Union men, women play host to Connecticut teams

In an unique double-header today, the Union women’s team opens ECAC Hockey play against New Haven-ba
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Defenseman Brendan Milnamow is one of two Union players who are residents of Connecticut.

Milnamow, who is from Windsor, Conn., loves everything about his home state. Well, almost

everything. He isn’t too crazy about his home state’s college hockey teams.

He will get to see one of those tonight at Messa Rink. And another of Connecticut’s hockey teams will be there, too.

In an unique double-header

today, the Union women’s team opens ECAC Hockey play against New Haven-based Yale at 3 p.m. Then at 7, the Union men will face Connecticut in their home opener.

The Empire State vs. The Nutmeg State. All that’s missing is Don King promoting it.

Milnamow tried to take the high road in discussing his home state.

“It’s nice to play the teams back home just because I grew up watching them, and seeing them play and kind of liking the guys on their teams,” Milnamow said. “In college, every other team is the same, they’re all enemies to me. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

But when asked if he didn’t like his native home, Milnamow was quick to defend himself.

“I do [like it],” Milnamow said. “Just not the hockey teams. I’ve got one loyalty here.”

Milnamow does play well against Connecticut teams. Before he scored against Colgate in last Saturday’s 4-2 Governor’s Cup champ­ionship game win, Milnamow’s last five goals came against Connecticut schools: Yale (Feb. 11, 2006 and Jan. 27, 2007), Connecticut (Dec. 17, 2006 and Jan. 4, 2008) and Quinnipiac (Feb. 2, 2008).

“I don’t score many goals,” said Milnamow, who has eight for his career. “It’s not part of my role, I guess. I’ll chip in wherever I can. If it’s against Connecticut-based schools, so be it.”

Union coach Nate Leaman is more concerned about his 2-1-1 team gaining momentum from winning its first tournament title since 1993 than he is a border war.

“Our focus right now is how we handle success,” Leaman said. “What I’m really trying to measure out of this game is if we can handle the success we had last weekend, put it behind us and know this is another game, move on and bring our ‘A’ game.”

After playing in two consecutive tournaments, the Dutchmen finally get to play their first home game of the season. It begins a stretch of seven straight games in Schenectady. The Dutchmen were 9-4-6 at Messa last season.

“We are excited to play at our rink and play in front of our home fans,” Leaman said. “It’s a perfect night, Halloween. We’re looking forward to it, I know that.”

The Dutchwomen (0-7-1) will get first crack at defending the state’s honor when they face the Bulldogs (0-1).

“There’s a lot of pride in Union women’s hockey and men’s hockey, and the state of New York and trying to beat out Connecticut,” Dutchwomen coach Claudia Asano said. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Union is seeking to end its

86-game ECACH winless streak (0-84-2). The Dutchwomen came close to beating the Bulldogs twice last season. They dropped a 3-2

decision Oct. 27 at Messa, and then had a 1-0 lead after two periods at Ingalls Rink Feb. 22 before Yale scored twice in the third period for a 2-1 win.

Since becoming a Division I program in 2003-04, the Dutchwomen are 1-99-2 in ECACH play. Their only league win came against Cornell on Feb. 28, 2004.

“[A league win] would be huge,” Union goalie Lundy Day said. “We haven’t had a league win as long as I’ve been here. We’ve had a couple of ties. We came really close last year. It would not only turn the program around, it would turn [around] the way we feel about ourselves.”

Even though the Dutchwomen have yet to post a win this season, Asano likes what she has seen so far.

“I’ve seen a lot of potential, and a lot of hopes in the eight games we’ve played,” Asano said. “We’ve been up and down, and I’ve expected this with 12 freshmen. Sometimes, you get a little impatient.”

SLAP SHOTS

u Dutchmen sophomore forward Justin Pallos, a Glastonbury, Conn., resident, will miss tonight’s game. Leaman said Pallos suffered an undisclosed injury in practice on Tuesday.

u Junior defenseman Mike Wakita, who missed last weekend’s games, was back practicing this week. He is questionable to play.

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