By Warren Kozireski —
The five years Justin Allen has spent on the blueline for the Utica College men’s ice hockey team have flown by and now, the assistant captain has one final opportunity to with a Division III national title with the top-ranked Pioneers.
“I think we have a good mix of guys; a couple of us have been here for five years, we have a bunch of four-year seniors and a bunch of seniors that came in as transfers…but the chemistry that we’ve built both on and off the ice makes us a tight-knit group and I think it shows on the ice,” Allen said after the UCHC championship game.
Allen is in his fifth season with Utica College and earned All-UCHC First Team Defense honors despite missing seven games due to a broken collarbone. He still found a way to score four goals with 16 assists and was also another key factor in the Pioneers ranking ninth in defensive scoring.
Earlier this year, Allen also became the seventh player in program history to amass 100 career points—the first to do so as a defenseman. This is the fifth All-UCHC honor for Allen as he was named to the UCHC All-Rookie Team in 2018-19, All-UCHC First Team in 2020-21, the UCHC Defensive Player of the Year in 2021-22, and to the All-UCHC First Team in 2021-22.
After his final season with Hilton High School in 2014-15 where he netted 20 goals in 20 games with 27 assists, Allen split 2015-16 between Whitby in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Roc City Royals. Then he split the 2016-17 campaign with The Northeast Generals in the North American Hockey League and Charlotte Rush in the U.S. Premiere Hockey League-Elite. He then spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Rochester Monarchs junior team.
Nationally top-ranked heading into the postseason, the Pioneers earned a first round bye and await the winner of Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MSCAC) champion Plymouth State and the University of New England, one of three at-large selections, for a quarterfinal game on March 18th.
The Pioneers began the season with two losses, but ride a 26-game unbeaten streak into the NCAA playoffs.
“I think the belief in the room is so strong that…we feel like we can come back from anything. I honestly just think the seniority and the culture we built over time is just so high…it’s at an all-time high and belief in the team. Last year (after losing to the University of New England in the quarterfinals), all 12 of us said we have one more year no matter what, but now this is it for us and we gotta take it all the way. Take nothing for granted, live in the moment and leave it all on the ice. I think last year left a really bitter taste in our mouth and I think we’ve all matured from that moment.
“The covid year we made the tournament and never even got to play a game, so last year we had a bye week, none of us had ever played in the tournament and, although we outplayed them I thought, we just didn’t get the job done. After having that experience, we know what to expect and I think we’re going to take it all the way.”
(Utica College Men’s Hockey Photo)