For most of its NCAA Division I life, the Union College women’s hockey team has been picked to finish last in the ECAC Hockey coaches preseason poll. The Dutchwomen have never made the playoffs since they joined the league in 2003-04.
Ahead of the 2021-22 season, the Dutchwomen were picked to finish 10th in the league’s preseason poll of its dozen teams for the second time in their history. The other time the Dutchwomen were picked to finish 10th was in 2018-19.
The Dutchwomen, along with seven other ECACH teams, didn’t play last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Union last played in 2019-20, when it finished ninth. While missing out on the playoffs — eight of the 12 teams qualify for the postseason — it was the Dutchwomen’s best-ever finish.
Union head coach Josh Sciba believes his team is ready to make the postseason.
“It’s been an evolution for us over the course of time over the last four seasons that we’ve been here so far,” Sciba said during ECACH women’s hockey media day, which was conducted Wednesday via teleconference. “We started to compete a little bit, then we started to trend into games where we were in close, one-goal games. Now, we’re at a point where if we can continue to build our mindset and be that competitive team that we want to be and really have that belief that we can compete against some of the top teams in our league, we’re going to take that next step.
“That’s been something that we’ve been trying to teach our group is teaching them how to win, how to manage the game in certain situations and how to manufacture wins in every situation.”
Union, which last played Nov. 22, 2020, at Cornell, opens its season Oct. 1 at RIT.
RPI OPENS FRIDAY
RPI plays its first regular-season game since Feb. 22, 2020, when it travels to Erie, Pennsylvania, to take on Mercyhurst in a two-game series. The Engineers played an exhibition game Sunday against Syracuse.
The Engineers, whose 2020-21 season was canceled because of the pandemic, went 0-33-1 in the 2019-20 season. Their last win was March 2, 2019, against Cornell in Game 2 of the ECACH tournament quarterfinals.
Fourth-year head coach Bryan Vines is excited to start.
“It’s been almost a year-and-a-half,” Vines said. “We didn’t practice last year. We weren’t able to do that. Just to get on the ice again with all the players and staff and do what we do [is exciting].”
After using the shootout format last season to determine a winner after a game ended tied following the 3-on-3 overtime, the league’s coaches voted not to use the shootout this season, it was announced Tuesday.
If a game ends in a tie after overtime, each team receives 1 1/2 points. Each game is a three-point game. The regulation winner gets three points, an overtime winner gets two points and an OT loser gets one point.
The men will continue to use the shootout.
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Colgate (7) 115 points
Clarkson (2) 101
Cornell (3) 97
St. Lawrence 60