Union College may be the third-seeded team heading into the NCAA hockey tournament this weekend, but it will be the No. 1 team in the country when it opens the East Regional Friday against Vermont.
The Dutchmen were ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com/NCAA poll Monday, the first time in the program’s 23-year Division I history. The ECAC Hockey champion Dutchmen (28-6-4) moved up from second after receiving 31 of 50 first-place votes and 969 points in the poll released Monday.
“It’s pretty incredible. It really is,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “I couldn’t be any happier for the players in that locker room, for the players that have worn the jersey before. Everybody that has been associated with this program, it’s just a tremendous honor. We’re very humbled by it. We’re just taking it for what it’s worth at this time.”
Union, which won the ECACH regular-season title, captured the league tournament crown over the weekend in Lake Placid by beating Cornell, 5-2, in the semifinals and Colgate, 5-2, in the championship game. It was Union’s third straight tournament title.
The Dutchmen, who were the only team to win their league’s regular-season and tournament titles, are the top seed in the East Regional, and No. 3 seed overall. They take on Vermont in the semifinals at 2 p.m. at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
Union supplanted Minnesota from the top spot in the poll. The Gophers (25-6-6) lost to Ohio State, 3-1, in the Big Ten Conference tournament semifinals on Friday. Minnesota received 18 first-place votes and 955 points.
“I want to congratulate the entire athletic department, Rick Bennett and coaches, staff, and the players,” Union president Stephen Ainlay said in a statement. “What an amazing accomplishment. Their skills on the ice are just one part of a much larger story; these are remarkable student-citizen-athletes who represent Union well in so many different ways. I am very proud of them.”
Union senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said that while it’s nice to be ranked No. 1, it won’t mean anything when the Dutchmen face the Catamounts.
“I think it’s great for the program, the fans and the school to be recognized,” Bodie said. “But as far as we’re concerned, we’re the third overall seed. That’s the spot we earned throughout the season. We’re just looking forward to playing Vermont.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, who was the Dutchmen’s head coach from 1998-2003 and an assistant coach from 1993-98, watched Union’s games over the weekend.
“I thought they looked fantastic,” Sneddon said. “We’ve got our hands full, for sure.
Monday’s poll was the final USCHO/NCAA poll of the regular season. The next poll will be released after the Frozen Four in April.
Tickets are on sale for the games in Bridgeport. All tickets will be sold as three-game, all-session packages for $65 each. Call the Union ticket office at 388-6020, or email email@example.com to reserve tickets.
Based on availability, individual game tickets must be purchased through the Webster Bank Arena box office by calling (203) 345-2300. Tickets may also be purchased through www.ticketmaster.com.
This is the final USCHO/NCAA poll of the regular season. The next poll will be released after the Frozen Four in April.
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 Union (31) 28- 6-4 969 2
2 Minnesota (18) 25- 6-6 955 1
3 Boston College 26- 7-4 899 3
4 Wisconsin 24-10-2 837 6
5 Massachusetts-Lowell (1) 25-10-4 795 7
6 Ferris State 28-10-3 750 4
7 Quinnipiac 24- 9-6 709 5
8 St. Cloud State 21-10-5 632 8
9 Notre Dame 23-14-2 573 10
10 Providence 21-10-6 546 9
11 Minnesota State 26-13-1 501 15
12 Colgate 20-13-5 451 14
13 North Dakota 23-13-3 437 11
14 Vermont 20-14-3 316 16
15 Michigan 18-13-4 261 12
16 Cornell 17-10-5 225 13
17 Denver 20-15-6 183 NR
18 New Hampshire 22-18-1 154 18
19 Northeastern 19-14-4 143 17
20 Ohio State 18-14-5 80 NR
Others receiving votes: Yale 33, Robert Morris 31, Western Michigan 13, Miami 5, Alaska-Anchorage 1, Minnesota-Duluth 1.