UTICA, NY – The Utica College men’s hockey team returns to the ice on Friday night when the Pioneers open up regular season play on the road against host Fredonia State University. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. The Pioneers open up at home on Saturday night when they host Plymouth State for the ‘Parkway Drugs’ Home Opener at the Utica Memorial Auditorium at 7 p.m.
Radio Broadcast: Several Utica College hockey home games will be broadcast over the radio airwaves on ESPN Utica/Rome (1310 AM) by Dave Peroni, in his 40th year of broadcasting, and UC alum Ray Biggs … ESPN Radio’s coverage begins Saturday night and live streaming audio can be accessed on ESPNUR’s website, www.espnur.com, or download the ESPN Utica/Rome App available in the Google Play store and on Apple ITunes by searching “ESPNUR”.
Pioneers All-Access: Make sure to catch live video, audio and stats for all home games on Pioneers All-Access: http://portal.stretchinternet.com/utica/ … Audio is provided by Utica College’s student radio, WPNR 90.7 FM.
Tickets: Individual home game tickets are on sale at the AUD ticket office or online at http://empirestatetix.com/ … Individual game tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for non-Utica College students … Online ticket purchases will incur a $3.50 processing fee per ticket.
Preseason Polls: The Utica College men’s hockey team is receiving 11 votes in the USCHO.com Division III Preseason National Poll released Monday … The Pioneers are currently sitting just three slots outside of the top 15 … UC was also selected to finish second in the 2016 ECAC Men’s West Preseason Coaches’ Poll … The Pioneers earned 55 total votes and two first place votes, just six votes behind first place Hobart College.
Keep It Rolling: UC went 5-2-1 in its final eight games last season and the Pioneers made their fourth ECAC West Conference tournament championship game appearance in the 15 year history of the program … UC closed out the year with a 14-10-4 overall record, including a 6-6-3 ledger in the highly competitive ECAC West.
2016 Postseason: The Pioneers rolled into the ECAC Men’s West Conference Tournament as the No. 3 seed last year and defeated No. 6 Elmira College at home, 5-3, in the quarterfinals … UC then went on the road and scored three unanswered goals to earn a 4-3 overtime victory against host and second seeded Manhattanville College in the conference tournament semifinals … The Pioneers post season run came to an end at top-seeded Hobart College as Utica dropped a 5-0 decision in the championship game.
Season Openers: The Pioneers have not lost a regular season opener in nine seasons, going 7-0-2 in the stretch … Utica has won six straight season openers and has an 8-5-2 record all-time in season opening contests.
Meet The Coach: Head Coach Gary Heenan, the only coach in program-history, is entering his 16th season with the Pioneers … Heenan has led UC to 13 ECAC West Conference Tournaments from 2003-2016, making it to the conference championship game four times … Heenan has also guided the Pioneers to three ECAC West Conference regular season championships, and a trip to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four … He has accumulated an overall record of 206-146-42 (.576) in his career at UC … Heenan is a 1997 graduate of Hamilton College.
UC Welcomes New Assistant Coach: After the departure of former assistant coach Michael Findorff, who accepted an assistant coaching position at Division I Niagara University, the Pioneers have hired Patrick Kirtland as the top assistant to Coach Heenan … Kirtland comes to Utica after a successful four-year playing career at Division I University of Connecticut where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Communication … Kirtland suited up in 137 games for the Huskies and served as a captain for two seasons … He was also a member of the Hockey East All-Academic team.
Best Fans in the Nation: The Utica men’s hockey team led the nation in home attendance for the tenth consecutive season last year and great crowds are expected once against this season after the sale of over 2,200 season tickets in the offseason … In 15 home dates last year, 52,738 fans came through the turnstiles at the Utica Memorial Auditorium … Utica’s average home attendance of 3,516 fans per game ranked 23rd nationally at all levels of NCAA hockey (DI-DIII).
NCAA Div. III Championships: On March 24-25, Utica College and the City of Utica will proudly host the NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Championships at the Aud for the first time in program history … The four remaining teams in the NCAA Div. III Tournament will make their way to Utica, NY to participate in the semifinals and the finals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Meet the Captains: Wearing the “C” for the second straight year will be senior Kevin Kirisits (Buffalo, NY/Brockville (CCHL)), a 6-foot-4 225 defender who is the Pioneers active leader with 81 career games played … Senior forward Easton Powers (South Lyon, MI/Port Huron (NAHL)) and junior defensemen Brett Szajner (Novi, MI/Amarillo (NAHL)) will serve as assistant captains for the Pioneers this season … Powers is the Pioneers active leader with 32 career points (team-high 24 assists), while Szajner has played in 52 career games and has 17 points.
Scoring Threats: Utica returns three of its top four scorers from last year’s squad in Anthony McVeigh (Kemptville, Ontario/Carleton Place (CCHL)), Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, Alberta/Drayton Valley (AJHL)) and Kevin Valenti (Queensbury, NY/Northern Cyclones (EHL)) … McVeigh capped his sophomore season with a team-high 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) … He registered five points in his final four games of his sophomore season, including two huge goals in the Pioneers come from behind win in the ECAC West Conference Tournament Semifinal Game against Manhattanville … Valenti tied for the team lead with 12 assists one year ago and is primed for a big junior campaign after posting 30 points over the course of his first two seasons in the blue and orange.
Returning the Rookie of the Year: Hayden Dawes (Stony Plain, Alberta/Drayton Valley (AJHL)), the 2015-16 ECAC West Rookie of the Year, returns after registering a team-best ten goals last season … He also added eight assists and finished second on the team with 18 points … He began his career with 13 points in his first 12 collegiate games … Dawes is just the third player in the program’s 15 year history to earn Rookie of the Year honors as he joins former Rookie of the Year selections Tim Coffman (2009) and Nick Lynch (2005).
Between the Pipes: The Pioneers roster features four goalies including junior Cory Simic (Whitby, Ontario/Smith Falls (CCHL)), freshman Patrik Virtanen (Vantaa, Finland/Lincoln (USHL)), junior transfer Henry Dill (Columbus, OH/UMASS (Hockey East)) and freshman Gianluca Baggetta (Maple, Ontario/North York (OJHL)) … Dill transferred in from the University of Massachusetts where he played in 32 games, starting 26, while earning nine wins and stopping 719 shots over the course of two seasons … Simic has played in seven games for the Pioneers and has one shut out and a 2.96 goals against average to his credit … Virtanen, originally from Finland, played for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL during the 2015-16 season … In 27 games, Virtanen posted a 2.76 goals against average and a .912 save percentage … Baggetta played the last three seasons for the North York Rangers (OJHL) where he posted eight shutouts, a 3.02 goals against average, and a .909 save percentage during the regular season.
Pioneers in the Pros: The Pioneers graduated Joel Wetmore (Horseheads, NY/Lindsay (OJHL)) and Nick Miglio (San Antonio, TX/Bismarck (NAHL)) from last year’s rosters, a duo which combined for 80 career points … Since graduating, both Wetmore and Miglio have joined former Pioneer All-American Tim Coffman in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) … Wetmore is currently on the Jackal’s roster in his hometown of Elmira and Miglio is playing for the Rapid City Rush … Coffman enters his fourth season with the Alaska Aces where he has played in 130 games and totaled 95 points (37 goals, 58 assists).
On the Defensive End: The Pioneers will be led defensively by a veteran group in Kirisits, Szajner, Dalton Carter (Toledo, OH/Northern Cyclones (EHL)), Zach Borsoi (Brossard, Quebec/Gloucester (CCHL)) and Vince Stefan (Pittsburgh, PA/Kenai River (NAHL)) … Utica also added skilled defender Connor Schmidt (Monroe, MI/Arizona State (D1-Ind.)), who transferred in from Division I Independent Arizona State for his senior season … Schmidt played in 58 games at the Division I level and posted seven points … Carter has played in 53 games in two seasons for Utica and has a knack for point production from the blue line … Carter is the active leading defensemen scorer on the roster with 27 career points …Stefan and Borsoi suited up in 28 and 27 games last season, respectively … Providing depth to the defensive unit will be sophomore Kollin Schultz (Buffalo, NY/Bay State (USPHL)) and freshman Nicky Grose (Fairfax, VA/Powassan (NOJHL)).
Looking for Point Production: The Pioneers will look to its depth at the forward position for point production this season … Sophomore Alex Roberts (Burnaby, British Columbia/Brooks Bandits (AJHL)) has one year under his belt and should be a heavy contributor after posting 14 points in 27 games last season … Junior Mikhail Bushinski (Woodbury, MN/Kenai River (NAHL)) brings an excellent work ethic, both on and off the ice, and looks to have a break out year with 38 career games played to his credit … Junior Alex Brissette (Atlanta, GA/Hampton Roads (USPHL)) netted six goals and added five assists in 21 games last season, while sophomores Shawn Lynch (Syracuse, NY/Ottawa Jr. Senators (CCHL)) and Justin Derlago (Winnipeg, Manitoba/Selkirk (MJHL)) combined for six goals and four assists as freshman … Transfer Roman Ammirato (Williamstown, NJ/Union College (ECAC)), from Division I Union College, has 51 games of Division I playing experience and is expected to make an instant impact … Senior Luc Boby (Chicago, IL/Kalamazoo (NAHL)), junior Max Bartell (Rome, NY/Walpole (EHL)) and classmate Riley Egan (Lakewood, OH/Philadelphia (EHL)) will also provide depth at forward … Junior Kyle Lajeunesse (South Berwick, ME/New Hampshire (EHL)) returns from injury after missing his entire sophomore campaign … As a freshman, Lajeunesse posted seven points in 17 games played … Freshmen Jacob Gerson (Colorado Springs, CO/Hampton Roads (USPHL)) and Jarrod Fitzpatrick (Wakefield, MA/Northern Cyclones (EHL)), as well as sophomore newcomer Justin Haasbeek (Grand Forks, ND/Kemptville (CCHL)), will all be vying for ice time this season as well.
Mark Your Calendars: The 12th annual New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss is scheduled for Dec. 17th as the Pioneers host Morrisville State at 7 p.m. … In the last 11 years nearly 30,000 stuffed animals have been collected through the New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss … Fans should make sure to get tickets early because the Teddy Bear Toss has been sold out in five consecutive seasons.
Social Media: Make sure to follow live updates of the game on the Pioneers official Twitter feed: @UCPioneers… If you are at the game and on Twitter, or talking about the game on Twitter, make sure to use #UCMoose… You can also “Like” the Pioneers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UCpioneers … Fans can also follow the Pioneers on Instagram: UCPioneers.
Pioneer Pride Points: Utica Athletics has a fan rewards program to promote fan engagement for all 26 of UC’s intercollegiate sports… Powered by SuperFanU, the “Pioneer Pride Points” Fan Rewards app uses GPS tracking to recognize where fans are located at specified home games… Points are earned by attending and “Checking In” to UC athletics games, participating in a variety of contests and interacting with social media platforms through the app… The app is available on all IPhone and Android devices by searching ‘Pioneer Pride Points’ in the Apple App Store or GooglePlay Market and is free to all Utica College students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and fans.