Zach Thomann, Assistant Sports Editor
Every house and every campus will turn the heat on this winter, but the Utica Aud will get colder. It’s hockey season for Utica College and the fans are ready.
According to The Hockey Writers, Utica has the best attendance in Division III hockey for 10 consecutive seasons.
The coaching staff and athletes are looking forward to improving on a 14-10-4 season last year.
“The fans should be excited about our overall depth at each position,” Head Coach Gary Heenan said.
The team brought in a promising recruiting class and Heenan has noted that fans will see freshman in important roles for the team.
Junior transfer Henry Dill is in his first year as a member of the Utica hockey team and he is excited to put the pads on.
“Utica has been pretty well known when it comes to hockey, so I’m glad to be a part of such a popular team.”
Dill hopes to see ice time when the Pioneers take on Fredonia Friday, October 28.
Students in their first year at Utica will get to see first hand how serious the city takes their hockey.
“With the lack of professional sports teams in this area, we turn to hockey as a supplement,” Dill said.
The hockey program also gets recognition from the city of Utica because of the effort they put in to give back to the community. Every year, the Pioneers are host to the New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss to raise toys for local children in need. After the first goal the Pioneers score, the fans throw stuffed animals on the ice and are then collected.
The event has been taking place in mid December for more than a decade and the New York Sash has reported to have donated 25,000 stuffed animals throughout its history. This year, the Teddy Bear Toss will take place on Saturday, December 17, against Morrisville.
Utica College Hockey also partners with Team Impact, which is an organization that helps out children with life threatening illnesses. In 2013, 7-year-old Brendan Krol was publicly announced as a member of the Pioneers. Krol was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is a common blood cancer found in children.
Other organizations, coach Heenan and the team are affiliated include; Oneida County Youth Bureau, The Shawn Grady Foundation, The United Cerebral Palsy, The Central Association for the Blind and visually impaired and The First Source Federal Credit Union.
The Hockey team focuses on the community, but doesn’t lose a step when it comes to winning. Utica has had six consecutive winning seasons with 2013 being a standout year after being nationally ranked and going 21-6-1 on their way to the Frozen Four. After a tough loss in the championship game, coach Heenan is pushing his team to find their way back to the Frozen Four and hoist the trophy.
The ECAC West Conference has been a competitive conference and coach Heenan believes this year will be no exception. Season tickets are on sale at the Aud starting at $70 per person and $35 for Utica students with ID.