Max pursues the puck in a game against Brown University
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Zube and the Union College Athletic Department
For the first time in program history, the Union College Men’s Ice Hockey team has advanced to the final four (aptly named the Frozen Four) of the Division I NCAA Championship tournament, where they will face fellow Frozen Four rookies Ferris State University. The game, which is being played at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay, Fla., is scheduled for Thursday, April 5 at 4:30 p.m. and will be nationally broadcast on ESPNU. The winner will advance to the National Championship game on Saturday, April 7, where they will face either Boston College or The University of Minnesota.
A key player for the Dutchmen, currently ranked third in the nation with a 26-7-7 record, has been freshman Max Novak ’10. Max has played in 33 games so far this season and is 10th on the team in scoring, registering 14 points on nine goals and five assists. He has scored three goals in the last six games, including the opening goal in Union’s 3-1 win against Michigan State in the NCAA East Regional semi-final on Friday, March 23. He was named the ECAC Rookie of the Month
for his strong play throughout March.
The Oak Ridge, N.J. native arrived at The Hill as a fifth former in 2008-09, and for two seasons provided a tremendous all-around presence both on and off the ice. He served as team captain in 2009-10 and during his two seasons at Hill was a prolific scorer, recording 94 points in just 55 games. Far from a one-dimensional player, Max also used his tireless work rate and strong hockey IQ to excel defensively and was utilized by the coaching staff in all situations.
“Max’s skill set, demeanor, and work ethic both on and off the ice were well beyond the other players on the team,” said head coach Matt Mulhern. “He just has that ‘it’ quality about him; he’s a very talented player who works hard and is extremely humble. He’s a very explosive skater who was able to use both his speed and his hands to create opportunities that other players couldn’t.”
Max notes that he became a more mature hockey player and well-rounded student-athlete at Hill.
“The coaching staff was amazing in helping me refine my skills and also in helping me learn the little things that have made a big difference in my game,” he said. “Academically, I learned the time management skills that have been invaluable in helping me balance school and hockey in college.”
Max attracted the attention of several Division I schools during his time at Hill, but was drawn to Union because of its small (roughly 2,000 undergraduate students) size, traditional campus, and strong academics. He committed to Union during his sixth form year and was advised by then-Dutchmen head coach Nate Leaman to play a year of Junior “A” hockey before enrolling as a freshman in 2011-12. He spent the 2010-11 season playing for the New Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, posting 61 points in 43 games.
It didn’t take long for Max to make an impact once he arrived at Union in the fall of 2011, as he scored two goals in the team’s opening game of the season. He has since settled nicely into a role as one of the team’s energy players.
"My role on the team for the majority of the season has been to go out and give high energy shifts," said Max. "I've been able to chip in offensively throughout the season, and also get some special teams (power play and penalty kill) time."
The surreal feeling of being in a position to compete for a national championship still hasn’t quite sunk in for Max with the semi-final game still a week away.
“It’s an incredible feeling to know that we’re one of the last four teams standing this late in the season, but it still hasn’t entirely sunk in,” he said. “I think it will really hit me when we land in Florida. We have a big task ahead of us. Ferris State is obviously a very good team – there’s a reason they were the top-ranked team in the country at one point this season. We’re definitely not going to overlook them, but we realize we’re a good team, too. All we can do is focus on taking care of business and hopefully the result will be good.”