ATLANTIC CITY — The ECAC Hockey championships would stay at Boardwalk Hall if it were up to Union College.
Max Novak scored two goals, Troy Grosenick stopped 32-of-33 shots and the Dutchmen beat Brown University 3-1 on Saturday night to win the men’s title for the second year in a row at the historic building.
“I’m kind of mad that they’re moving to Lake Placid (N.Y.) next year, to be honest with you,” Grosenick said shortly after the Dutchmen finished celebrating on the ice. “Atlantic City’s a great town. I think it’s probably my fourth-favorite town behind my hometown (Brookfield, Wis.), Cedar Rapids, Iowa (where he played juniors) and Schenectady (the town in New York where Union is located).”
This was the final season of the ECAC’s three-year deal to hold its semifinals and championship at the Hall. The next three years they will be in Lake Placid.
ECAC assistant commissioner Ed Krajewski said the league was disappointed with the attendance figures here — Friday’s semifinals drew 3,145 and Saturday’s final and third-place game drew 4,017.
But Krajewski did not rule out trying Atlantic City again in the future.
“The venue’s been great for us. The staff has been great. It’s just a little unfortunate that we didn’t have the fan base come out,” Krajewski said. “We didn’t have the traveling and we didn’t get a local fan base, so we basically put the championship up for bid and Lake Placid won it. … But a lot of people did like it here, and you saw on the Union side there were a lot of fans here.”
Union’s fans were easily the loudest of all four teams’ on both days, setting the tone before each game by yelling “U!” during the first line of the national anthem.
They were rewarded with a dominating performance. The fourth-seeded Dutchmen beat No. 3 Yale 5-0 in a semifinal Friday night. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead early against seventh-seeded Brown and cruised to the win.
“We were able to go out and see everything (around town Friday night),” said Frank Cermak, a 19-year-old Union fan from Niskayuna, N.Y. “It’s a fun town, but winning makes it so much better.”
Some of the Union fans didn’t have to travel as far. Novak is a native of Oak Ridge in West Milford, Passaic County. He said several of his family and friends made the trip down for the game.
“I’d also prefer to keep (the event) in my home state, the great state of New Jersey,” Novak said with a smile.
The game was the culmination of an eventful year for hockey at the Hall, which has not been home to a hockey team since the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL moved to Stockton, Calif., in 2005.
It started with Operation Hat Trick, a charity game that featured NHL superstars to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief funds. That game on Nov. 24 drew a crowd of 10,792, the Hall’s first hockey sellout since 1933.
Then the Albany Devils, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, played four games here. Those games had an average attendance of 3,986.
No games have been announced yet for next season at the Hall.
“I think with the exception of probably the Bullies’ championship run (in 2003), this was probably the strongest season that the building has had from a hockey standpoint,” said Tesone, a hockey fan himself.
“The fun of it was the variety of what we had. … We got to see some wonderful hockey at different levels.”
Notes: Union earned the league’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament, where last year it got all the way to the Frozen Four. … Egg Harbor Township resident Ray Glanville performed the national anthem. … Top-seeded Quinnipiac, the No. 1 team in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, beat Yale 3-0 in the third-place game earlier Saturday. Yale coach Keith Allain and his players skipped their postgame news conference.
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