The chances of the Boston University and Michigan hockey teams, two perennial national powers with a combined 14 NCAA titles, visiting Messa Rink to play Union would have wishful thinking years ago.
But with Union having developed a national reputation the last few seasons and winning the 2014 NCAA title, the Dutchmen are attracting top-notch teams to their home ice.
BU and Michigan will make their Messa Rink debuts in October as the Dutchmen begin their 25th Division I season. The Dutchmen announced their 34-game 2015-16 regular-season schedule Wednesday.
Here are five key elements of the schedule:
1) BU, Michigan debuts
BU which has won five NCAA titles, while Michigan has the most in NCAA history with nine. The Dutchmen will face BU, which was the NCAA runner-up in April, on Oct. 10, and Michigan on Oct. 23.
The Dutchmen have faced both teams just one time each, both on the road. Union won at Michigan 6-3 Nov. 27, 2011. Last Jan. 3 the Dutchmen and Terriers played to a 3-3 tie.
Michigan is coached by the legendary Red Berenson. He will begin his 32nd college season in the fall, all in Ann Arbor. Berenson has an
810-399-84 career record and won NCAA titles in 1996 and 1998. Under Berenson, the Wolverines have played in 22 NCAA tournaments, making 11 Frozen Fours.
“It’s just nice to see that teams are stretching the limits and coming out now, and everyone’s in it for the right reasons,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “There’s only 60 teams now with Arizona State [coming into Division I this season]. If we’re really in it for college hockey, then we need to keep a balance of the home schedule and the league schedule.”
Winning its first NCAA title in 2014 gives Union some clout.
“I don’t think it hurts,” Bennett said. “The fact that doing what you did does, maybe, attract some other teams that weren’t attracted before.”
2) 18 home games
Union will have 18 home games. It’s the most for the Dutchmen since 2010-11, when they had the same number of games.
The Dutchmen played 15 home games last season and went 6-8-1. It was their first losing record at Messa since 2004-05.
“We need to get back to that this is an extremely tough place to play with, I feel, the best fans in the country,” Bennett said. “I feel we took that for granted last year, and that starts with me.”
Union will also play three home games in December. Last season, Union didn’t play a home game between Nov. 15 and Jan. 16.
3) RPI games
Union will open ECAC Hockey play against its Capital Region rival, RPI, Oct. 30 at Messa. The two teams meet the next night at Houston Field House.
The fourth annual Mayor’s Cup game between the two schools will be Jan. 23 at the Times Union Center. That game does not count in league standings.
4) Reunion time
Two former Union hockey members will return to Messa.
Joel Beal, who played for the Dutchmen from 2001-05 and later served as a volunteer assistant coach, is an assistant coach for Sacred Heart, the team Union will host in the season opener Oct. 9.
Kevin Sneddon, who was a Union assistant coach from 1993-98 and then head coach from 1998-2003, brings his Vermont Catamounts in Dec. 20. Sneddon has been head coach of Vermont since 2003. It will be Sneddon’s first visit to Union since the 2004-05 season, Vermont’s last in the ECACH. It’s now in Hockey East.
5) Good riddance to Starr
Union will close out the regular season Feb. 27 against Colgate at Starr Rink. That will be the final regular-season game at Starr, a rink that Union has struggled to win. The Dutchmen are 3-19-2 there. A new arena is under construction at Colgate and is slated to open for the 2016-17 season.
Home games in CAPS
e-ECAC Hockey game
9 — SACRED HEART, 7; 10 — BOSTON U., 7; 16 — MAINE, 7; 17 — MAINE, 7; 23 — MICHIGAN, 7; 24 — NEW HAMPSHIRE, 7; e-30 — RPI, 7; e-31 — at RPI, 7.
e-6 — at St. Lawrence, 7; e-7 — at Clarkson, 7; e-13 — BROWN, e-14 — YALE, 7; 28 — at Merrimack, 4.
e-4 —HARVARD, 7; e-5 — DARTMOUTH, 7; 11 — at UMass, 7; 20 — VERMONT, 4.
2 — vs. Merrimack in Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth, 4; 3 — vs. Dartmouth or Robert Morris in Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth, 4 or 7; e-8 — at Quinnipiac, 7; e-9 — at Princeton, 7; e-15 — COLGATE, 7; e-16 — CORNELL, 7; 23 — vs. RPI in Mayor’s Cup at Times Union Center, 7:30; e-29 — at Yale, 7; e-30 — at Brown, 7.
e-5 — CLARKSON, 7; e-6 — ST. LAWRENCE, e-12 — at Dartmouth, 7:05; e-13 — at Harvard, 7; e-19 — PRINCETON, 7; e-20 — QUINNIPIAC, 7; e-21 — at Cornell, 7; e-22 — at Colgate, 2:30.