Friday, May 18, 2012

Union Series Confirmed

Union claimed the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC playoff champions last season (Not pictured: They also won the Cleary Cup as the conference's regular season champs.) Photo: Union College Athletics 

The Union College Dutchmen have released their official schedule, and Penn State is included. The Nittany Lions will be headed to Schenectady, NY and Messa Rink for games on November 24th at 7:00 p.m. and November 25th at 4:00 p.m. - also known as Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

That last piece of information represents a minor change, as when news of a PSU-Union series first broke, it was tentatively to be on Friday and Saturday. The M 2012-2013 Schedule page has been updated to reflect this tweak, as well as the start times.

"It’s going to be nice to have Penn State here, but by the same token, our student-athletes better be ready to play that team, because it is not going to be easy," Union coach Rick Bennett told Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette. "Everyone knows how Guy Gadowsky [coached] at Princeton, it’s an up-and-down track meet type of game. Our guys can’t underestimate that just for the fact that it’s a first-year Division I program.

"It will be a good test for us. I think it will be an excellent test to see our measure of focus."

I wrote a quick post about this series back in December when the news first leaked, so please allow me to plagiarize myself on the usual Union program synopsis, since not much has changed:
Without a doubt, Union is a program in ascendancy. The former NCAA Division III school joined Division I in 1991 and spent more than 15 seasons toiling below or near .500. Former coach Nate Leaman's program turned the corner with a 21-12-6 mark in 2009-2010 and took another step last season by winning the ECAC regular season title and qualifying for its first NCAA Division I tournament. The Dutchmen lost in the opening round to eventual champion Minnesota-Duluth but still, point made. Leaman parlayed that success into a job at Providence in the offseason, but the team hasn't missed a beat this year under former assistant Rick Bennett at 9-3-5 so far and No. 10 in the polls. Also, a small senior class of four means that a large percentage of this year's team will face PSU in November (although one of the four is leading scorer Kelly Zajac, brother of New Jersey Devil Travis).
Wait, did I say "not much has changed?" Actually a couple things have. Since that post, they went from 9-3-5 to 26-8-7 and made it to the Frozen Four, beating Michigan State and UMass-Lowell in the NCAA Tournament. No big deal. They also won the ECAC regular season and playoff titles, while junior goalie Troy Grosenick was a first-team All-American. Again, no big deal.

Allow me to reiterate: Penn State will be playing a road series against a Frozen Four team and a defending major-conference champion this year. And it's one without a ton of roster turnover, although it should be noted that star forward Jeremy Welsh - a junior last year - joined his four senior teammates in departure by signing with the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, it doesn't get much more "welcome to the big leagues" than that.

For whatever it may be worth, Guy Gadowsky struggled with Union while at ECAC rival Princeton, going 5-11-1 against the Dutchmen, although that mark included a 2009 best-of-three win in the programs' only meeting in the ECAC tournament during Gadowsky's tenure. This, of course, is an entirely new challenge, even compared to the brutal Tigers team the PSU coach inherited in 2004.

Union (of what's known to date) will actually be PSU's fourth trip to New York in 2012-2013, preceded by RIT's homecoming game on October 20th, a game with Army on October 26th, and a trip to NCAA Division III Fredonia State on October 30th. The Dutchmen join Miami and/or Ohio State on December 28th and 29th at the Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational, Michigan State on January 25th and 26th and Wisconsin on February 22nd and 23rd as major-conference opponents on PSU's inaugural NCAA men's schedule. UC and MSU, along with Atlantic Hockey champion Air Force, participated in the NCAA Tournament last season.

1 comment:

  1. Just had to put the picture of Union celebrating after its first Whitelaw Cup when I had hoped that I would be on hand for Cornell's thirteenth.