Union will head to this weekend’s ECAC Hockey tournament championship round in Lake Placid a stride away from the top spot in the country.
The Dutchmen (26-6-4) moved up from third to second in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey top-20 poll Monday. The ECACH regular-season champions received 14 of 50 first-place votes and earned 945 points.
It’s the highest ranking ever for the Dutchmen. They had been No. 3 in the poll since Feb. 10. The last two weeks, the Dutchmen received one first-place vote.
Union moved past Boston College. Over the weekend, the Dutchmen swept their best-of-three quarterfinal series against 10th-seeded Dartmouth by scores of 3-0 and 4-2, while the Eagles, the Hockey East regular-season champions, were eliminated by eight-seeded Notre Dame in Game 3 of the quarterfinals Sunday, 4-2. BC fell to third.
Minnesota of the Big Ten remained first in the poll. The Gophers (25-5-6), who split a weekend series with Michigan, got 36 first-place votes and 986 points.
“I’m happy for the school, I’m happy for our program and I’m ecstatic for our players,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “They’ve gone out and earned it.”
Union also moved up to second in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll. It received seven of 34 first-place votes and 451 points. Minnesota is first with 27 first-place votes and 503 points.
But in the grand scheme of things, Bennett believes the rankings don’t mean much in terms of winning hockey games.
“It’s not going to help us against our next opponent in Cornell,” Bennett said. “It’s great to be there. But we want to make sure that we’re working hard and we’re staying humble at the same time. When something like this happens, you’re thankful it happened. But it’s not going to help us on Friday. We just have to worry about us.”
The Dutchmen, who are seeking a third straight ECACH tournament title, will face the fourth-seeded Big Red (17-9-5) in the first semifinal game at 4 p.m. at 1980 Rink-Herb Brooks Arena. Second-seeded Colgate takes on third-seeded Quinnipiac at 7:30 p.m. The championship game is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Big Red, ranked 13th in the USCHO poll, needed three games to eliminate Clarkson in their quarterfinal series. Cornell won Sunday, 1-0, on a Brian Ferlin goal at 12:32 of overtime.
Union won both meetings in the regular season.
“They have a coach and staff that have been there before,” Bennett said. “They’re always a tough matchup. We’re going to prepare for that.”