SCHENECTADY, NY -- The Union College hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the latest USCHO.COM Poll for the first time in program history. The Dutchmen are fresh off their third consecutive Whitelaw Cup as champions of the ECAC Hockey Tournament at the 1980 Rink at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
Third-year head coach Rick Bennett has led his team to the Whitelaw Cup in each of his three years behind the bench. Union was the only team in college hockey to win both the regular season and tournament championships in its conference.
Union is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn. and will face the University of Vermont, led by former Dutchmen head coach Kevin Sneddon. Vermont finished in seventh place in Hockey East, but received an at-large bid due to a lofty rating in the all-important Pairwise Rankings. Sneddon was the bench boss at Union from 1998-2003 before departing to the Catamounts.
Union is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Dutchmen made the Frozen Four in 2012, losing to Ferris State in the semifinals. Union was shutout, 5-0, in the East Regional Final by league foe Quinnipiac in last year's national tournament.
The NCAA East Regional takes place at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. from March 29-30. Union's game against Vermont is slated to start at 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The winner of that game will face the winner of the day's other semifinal between No. Quinnipiac and No. 3 Providence. The East Regional Final is Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.