When Union won its second consecutive ECAC Hockey regular-season title last season, there was one team it failed to earn a point against.
It wasn’t one of the upper-echelon teams like Cornell, Harvard or Quinnipiac.
The team that the Dutchmen didn’t get a point off of was the squad that finished in last place — Brown.
The Bears swept last year’s season series, and the Dutchmen hope to rectify that this time around. The 12th-ranked Dutchmen (3-2-1 ECACH, 8-3-2 overall) visit the Bears (0-3-2, 3-5-2) at Meehan Auditorium tonight at 7.
“Brown’s like any other team in our league — it’s tough to get wins,” Union junior center Josh Jooris said. “They’ve given us trouble in the past. They’re a real hard-working team.”
The odd aspect of last year’s two games is that Union had first-period leads in both games. But the Bears rallied each time, taking a 2-1 win at Messa Rink Nov. 11, and then erasing a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 victory Jan. 21 at Meehan.
Union center Kyle Bodie, the team’s leading scorer with three goals and 13 assists, believes Brown is a frustrating team to play.
“They always seem to get up and play good games against us,” Bodie said. “They obviously do a good job scouting their opponents. They look to clog up the neutral zone and make it frustrating for us. That’s one thing we have to stay away from and make sure we stick to our game.”
And if the Dutchmen get a lead, they must make sure to protect it and not let up.
“If you get one goal or two goals, it doesn’t matter, you [need] to focus on putting away teams,” Bodie said.
Since the 2000-01 season, the Dutchmen are 9-11-4 against the Bears. Of those 24 games, only four have been decided by more than two goals. The last time that happened, though, was Feb. 11, 2005, a 3-0 Brown victory at Messa.
The Bears also know how to ruin a good time. During the final game of the 2007-08 regular season on March 1 at Meehan, the Dutchmen clinched their first-ever ECACH tournament first-round bye. But there was no celebration because the Bears beat the Dutchmen, 2-0.
And Meehan, with a seating capacity of 3,059, may be the most quietest building in the league, only because empty seats can’t cheer. A total of 956 fans were at the game there last January.
Union is just 5-11-5 all-time at Meehan.
“The atmosphere [at Meehan] makes it a little bit tougher, too,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “It seems like it’s empty-chair night at times. You have to create your own energy. It’s something that we have to get over.
“But in the same token, Brown is a very good hockey team that plays the game the right way. They play hard. It’s an in-your-face style. It kind of resonates from their coach [Brendan Whittet]. He does a good job getting that across to his players. It makes for a lot of one-on-one battles. That makes it a tough game.”
The Dutchmen are coming off an 0-1-1 weekend. They lost to Quinnipiac, 4-0, Friday and then rallied from a 4-2 deficit with two late third-period goals to tie Princeton, 4-4, Saturday. Bennett hopes the team can build off the momentum of the rally. The key will be holding on to the lead.
“No one likes to lose leads,” Bennett said. “Sometimes, it wakes teams up, too. I thought it woke us up after Princeton. We have to make it work for [us], and when it happens against us.”
Tonight’s game and Saturday’s contest at Yale will be Union’s last games before the Christmas break. The Dutchmen won’t play again until Dec. 29 against Vermont at the Catamount Cup. Two wins this weekend will give the Dutchmen a good holiday feeling heading into the break.
“It’s definitely huge,” Jooris said. “Hopefully, we’ll get two wins.”
Bennett said Union left winger Cole Ikkala (lower-body injury) is questionable to play this weekend, while center Mark Bennett (lower-body injury) is doubtful. . . .
Union has been excellent on the penalty kill of late. The Dutchmen haven’t allowed a power-play goal in their last 16 short-handed situations. They are fifth in the country on the penalty kill at 91.8 percent (45-for-49). . . .
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (0-5-1, 3-6-3) seeks its first league victory tonight when it visits
15th-ranked Yale (3-2, 6-2-1) tonight at 7. The Engineers are coming off an 0-1-1 record last weekend, tying Princeton, 2-2, and losing to Quinnipiac, 3-1. The Engineers face Brown at 4 p.m. Saturday, their final game before the Christmas break.