Union Interested in Trophies, Not Labels
Dutchmen Ready for Another Run at Title
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
PHILADELPHIA People like to assign teams labels.
Sometimes they call them "underdogs" when they've never heard of them. Sometimes they call them "favorites" if they've won something in recent memory. Sometimes they just ignore them altogether.
Union is fine with all of them. They're not interested in those takes. They know they're a small school. They've learned to deal with the hurdles created by their financial aid model. They've taken it all and made it work quite well. Whether people have aid attention or not, they really don't care.
"We're a small school. Schenectady, N.Y, the community does a great job rallying around us," Union captain Mat Bodie said. "We might not fill a 10,000-seat arena, but we're 2,500 strong every night, and it's loud. It's just part of the college hockey atmosphere. It doesn't matter if you're at a big school or a small school, your fan support is just great. We're lucky that we chose Union College as a place to play."
Three consecutive ECAC Tournament championships, four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, two Frozen Fours in the last three years doesn't exactly sound like the résumé of an underdog.
But they don't play big-time college football. They don't have a trophy case full of national championships. They don't have a long list of Hobey Baker winners or NHL all-stars as alumni. So they can't possibly be a favorite.
Boston College coach Jerry York disagrees.
"Those who have been paying attention probably know Union's a favorite," York said.
"I never really got caught up in the BCS," Bennett said. "I know how Union runs. The model is in place, being a financial aid school. We have a lot of alumni that have supported our school. We thrive through Union College that way."
Even with York's endorsement, the Dutchmen aren't interested in those labels. They just want to play a hockey game on Thursday night. They want to play one on Saturday, too. It's only about winning for them. The narrative hung on their shoulders by others is only an afterthought.
"We don't put much stock in what other people are saying," Bodie said. "It's just two great hockey teams playing a game. We don't look at ourselves as an underdog or a favorite. Whoever executes their systems the best is probably going to win. As far as the media or outsiders tabbing us as underdog, that's fine. Some people are calling us favorite. That's fine, too."
When ESPN reminds America all too often that Union doesn't award scholarships and these players are there for something aside from a chance to develop and play at the next level, they still don't care. Everything about Union's season suggests they can leave Philadelphia to return to Schenectady, N.Y., with, as defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere called it, that "piece of wood" on Sunday morning.
For the last four seasons, Union's entered the NCAA tournament as a team with an eye on winning it. The departure of Nate Leaman for Providence in 2011 didn't change its chances. It didn't change its mindset either. Rick Bennett, Leaman's replacement and newly minted 2014 national coach of the year, brought an approach even less focused on the trivia. Trophies are all they care about. There's only one they haven't picked up yet.
They're the only program in Philadelphia without a title to their name. That doesn't make them any less of a possibility for this season's, no matter how much everyone seems to think it does.
They don't care if they're underdogs. They don't care if they're the favorite. The only label they have in mind is national champions.