Utica, N.Y. - The Utica College Pioneers men's and women's ice hockey teams get set to open the 2018-19 season on October 26 and October 27, respectively.
For the men's team, it's a chance for them to build on an historic year.
In the 2017-18 season, the Pioneers tied a program record with 21 wins and won the UCHC regular season title with a 12-4-0 conference record.
They then went on to win the conference's inaugural postseason title, the first championship in the program's history.
UC has been selected to finish atop the league again in the UCHC preseason coaches poll, and they come into this year ranked number seven in the country in the USCHO rankings.
They return about 18 players from last years squad, but have a promising freshman class of about ten entering the mix.
The team is looking to continue last year's success, and play the same style of hockey that brought them to the top.
"I think we did a great job of developing our brand last year, which was playing fast, skilled, high-paced," said Pioneers head coach, Gary Heenan. "I think we should be a goal scoring team, I think we should be fun to watch, I think we'll be quick on the ice, so we're trying to stay with that identity that we had last year and the guys have shown so far that the can do that."
New this year, the UCHC champion will be receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA DIII tournament, something that was not in place last year, preventing Utica from competing for a national title.
"It was good news to hear the NCAA make the correction, give our league an automatic bid," said Heenan. "The guys certainly have a fire in their belly after getting snubbed last year, so it's about winning our league, getting into the national tournament, but we're young this year, we graduated 60% of our scoring so we've got a ways to go, but we know that goal is attainable."
The Pioneers open up the regular season at home against #3 Adrian on Friday at 7 p.m.