmen were able to sit back and realize just how close they came against the eventual national champions.

“It hurt a little more when Duluth won because we were that close to them,” Welsh said when asked if the team had watched any of last year’s Frozen Four. “A week later, two weeks later, you look back and [realize] that you played the national champs to a pretty tight game. It gives you a little motivation. We came in this year knowing we could play with anyone.”

  • Union Tampa

    Union: the biggest story of the 2012 college hockey season, by a good margin.


    • Leggs2

      Let’s see: won the regular season, won the league tournament, and won their regional.  Not bad for a dinky school in dingy Schenectady (“The City that lights and hauls the world.”  GE)
      GO GARNET!!!

  • Union Tampa

    UNION 4-1 win in a blowout laugher…

  • GO HEA

    If Union happens to win this before UNH has ever won a National Championship I might go crazy

    • Leggs2

      Well…U might go crazy this week. Or maybe next year; or the year after.  UNH always has a good competitive team, just not good enough.  Best team in NH though.  (A NH resident)
      GO DUTCHMEN!!!!!  (the only MEN, non-animals, in the show)

  • Union Tampa

    I’m picturing a Final between Union and BC..

    Basically this will be the USCHO blog….

    Thanks for Joining us folks…

    Union is behind 0-1…

    It the first deficit in what seems like months.. 

    BC fans start getting rowdy in the stands tasting another national title..

    Union fans can’t watch and cover their faces…

    “But we’ve come so far” Union fans say…

    Then Welsh takes over and powers through defenders…

    *cue the chariots of fire music*…

    Fake Slapper from the blueline.. BC defensemen stumbles…

    Upwelling wrister blows the gatorade bottle explodes into the seats..

    UNION GOAL scored by Welsh assisted by Zajac to tie the game!!! 

    Barry says something about “not taking this Union team for granted…”

    Grosenick makes a magical save the other way….

    He takes shot after shot from BC at point blank range…

    Like a brick wall, no dice..

    Barry makes an obscure parallel re: “grosenick, dryden and hobey”..

    As typical, BC starts pressing hard…

    Whistle blows….BC pushes and shoving Union players…

    BC fans are quiet and Union fans are on their feet…

    Grosenick stones a BC breakaway…. whistles blow.. 

    Due to lack of poise/coaching, BC cross-checking.. 2:00..

    Melrose: “we’ve seen these kinds of penalties all yr from BC”….

    “booooo.. ” go the BC fans, while Union fans look at each other…

    They think.. “could this be it?”….

    Yep – Union power play..

    Crowd builds a “let’s go Union, lets go Union” chant…

    Then #9 Dan Carr takes over.. 

    “Go to the goal and good things happen” says Bennett..

    Muscles past a defender.. wrap around……… fans stand up!!!!!!


    Barry says it was a “shear will and effort from this kid..”

    Union LEADS!!!!  2-1

    Then it’s a USA Hockey 1980 scenario….

    The time drains off the clock.. tick.. tick.. tick..

    Seconds seem like hours..

    minutes.. seem like days…

    tick… tick.. tick..


    UNION WINS!!!!!!

    • greybeard

      you forgot simpson here folks, puck clangs off the post simpson dekes goalie for an easy back hander, 3 to 1 union . unsung these past few weeks, till thursday and sat.