SCHENECTADY — There was once a time when the Union College men’s hockey season started in November.
But when the Dutchmen face Boston University at Agganis Arena, they will do so in a month in which they haven’t played a regular-season game.
Union opens the 2017-18 season against BU on Sept. 30, the earliest start to a Dutchmen season ever. The previous earliest start was Oct. 6, and Union did that twice — in 2006 at Ferris State and 2012 at home against Merrimack.
The 36-game schedule (15 home, 20 away and one neutral site) also features three Midwest trips, two home games against UMass and a pair of Sunday home contests.
Here is a breakdown of the schedule.
There is a reason Union coach Rick Bennett wanted to play a game against BU on the final day of September: The following weekend, the Dutchmen play in the Ice Breaker Tournament at Minnesota Duluth.
They will face Michigan Tech in the semifinal. Minnesota is the other team in the tournament. All four teams played in the NCAA Tournament, with Minnesota Duluth losing to Denver in the Frozen Four championship game.
“Just the fact that we have the Ice Breaker, we just wanted to get a little experience going into that road trip and before we play Michigan Tech,” Bennett said Friday. “We wanted to get our legs underneath us and try to get used to the players. That’s why we scheduled it.”
ICE BREAKER NOTES
This is Union’s second appearance in the Ice Breaker. In 2005 at Colorado College, the Dutchmen lost to the host school 6-1 in the opener, and then were blasted by Air Force 9-0 in the third-place game.
Whoever Union faces in the second day of this year’s Ice Breaker will be a rematch of teams it played in the NCAA Tournament. The Dutchmen lost in the 2011 East Regional semifinals to Minnesota Duluth 2-0. They defeated Minnesota 7-4 to win the 2014 NCAA title.
Because the Ice Breaker is an NCAA-exempt tournament, the four teams can play two more games than the normal 34-game regular season.
The Ice Breaker will be the first of three trips that the Dutchmen will make to the Midwest.
Union will visit North Dakota for the first time. The teams will play Nov. 24 and 25.
The other trip comes during the Christmas holiday. Union will be at Omaha Dec. 29-30. It’s the Dutchmen’s first trip to Omaha since losing the Maverick Stampede championship game to the Mavericks 2-1 on Oct. 18, 2008.
“I’ve always felt that the more challenging the schedule, it seems to benefit our guys being in those environments,” Bennett said. “We’ve always tried to do that.”
In a scheduling quirk, Union will host UMass twice, but not on the same weekend.
The first meeting is Oct. 13, Union’s Messa Rink opener. The second game is Dec. 10.
“That came about because of the 36 games, so we needed a couple of extra [games],” Bennett said. “We were already playing them because we played them the year before, so it was a reciprocal thing. In talking with [UMass coach] Greg Carvel, who I knew from St. Lawrence, he was nice enough to come in a second time because [the schools] are close.”
The Dec. 10 game against UMass is one of two Sunday games Union will host. The other is Oct. 15 against Vermont.
As usual, Union and Capital Region-rival RPI will meet three times in the regular season. The Dutchmen host the ECAC Hockey opener Oct. 27. The Engineers, under new head coach Dave Smith, host the rematch Oct. 28.
The sixth annual Mayor’s Cup game at Times Union Center is back on a Saturday night after playing on a Thursday this past season. This year’s game is Jan. 27.
KEY ECACH GAMES
Union’s first meeting against Princeton, the team it eliminated in the ECACH Tournament quarterfinals, is Nov. 10 at Messa. The Dutchmen won’t see Cornell, the team that beat them in the semifinals, until Feb. 2 at Lynah Rink.
The first encounter with Harvard, the team which shared the ECACH regular-season crown with Union, is Jan. 6 in Boston.
Home games in CAPS
e-ECAC Hockey game
30 — at Boston U., 7
6 — vs. Michigan Tech in Ice Breaker, 5; 7 — vs. Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota in Ice Breaker, 5 or 8:30; 13 — UMASS, 7; 15 — VERMONT, 4; 20 — at RIT, 7; 21 — at Niagara, 7; e-27 — RPI, 7; e-28 — at RPI, 7.
e-3 — at St. Lawrence, 7; e-4 — at Clarkson, 7; e-10 — PRINCETON, 7; e-11 — QUINNIPIAC, 7; 24 — at North Dakota, 8:30; 25 — at North Dakota, 8.
e-1 — BROWN, 7; e-2 — YALE, 7: 9 — HOLY CROSS, 7; 10 — UMASS, 5; 29 — at Omaha, 8; 30 — at Omaha, 8.
e-5 — at Dartmouth, 7:05; e-6 — at Harvard, 7; e—12 — CLARKSON, 7; e-13 — ST. LAWRENCE, 7; e-19 — at Yale, 7; e-20 — at Brown, 7; 27 — vs. RPI in Mayor’s Cup at Times Union Center, 7.
e-2 — at Cornell, 7; e-3 — at Colgate, 7:05; e-9 — HARVARD, 7; e-10 — DARTMOUTH, 7; e-16 — at Quinnipiac, 7; e-17 — at Princeton, 7; e-23 — COLGATE, 7; e-24 — CORNELL, 7.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Ken Schott at 395-3159, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @slapschotts. Read his take on college and pro hockey any time by checking out his blog, Parting Schotts, at https://dailygazette.com/