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City abuzz as Union pursues NCAA hockey title

Monday, April 2, 2012
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Billy McDonald, owner of the Van Dyck Lounge, draws a glass of Dutchmen Ale, brewed in honor of the Union College hockey team.
Billy McDonald, owner of the Van Dyck Lounge, draws a glass of Dutchmen Ale, brewed in honor of the Union College hockey team.

— If you see John Reynolds this week, chances are pretty good he’ll be wearing garnet and white.

The retired Scotia man was proudly sporting a hat and T-shirt Monday, celebrating Union College’s National Collegiate Athletic Association’s East Regional ice hockey championship. And with the team poised to make its first appearance at the NCAA’s Frozen Four national championship tournament in Tampa on Thursday, he doesn’t intend on taking them off anytime soon.

“I’ll be wearing them all week,” the avid fan beamed.

Likewise, businesses across Schenectady County will be celebrating the Dutchmen’s historic season this week. The Chamber of Schenectady County has distributed window posters cheering on Union College to members throughout the region and has papered them over the windows at its offices on State Street.

Chamber President Chuck Steiner lauded the team for its achievements and urged others to show support for the program, which has drawn national attention. During a small rally Monday outside the chamber offices, he urged business owners and fans to show their support in the days before the Dutchmen face off against Ferris State University Thursday.

“Believe me, the community is behind you and your team,” he told Rick Bennett, Union’s first-year head coach. “This is big and we’re happy to have it happening in our community.”

Likewise, Chamber board chairman Ray Bleser lauded the team for all that it has accomplished so far. He also alluded to the unprecedented nature of Union’s rise to the top ranks of Division I hockey during its monumental season this year.

“The Union College men’s hockey team is in the midst of an athletic achievement that ranks among the greatest in the Capital Region’s rich sporting history,” he said.

Union’s success has also spurred at least several area restaurateurs to offer menu items in their honor. This week, Angelo Mazzone’s restaurant will sell a puck-shaped flourless chocolate cake served with a swirl of four flavors of gelato and two sugar cookie hockey sticks as a tribute to the Dutchmen.

Over the weekend, the Mad Jack Brewing Company at the Van Dyck Lounge put on tap the Dutchmen Ale as a tribute to the team. Owner Billy McDonald said he’ll also be hosting a viewing party on Thursday, when $2 pints of the tribute ale will be served up to thirsty fans.

“It’s going to be electric down here,” he said of the bar, which often attracts Union fans.

McDonald said he’ll also be offering free hors d’oeuvres to customers sporting Union apparel Thursday. He was even going to raffle off a jersey before discovering that the college bookstore’s inventory was wiped clean this week.

“And they’re not supposed to get any more for several weeks,” he said.

All the positive attention has humbled members of Union’s athletic department and the team itself. Athletic Director Jim McLaughlin said the excitement is well-deserved for a team that is often described as a hard-working bunch of student athletes that achieves through perseverance.

“This is an easy team to cheer for,” he said.

Bennett said his team is fired up to start playing again. He said the intensity level at practice has been high and the players seem focused on the task at hand.

“It’s a pretty focused group,” he said. “I think they’ve taken each step up the mountain here pretty well.”

Dutchman defenseman Taylor Reid seemed relaxed and composed during the chamber’s event. But when asked about the excitement of going to the national championship tournament, he couldn’t mask his elation.

“To get to this point is the pinnacle of your college career,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

The game

Union will face off against Ferris State University at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The winner of that semifinal game will meet either Boston College or Minnesota in the national championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday. Thursday’s game will be televised on ESPNU, and Saturday’s game will be shown on ESPN2. Union is also organizing an on-campus big-screen viewing party at Messa Rink for the public and members of the campus community.

 
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