Head coach Rick Bennett released the 2012-2013 schedule for the Union College men’s ice hockey team Thursday afternoon at the annual Garnet Blades Golf Tournament at Mohawk Country Club.

The schedule includes 34 contests against seven non-league opponents and the 11 members of ECAC Hockey. As part of non-conference play, the Dutchmen will appear in the Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup on Dec. 29-30, taking on Hockey East opponents Vermont and Merrimack.

Union will also play two non-conference road series against Bowling Green and Lake Superior State, both out of the CCHA.

“I feel this schedule brings a lot of parity, which is what we were trying to accomplish,” Bennett said. “The fact that we have three Hockey East games, four games against the CCHA, two games against Atlantic Hockey opponents, and two games against an independent, soon to be the Big Ten team in Penn State in addition to our league slate will be a good challenge for our team.”

Union earned its first ever trip to the Frozen Four, its first Whitelaw Cup as ECAC Hockey Tournament champions and its second consecutive Cleary Cup will open the season on October 6 at Messa Rink against Merrimack.

The Warriors, ranked No. 17 in the nation in the final USCHO.com poll of the 2011-12 season, finished fifth in Hockey East last season and had an overall record of 18-12-7. Union earned a 3-1 win at Merrimack last season on Dec. 17, 2011, when the Warriors were ranked No. 5 in the nation, marking the program’s first win over a non-conference team ranked in the top-5 of the USCHO.com poll.

The following weekend, the Dutchmen will travel to the Bowling Green to take on the Falcons in a two-game series on Oct. 12-13. The trip will mark Union’s first visit to the state of Ohio since Dec. 2005, and first series against Bowling Green since a two-game set at Messa Rink in Oct. 2004.

Union will have road games at AIC and Connecticut on Oct. 26-27 before returning home to open up ECAC Hockey play against Rensselaer in a home-and-home beginning with a game at Houston Field House on Nov. 2 before returning to Messa Rink on Nov. 3. The Dutchmen will hit the road again for league games at Harvard and Dartmouth on Nov. 9-10.

“Our league schedule will be challenging, as it is every year,” Bennett said. “We like to create a schedule that is tough throughout the year with a mix of non-conference and league games, because we really feel it will help you in the second season, and I think this schedule does that.”

The Dutchmen continue non-conference play at home on Thanksgiving weekend, playing a Saturday-Sunday series on Nov. 24-25 against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are playing their inaugural season at the Division I level as an independent before joining the newly formed Big Ten Hockey conference in 2013-14.

Union will take on Quinnipiac and Princeton at Messa Rink on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 before travelling to Brown and Yale on Dec. 7-8.

The team will have the next two weekends off before a trip up to the University of Vermont for the Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup, Union’s first appearance in the tournament since the 2006-07 season, when the Dutchmen placed third.

“Any time you get a chance to play quality teams from Hockey East, I think it’s a great opportunity for our program.” Bennett said.

Union will conclude its non-conference road slate with a two-game set at Lake Superior St. in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan on Jan. 4-5. Union and Lake Superior St. have met only once previously, a 0-0 tie (1-0 Union shootout win) on Nov. 27, 2009 in the RPI Invitational Tournament.

League play will continue with games at Princeton and Quinnipiac on Jan. 11-12 before home games against Cornell and Colgate (Jan. 18-19) and a Tuesday night contest against Harvard at Messa Rink on Jan. 22

Union and Rensselaer will play a non-conference game at the Albany Times-Union Center on Jan. 26., the first time the two teams have met in the arena since Nov. 11, 1997.

“We wanted to generate a little more excitement for a broader fan base and create a buzz for college hockey in the area,” Bennett said. “What a better way to try and do that than to get all of the fanfare for both teams at the Times Union Center.”

The Dutchmen will conclude the regular season with nine ECAC Hockey contests, beginning with a home game against Dartmouth on Feb. 1. Union will make the North Country trip to take on Clarkson and St. Lawrence on Feb. 8-9, followed by home games against Yale and Brown on Feb. 15-16. The final two weekends will feature road contests at Colgate and Cornell on Feb. 22-23 before home games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson on March 1-2.

The preceding information was provided by Jeffrey Weinstein of the Union College Athletic Department.