Men’s Hockey: Dutchmen celebrate new season

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By Evan Slavit

Justin Zolot ‘12 races down the student section with a big Union College flag, during one of the Dutchmen’s games last season. See Page 18 for the story.

As little as five years ago, the Union College Men’s Hockey program was a joke. Union had been Division I for over a decade, and had still never made it to the NCAA tournament, let alone win an ECAC playoff series. Four years ago that changed.

Four years ago, Union finished in the top four in the ECAC to secure a first round bye in the ECAC playoffs, a season after finishing last in the conference. The following season they dropped to eighth in the ECAC (out of 12), but beat Clarkson in the first round to win a playoff series for the first time in their Division I history. The next year was another historic one, as Union set the record for most wins, ECAC wins, and made it to the ECAC Finals for the first time. Last year they built on that success, setting new highs for wins and ECAC wins. While they failed to make it back to the ECAC finals, they managed something better. They won the Cleary Cup (awarded to the top team in the ECAC after the regular season), and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

Now Union has matchups set with top college hockey programs like Michigan, New Hampshire, Merrimack and Denver. Now they are a constant fixture in the top 25 national rankings. Now Union, for probably the first time ever, is favored to win its conference.

So, how do we celebrate this new stature? We name our student section.

All great programs have great student section names. Florida has the Rowdy Reptiles, Michigan State has the Izzone, Kentucky has the eRUPPtion Zone, and, of course, Duke has the Cameron Crazies. Now it is time Union has one.

The naming is something everyone in the sports department is excited about.

“This was an initiative that originated in discussions Coach Bennett had with members of our athletic administration,” said Jeffrey Weinstein, the assistant sports information director. “The student section at Union has become one of the best, if not the best, student sections in ECAC Hockey. We felt it was time to recognize the unique atmosphere that Union students create at home hockey games.”

What Jeff said is amazingly true. Union is easily one of the smallest schools in Division I. Obviously this means that our student section is going to be one of the smallest in all of college hockey.

You wouldn’t know that, however, if you were a player on the ice. It is astounding how many opposing players and coaches talk about the crazy home ice advantage Union has.

The section is led by super fan Justin Zolot ‘12, who waves a big Union flag as he leads the students in cheers. The section never seems to calm down, and it creates an aura you can feel from the second you enter the arena to the moment the final buzzer rings.

“I hope to see as many students as possible at all the home games this year and be as loud as can be,” said Zolot. “The running of the Union Dutchmen flag will most certainly be in full force come Oct. 14.”

That aura is something the players and coaching staff are really appreciative of as well.

“The student section at Messa Rink has been and will continue to be the best in the league. At Union we have a definite home ice advantage and we wanted the students to have ownership of their section,” said Coach Rick Bennett.

The section has not been named yet, and if you are interested in putting in your input, log onto the Union Athletics website to cast your vote.

There are five options available: Section Q Crew, Messa Maniacs, Student UNION, U Crew, and Q Crazies. There is even a spot for other suggestions if you are feeling creative. Voting ends tomorrow.

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