SCHENECTADY — When the Union College women’s hockey team takes to the ice on Friday night at RIT, it will be the Dutchwomen’s first game in 587 days.
Union head coach Josh Sciba is expecting a lot of excitement and nervous energy. The Dutchwomen last played on Feb. 22, 2020, against Cornell, as Union’s 2020-21 season was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I know I’ve joked before that I feel we’re doing something in the first five minutes,” said Union head coach Josh Sciba, who begins his sixth season with the Dutchwomen. “I don’t know what it’s going to be, but we’re probably going to take a penalty. We’re going to do something because our energy is going to be off the charts.
“I think they’re amped up. They’re ready to play. I think they’re hungry to play, hungry to compete. If you look at our preseason, we’ve been more competitive through the first couple of weeks. I think our roster is the deepest it’s ever been right now. Again, with that hunger and that passion that they have to play, I’m excited to see how we perform.”
“I would say all of us are super excited to get on the ice,” senior forward Katie Sonntag said. “Last year, I think, reminded us how much we take for granted being able to play. Having that taken away really kind of puts into perspective a lot of things. Finally getting to get back on the ice this year is just like, it’s the first game we can [play] in I don’t know how long. . . . I’m so excited. I get to play on Friday again. I think we’re really hyped.”
Dutchwomen senior forward Grace Heiting agreed.
“A lot of excitement, obviously,” said Heiting, who was Union’s leading scorer in 2019-20 with six goals and eight assists. “I know our senior class, in particular, has been looking forward to this for a long time. A lot of emotions and pure excitement. I think just getting out there and doing our thing and not letting that be too much, it’s going to be exciting for all of us.”
One exciting thing the Dutchwomen hope to achieve is making the ECAC Hockey tournament. Since it began playing NCAA Division I hockey in 2003-04, Union has never reached the ECACH postseason.
Most of the time, the Dutchwomen have finished last in the conference. The last time they played in 2019-20, they finished ninth, their best-ever finish.
The Dutchwomen had a legit shot at making the eight-team ECACH tournament that season. After a 2-0 win over RPI in the Mayor’s Cup game on Jan. 25, 2020, the Dutchwomen were in seventh place, but they lost their final seven games of the season.
In this year’s ECACH coaches preseason poll, Union was picked to finish 10th.
“For us, it’s just teaching our group how to win,” Sciba said. “When we get to Friday and Saturday, that becomes, obviously, the culmination of everything that we continue to do week-to-week and day-to-day,” Sciba said. “I’m trying to teach our group how to win in different situations, how to make plays in certain areas that can create winning situations [and] how to give them the mindset that they can believe they can win, that they can beat [the] top teams in the league. Finding ways to win some of those one-goal games that we found ourselves in quite a bit in the ’19-20 season. So just teaching our group how to win is a lot more of what we need and that mindset is going to be the big thing that gets us over that hump.
“I think we’re a playoff team.”