The Union men’s hockey team was very good on the road last season, particularly early in the season.
Dutchmen coach Nate Leaman is hoping for a repeat performance in the 2010-11 season.
The Dutchmen will play 12 of their first 20 games away from Messa Rink. The schedule includes trips to the states of Alaska, Michigan and Minnesota, plus a visit to Lake Placid to face Capital Region rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Union, which reached the ECAC Hockey tournament championship game for the first time in its Division I history, opens its 20th Division I season Oct. 8, when it hosts Sacred Heart. The 36-game schedule was announced Wednesday.
The Dutchmen are coming off their most successful season ever in Division I. They finished third in the league with a 12-6-4 record, and were 21-12-6 overall. Union was ranked 16th in the final USCHO.-com NCAA hockey poll.
Union’s play away from home was a big contributor. In their first 12 games away from Messa Rink, which includes two neutral-site games, the Dutchmen were 8-2-2. Union finished with a 9-5-2 road record.
The Dutchmen will earn plenty of frequent-flyer miles in the first half of the season. They will make their first trip to Alaska, playing in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks Oct. 16. They will play host Alaska at 12:05 a.m. Eastern time, and then face Alaska Anchorage later that day at 8:05 p.m.
Union visits Western Michigan for two games Dec. 18-19, and then plays in the University of Minnesota’s Dodge Holiday Tournament Dec. 31-Jan. 1.
“We did a very good job on the road in the first half of our season, and in the second half of our season, we were about .500 on the road,” Leaman said. “These three trips are going to help us improve going into tough environments and playing on the road.”
For the first time since the 2005-06 season, the Dutchmen will open ECACH play on the road when they visit Harvard Nov. 5.
In fact, five of their first six league games are on the road. The only home game during that stretch will be against RPI Nov. 12. The two teams meet the next night at Houston Field House.
“That’s going to be a tremendous challenge because points at the beginning of the season are just as tough as points at the end of the season,” Leaman said. “With only playing 22 league games, it’s important to jump into the middle of the pack by Christmas because, [for] us and RPI, that’s as high as we can get because we player fewer games than everyone else at Christmas time.”
Union will make its first trip to Lake Placid when it faces RPI in a non-league game Oct. 30. The game will be part of a double-header, with Clarkson playing St. Lawrence.
The game will mark Leaman’s return to Lake Placid, where he helped Harvard win the 2002 ECACH tournament title over Cornell when he was an assistant coach for the Crimson.
“Experiencing the championship up there was very special,” Leaman said. “It’s a really good experience to get the guys up there, and for them to understand what Lake Placid means in the history of hockey overall.”
The Dutchmen will face Cornell, the team that beat them in the ECACH tournament final, for the first time Jan. 15 in Ithaca.
Union will renew acquaintances with Niagara (Oct. 22) and Rochester Institute of Technology (Oct. 23) when those two teams visit Messa. The Dutchmen haven’t faced Niagara since Oct. 11, 2003, when Leaman made his Union coaching debut.
RIT, which won the NCAA tournament East Regional at the Times Union Center in March, last faced Union Oct. 14, 2006.
8 — SACRED HEART, 7; 9 — SACRED HEART, 7; 16 — at Alaska in Alaska Goal Rush; 12:05 a.m.; 16 — vs. Alaska-Anchorage in Alaska Goal Rush, 8:05 p.m.; 22 — NIAGARA, 7; 23 — RIT, 7; 28 — CONNECTICUT, 7; 30 — vs. RPI at Lake Placid, 4.
5 — e-at Harvard, 7; 6 — e-at Dartmouth, 7; 12 — e-RPI, 7; 13 — e-at RPI, 7.
3 — e-at Brown, 7; 4 — e-at Yale, 7; 10 — AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL, 7; 11 — ARMY, 7; 18 — at Western Michigan, 8; 19 — at Western Michigan, 5; 31 — at Minnesota in Dodge Holiday Tournament, 7.
1 — vs. Bemidji State in Dodge Holiday Tournament, 5; 7 — e-ST. LAWRENCE, 7; 8 — e-CLARKSON, 7; 14 — e-at Colgate, 7; 15 — e-at Cornell, 7; 21 — e-DARTMOUTH, 7; 22 — e-HARVARD, 7; 28 — e-BROWN, 7; 29 — e-YALE, 7.
4 — e-at Princeton, 7; 5 — e-at Quinnipiac, 7; 11 — e-CORNELL, 7; 12 — e-COLGATE, 7; 18 — e-at Clarkson, 7; 19 — e-at St. Lawrence, 7; 25 — e-QUINNIPIAC, 7; 26 — e-PRINCETON, 7.
Home games in CAPS