The dream for many of the Union hockey players is to have a career as a professional.
The 10th-ranked Dutchmen are getting a taste of the pro hockey life this week. They are in the middle of a three-game in four-night stretch. After pulling out a 3-2 ECAC Hockey come-from-behind win over Dartmouth on Wednesday, the Dutchmen headed to Minnesota on Thursday morning for a two-game series against top-ranked St. Cloud State. The games are tonight at 8:37 and Saturday at 8:07.
It was a short night for the Dutchmen (11-3-2), who will try to tie the team’s Division I-era record for longest winning streak at nine games, set in 2010-11.
They didn’t get much sleep. They boarded a bus at 4:45 a.m. that left the campus for Albany International Airport, for a 6 a.m. flight to Minneapolis. After landing there, the Dutchmen boarded a bus for the trip to St. Cloud.
While the schedule seems daunting, the weekend games with the Huskies (11-1-2) will give the Dutchmen a chance to see where they are on the national stage.
“We’re not excited about getting up at 3:30 [Thursday] morning, I’ll tell you that,” Union coach Rick Bennett said after Wednesday’s game. “But we’ll worry about St. Cloud on Friday night. We’ve got plenty to focus on until then.
“We know they’re ranked No. 1. I think it’s going to be a good test for our program, especially after so many games here. But you know what? This is why they came here. They came here for school, and they came here to play hockey. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The Huskies, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, were in the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time last year, falling to Quinnipiac, 4-1, in the semifinals. They are members of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and they are in first place.
St. Cloud State plays on an ice surface that is 15 feet wider than Union plays on at Messa.
“It’s going to be fun,” Dutchmen senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. “Anytime you get a chance to play the top-ranked team, show what you can do. Guys are going to be itching to get into the lineup. It’s a bigger ice sheet. I think it’s going to be [a matter of] just playing simple hockey. There will be some tired legs out there, but we really have to support each other out there and put pucks in good position.”
Freshman forward Michael Pontarelli, who scored the game-winning goal against Dartmouth, is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s like junior hockey,” Pontarelli said. “It’s fun. Like ‘Bodes’ said, we’re hockey players. We want to play as much as we can. It’s going to be pretty cool playing the No. 1 team in the country. We’re pumped.”
The trip to St. Cloud will give some of the players’ families who live in the midwestern parts of Canada and the United States a chance to see their sons play.
“That’s the reason it’s set up like that,” Bennett said. “So maybe Mat Bodie’s parents can come see him play, Sam Coatta’s and a few others. So, it’s kind of nice that we can do this.”
The Huskies lead the all-time series, 2-0-1. They beat the Dutchmen, 4-2, in the first round of the Catamount Cup Dec. 29, 2006. In a two-game series Oct. 16-17, 2009, the teams tied, 3-3, in the first game, and St. Cloud won, 3-1, in the second contest. . . .
Sophomore forwards Jonny Brodzinski and David Morley are tied for the St. Cloud State lead in scoring with 14 points each. Brodzinski, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick, has seven goals and seven assists. Morley has four goals and 10 assists. . . .
In goal, junior Ryan Faragher is 10-1-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. . . .
The Dutchmen will host the Huskies next season for two games at Messa.