Union hockey: An NCAA title 23 years in the making
Well, I never thought I would see the day. Union wins the NCAA hockey title.
Digest that for a minute. Union hockey: NCAA champions.
Twenty-three years ago, it was a pipe dream. When the program went from Division III to Division I, and the school wasn't going to give athletic scholarships, the chances for success were, at best, slim and none.
Saturday night, in my hometown and the team that I have covered for all 23 years of its Division I existence, the Dutchmen won the NCAA title. They beat Minnesota, 7-4, at the Wells Fargo Center.
I'm sitting here in the media room, and I am shaking my head in amazement. I have seen a lot of the lean years, especially when the program hit rock bottom in 1998-99 when it went 3-26-3.
But the program started turning around under Kevin Sneddon. The Dutchmen earned home ice in the ECAC Hockey tournament for the first time in 2003. Then Nate Leaman came in and took it to another level. Union won its first playoff series in 2009. The Dutchmen reached the ECACH tournament title game in 2010. The following year, they won their first ECACH regular-season title and made the NCAAs for the first time.
After the season, Leaman left for Providence, and associate head coach Rick Bennett was promoted to head coach. All he has done is win two more ECACH regular-season titles, three straight ECACH tournament titles and two Frozen Four appearances.
And now, the Dutchmen are NCAA champions. Let it sink in. Twenty-three years in the making It's a good feeling.
From the Wells Fargo Center, Good Night! Good Hockey!