The Union College Dutchmen have struggled to shake the “underdog” tag, despite not having lost a game since January 31. One factor helping to remove that is junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, arguably the best all-around player for Union over the past few months and during this NCAA Hockey tournament.
Thursday night, Gostisbehere strengthened the argument by potting two assists against favorite Boston College in the National Semifinal, and helping lead his Dutchmen to an exhilarating 5-4 victory that propelled them to the National Championship game on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Drafted by Philadelphia Flyers in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (78th overall), Gostisbehere has quickly made a name for himself, garnering over 24,000 votes for the Hobey Baker award, being named a top-ten finalist for the award, and being named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference first team. His plus-28 rating this season was the best on Union, and his 151 shots this season set a school record for a defenseman.
Gostisbehere doesn’t dare look past Saturday’s national championship matchup, but if he winds up staying for his senior year, all signs point to him being named team captain. Tell him this and his face lights up with excitement at the prospect.
“That would be a tremendous honor to follow in the steps of the guys before me,” said Gostisbehere. “It would just be an honor to see that ‘C’ on my sweater. I would carry it with pride.”
Most 20-year-olds may get nervous at the prospect of leading a team in the national spotlight, playing in the city that drafted him in front of 20,000 fans, or knowing that the entire Flyers’ front office is upstairs watching his every move.
But not Gostisbehere. Try to steer the conversation toward a possible loss of focus, and he’ll take the wheel as calmly and as nonchalantly as he keeps pucks away from the Union goal.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “Any time you get a chance to play for the national title, get back to this tournament, it’s great. That’s what it’s all about.”
And at a school with just over 2,200 students – a school that doesn’t even give full athletic scholarships – you may think the support system is faulty. But Gostisbehere laughs at that idea.
“We get the same support every night from the students, faculty, community. All the support we get is incredible, you can’t describe it. You wouldn’t think we’re a small school based on the support we have.”
Gostisbehere admits that he still has a lot of work if he wants to jump to the NHL in 2014 or 2015. But one thing is for sure: if he continues to show the poise and leadership he’s shown throughout this tournament, he’ll be back at the Wells Fargo Center in no time.