The ECAC Hockey tournament could be historic for Union in two ways.
The Dutchmen can become just the third team to win three straight ECACH tournament titles, or, on the negative side, see a repeat of 2011, when a team that beat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the first round in Troy came back to the Capital Region the following weekend to eliminate the Dutchmen in the quarterfinals.
But the Dutchmen aren’t focused on history. All they are concerned with is their quarterfinal-round opponent.
The top-seeded and third-ranked Dutchmen (24-6-4) begin their quest for a third straight Whitelaw Cup when they host 10th-seeded Dartmouth (10-18-4) in the best-of-three series tonight, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday at Messa Rink. All games start at 7 p.m.
The Dutchmen will join some elite company if they pull off the hat trick. The only other teams to win three straight ECACH tournament titles were Cornell and Boston University. Both teams captured four straight championships; Cornell from 1967-70 and BU from 1974-77.
Dartmouth is trying to duplicate what Colgate did three years ago, eliminate both RPI and Union. The Raiders were the 12th seed when they ousted the fifth-seeded Engineers in three games at Houston Field House, and then returned to the area to upset the top-seeded Dutchmen at Messa, also in three games.
“We’re not too really focused on that,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We haven’t talked about it. There are some guys in that locker room that weren’t even here, so it doesn’t even faze us.”
Seniors Mat Bodie and Daniel Carr were on the 2011 team that was upset by Colgate.
“I don’t even think we focus on anything like that,” the left winger Carr said. “Right now, we’re trying to focus on [tonight] with Dartmouth coming in here.”
“That’s not something we talk about at all, making history or reliving past history,” Bodie, a defenseman, said. “We’re just looking forward to [tonight], and that’s all we’re preparing for.”
The Big Green earned another trip to the Capital Region following their stunning ouster of the seventh-seeded Engineers last weekend in the best-of-three first-round series. Not only did the Big Green come back from a 1-0 series deficit, they erased a 4-2 third-period deficit by scoring three times in the final 20 minutes of Game 3 to win, 5-4.
“It was a tough series for us, [going] three games,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “But I was really pleased with the way our guys competed and found a way in that deciding game, especially in the third period. Now, coming back, we know we’re playing the best team in our league, and one of the top teams in the country. We definitely know that it’s going to be quite a challenge for us.”
Union eliminated Dartmouth in last year’s quarterfinals in two games. In two regular-season games this year, Union romped to a 7-2 win Nov. 1 in Hanover, N.H., and posted a 3-2 victory in the Dec. 11 rematch at Messa.
“I wouldn’t judge them by [the Nov. 1] game,” Dutchmen junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Everyone doesn’t have a good game every game. Look at us at the beginning of our season. We faltered with ‘Steveo’ [goalie Colin Stevens] going down. . . . We’re looking for a good series here.”