The men’s college hockey team with the most NCAA championships will be making a rare regular-season visit to the Capital Region in 2015-16.
Nine-time NCAA champion Michigan will play at Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in late October of 2015. The Dutchmen will host the Wolverines Oct. 23, and the Engineers will take on Michigan the next night.
Michigan’s trip here is part of a three-year deal between the three schools. RPI will play at Michigan next season, while the Dutchmen will visit Ann Arbor and Yost Arena in 2016-17.
“Our philosophy is always to have a challenging non-conference schedule,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “You have to work hard to create those types of deals, and sometimes be creative. [Union coach] Rick [Bennett] and I worked well together to try to make it appealing for a program like Michigan to travel out here.
“We created a deal for three programs that’s a win-win-win.”
The Wolverines will make their first visit to Messa Rink, and it will take place during the Dutchmen’s 25th anniversary season as an NCAA Division I program. Union has faced Michigan once, taking a 6-3 decision at Yost Arena on Nov. 27, 2011.
“I think it’s very important for just our overall excitement of hockey through the Capital Region,” Bennett said. “I think Seth did a phenomenal job with [Michigan associate head coach] Billy Powers to set this up. Obviously, you need an OK from us to play at our place first and RPI second.
“That was an easy OK.”
Michigan’s last visit to RPI was during the Engineers’ 1984-85 NCAA championship season. RPI swept a two-game series on Jan. 18-19 by scores of 5-2 and 5-1. That was also the first season for Red Berenson as Michigan’s head coach. Berenson begins his 30th year as Michigan’s coach this season. He has a 770-371-80 career record, and has won two NCAA titles.
The following season, RPI faced Michigan three times. The Engineers beat the Wolverines in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinal, 8-3, Dec. 28, 1985, in Detroit. Three weeks later, the Engineers split a two-game series in Ann Arbor. They won the first game, 7-6, but lost a wild 11-10 overtime contest the next night.
The last meeting between the two teams came in the 2009 Great Lakes Invitational, with the Engineers winning the Dec. 29 game, 4-3.
Even though the Wolverines haven’t played a regular-season game in the Capital Region since 1985, they have played in NCAA tournament games at the Times Union Center and the various names the arena has had since opening in 1990. They appeared in the 1992 and 2001 Frozen Fours, and the 2000 and 2008 East Regionals.