After playing just two home games prior to Thanksgiving last season, Union hockey fans will see a lot more of their team before turkey day this year.
However, they won’t see much of the Dutchmen in January.
The Dutchmen, who won their second straight ECAC Hockey tournament title last year, will open the 2013-14 season Oct. 11, when they host Bowling Green at Messa Rink. The teams will meet again the following night.
Those two games are the first of seven Union will play at Messa before Thanksgiving. There will be a two-game series with Lake Superior State Oct. 18-19. In November, the Dutchmen will have three ECACH games at Messa — Nov. 8 against Colgate, Nov. 9 versus Cornell and Nov. 15 against Capital Region-rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“It’s a different look,” said Union coach Rick Bennett, who guided the Dutchmen to a 22-13-5 record and a third straight NCAA tournament appearance last year. “We wanted to switch things up a bit. By playing on the road so much the last few years, it’s good to have a different look.”
The last time Union had that many home games before Thanksgiving was in 2009-10. If the Dutchmen want to make a fourth straight trip to the NCAAs and put themselves in position for an at-large berth, they will need to win the early-season home games.
“It’s always nice to get off to a good start because you want to set the table for the season,” Bennett said. “Having this schedule, there’s no guarantees. Playing at home, I hope we respond to it.”
January will see the Dutchmen home just once. Union will host Harvard on Jan. 24.
The rest of the January schedule has five road games. Three are league games (Quinnipiac on Jan. 10, Princeton on Jan. 11 and St. Lawrence on Jan. 31). The other two will be non-conference games at New Hampshire Jan. 17-18.
One other January contest will be the Mayor’s Cup game against RPI at the Times Union Center on Jan. 25.
“You want to get battle-tested,” Bennett said. “The only way to get battle-tested is to put yourself in environments that give your team the best possible chance to go through these tough battles. That’s what our staff has put together. It’s up to us to come through.”
Other interesting aspects of the schedule:
Union will play six games against last season’s Frozen Four participants. The Dutchmen will play NCAA champion Yale Feb. 8 at Messa and Feb. 28 at Ingalls Rink. Besides the Jan. 10 game, Union will host Quinnipiac Dec. 8. The Dutchmen will play two games at St. Cloud State Dec. 13-14.
The games at St. Cloud will be part of three games in a four-day stretch for the Dutchmen. They will host Dartmouth on Dec. 11. The game was moved from Jan. 25 to accommodate the Mayor’s Cup game.
“I really like that part of it,” Bennett said. “Playing Dartmouth, and then getting on the bus the next morning, get on a flight and go out to St. Cloud and play a Frozen Four team is an absolute phenomenal challenge. If you are a hockey player, you will want to play in that. If you don’t, you should stay home because you’ll have plenty of time to rest.”
For the first time since the 2008-09 season, the Dutchmen won’t be playing over Christmas.
Home games in CAPS
e-denotes ECAC Hockey game
11 — BOWLING GREEN, 7:30; 12 — BOWLING GREEN, 7:30; 18 — LAKE SUPERIOR STATE, 7; 19 — LAKE SUPERIOR STATE, 7; 25 — at UConn, TBA.
e-1 — at Dartmouth, 7; e-2 — at Harvard, 7; e-8 — COLGATE, 7; e-9 — CORNELL, 7; e-15 — RPI, 7:30; e-16 — at RPI, 7; 30 — at Penn State, TBA.
1 — at Penn State, TBA; e-6 — PRINCETON, 7; e-7 — QUINNIPIAC, 7; e-11 — DARTMOUTH, 7; 13 — at St. Cloud State, TBA; 14 — at St. Cloud State, TBA
e-10 — at Quinnipiac, 7; e-11 — at Princeton, 4; 17 — at New Hampshire, TBA; 18 — at New Hampshire, TBA; e-24 — HARVARD, 7; 25 — vs. RPI in Mayor’s Cup at Times Union Center, 7:30; e-31 — at St. Lawrence, 7.
e-1 — at Clarkson, 7; e-7 — BROWN, 7; e-8 — YALE, 7; e-14 — at Cornell, 7; e-15 — at Colgate, 7; e-21 — CLARKSON, 7; e-22 — ST. LAWRENCE, 7; e-28 — at Yale, 7.
e-1 — at Brown, 7.