They let a freshman, Michael Pontarelli, carry the big ECAC Hockey championship trophy off the bus.
Actually, they ordered him to carry it.
“Everyone had their own stuff, so one of the rookies, grab it …” senior captain Mat Bodie said.
“… yeah, freshman,” junior Shayne Gostisbehere finished the sentence.
The Union College hockey team’s return to campus on Sunday will not go down in the annals of triumphant pomp and parade.
In fact, they were still making their unassuming way home somewhere on the Northway when the field of 16 for the NCAA tournament was announced, in stark contrast to the staged, camera-ready NCAA basketball Selection Shows with a capital “S”. They arrived upon a campus drained of students on trimester break.
This is hockey, where only 16 teams make it, and it’s not unusual for a website to correctly pick the NCAA regional fields and sites, based on the Pairwise rankings and NCAA Hockey’s desire to site the four No. 1 seeds close to home.
Warren Buffett does not want a piece of this action.
Also missing was even the slightest level of outrage that Union, which very well could be ranked No. 1 in the country by early afternoon today, was given the third of four No. 1 seeds. Their fans get an easy drive to Bridgeport, Conn., on Friday, and the team has played in that arena before, so that’s good enough.
By the time the team bus pulled up behind Messa Rink from Lake Placid just before 1 p.m., the Dutchmen knew they had drawn Vermont. They spilled out in sweats and hoodies, grabbed their gear and headed into the rink.
“Pretty quiet bus,” head coach Rick Bennett said. “Watched a movie. Guys were probably just answering their emails and texts and all that jazz, Twitterbox and all that fun stuff, whatever they’re on. Kind of nice.
“Then got back in the locker room, had a short meeting to go over the schedule, and they were pretty laser-like focus, which was good to see.”
Union has won three straight ECAC Hockey tournament championships and has a level of expectation to make the NCAA field before the season even starts, so the reaction shot the TV cameras love is extinct.
That’s not to say they take anything for granted, because at this time of year, that’s suicide.
“I don’t want to think of it as a ho-hum thing, because we talked about that [tournament bracket] as a staff last night,” Bennett said. “It never gets old. You could still see a lot of excitement in that locker room, but also a feeling of, boys, we’ve got some work to do.”
“Basketball is pretty nuts. It’s pretty cool to watch, though,” Gostisbehere said. “Hockey, there’s only 16 teams, but your season’s on the line and you’ve just got to get it done.”