Playing away from Messa Rink didn’t bother the Union College hockey team last season. It was a big reason the Dutchmen reached the NCAA Frozen Four.
So, for an encore in 2012-13, the Dutchmen will be road warriors again.
Just like last season, the Dutchmen will play 20 of their 34 regular-season games away from Messa Rink. The schedule for the team’s 22nd Division I season was announced Friday.
Combining their road and
neutral-site records, the Dutchmen were 16-6-3 away from Messa. That played a major role in helping Union go 26-8-7, win its second straight ECAC Hockey Cleary Cup regular-season title, its first ECACH tournament championship and its inaugural NCAA tournament East Regional title. The Dutchmen also made it to the Frozen Four, but lost to Ferris State, 2-1, in the semifinal.
“Every year, every team has its own identity,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “Last year’s team was a strong road team. I think it really helps a program. It helps us to get on the road. The quicker that we start to get together as a group and forget about this past year, I think, will help us out for this year.”
Bennett expects to have more home games next season. Bowling Green and Lake Superior State, who are hosting the Dutchmen this season, will come to Union in 2013-14.
“With this cycle and how it’s kind of played out, it’s just trying to get teams back,” Bennett said. “A couple of teams we’re playing [this year] will be coming back the following year.”
Unlike last season, when they opened at Army, the Dutchmen will play their first game of the upcoming campaign at home against Merrimack on Oct. 6. It’s the first day college teams can begin play. The Merrimack game will eliminate the annual Garnet-White scrimmage.
“By the same token, we wanted to try something different,” Bennett said. “They’re in the same ballpark as we are as a mandatory start date. Both teams are on an even playing field going into the first game.”
Union will face Merrimack again in the second round of the Catamount Cup Dec. 30. The night before, the Dutchmen will take on host Vermont and former Union coach Kevin Sneddon. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2004-05 season, Vermont’s final year in the ECACH before joining Hockey East.
The Dutchmen will begin their quest for a third straight Cleary Cup when they open ECACH play with a home-and-home series against Capital Region rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute the first weekend of November. The Engineers will host the first game Nov. 2, and the Dutchmen will have the home game Nov. 3.
Union went 5-0 against RPI last season, including a two-game sweep in the ECACH tournament best-of-three quarterfinals.
“I won’t speak for Seth [Appert, RPI’s coach], but I don’t really care when we play RPI,” Bennett said. “We enjoy playing [them]. The fans enjoy seeing RPI vs. Union. We’ll play them in the summer if they want. It makes for good hockey.”
The two teams will meet a third time in a non-conference game
Jan. 26 that will be played at the Times Union Center. The last two years, the neutral-site games have been played in Lake Placid.
There are a few other highlights on the schedule.
u The Dutchmen will make their first visit to American International in Springfield, Mass., Oct. 26. Union has hosted AIC five times.
It will be a homecoming game for the Springfield native Bennett.
“[Coach] Gary Wright and AIC have come here an awful lot,” Bennett said. “I want to make sure that we try to keep the college hockey community on the same page and everyone’s helping out each other. It’s more about
reciprocating to Gary Wright and the AIC program for years of coming here than it is a homecoming for Rick Bennett. It’s not about that. It’s nice I can go home and see family and a few friends, but it’s not about that.”
u Union will host Division I hockey newcomer Penn State for two games Nov. 24-25. The Nittany Lions are coached by former Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky.
“It’s nice to have Penn State here,” Bennett said. “But at the same token, our student-athletes here better be ready to play that team because it is not going to be easy whatsoever. Everyone knows how Guy Gadowsky coached at Princeton. It’s an up-and-down track-meet type of game. Our guys can’t underestimate that just for the fact that it’s a first-year Division I program. It’ll be a good test for us.”
u Union will face Harvard, the team it beat in the ECACH tournament title game, for the first time Nov. 9 in Boston. The two teams will play Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Messa.
Home games in CAPS
e-Denotes ECAC Hockey game
6 — MERRIMACK, 7; 12 — at Bowling Green, 7; 13 — at Bowling Green, 7; 26 — at American International, 7; 27 — at Connecticut, 7.
e-2 — at RPI, 7; e-3 — RPI, 7; e-9 — at Harvard, 7; e-10 — at Dartmouth, 7; 24 — PENN STATE, 7; 25 — PENN STATE, 4; e-30 — QUINNIPIAC, 7.
e-1 — PRINCETON, 4; e-7 — at Brown, 7; e-8 — at Yale, 7; 29 — at Vermont in Catamount Cup, 7; 30 — vs. Merrimack in Catamount Cup, 4.
4 — at Lake Superior State, 7; 5 — at Lake Superior State, 7; e-11 — at Princeton, 7;
e-12 — at Quinnipiac, 7; e-18 — CORNELL, 7; e-19 — COLGATE, 7; e-22 — HARVARD, 7;
26 — vs. RPI at Times Union Center, 7.
e-1 — DARTMOUTH, 7; e-8 — at Clarkson, 7; e-9 — at St. Lawrence, 7; e-15 — YALE, 7; e-16 — BROWN, 7; e-22 — at Colgate, 7;
e-23 — at Cornell, 7.
e-1 — ST. LAWRENCE, 7; e-2 — CLARKSON, 7.