Dutchmen must protect late hockey leads (with videos)

There were plenty of aspects of Union’s two ties against Western Michigan last weekend that Dutchmen

There were plenty of aspects of Union’s two ties against Western Michigan last weekend that Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett liked, such as the strong play of goalie Troy Grosenick and the hat trick from Jeremy Welsh in Saturday’s game.

But there was something in both games that bothered Bennett — the Dutchmen’s third-period play and their inability to hold on to a one-goal leads each night.

That is something Bennett stressed to his team this week, espec­ially since the Dutchmen are playing the majority of their games this season away from Messa Rink.

Union plays Games 2 and 3 of its 20-game road schedule this weekend. The Dutchmen (1-0-2), ranked 12th in the USCHO.com poll and 11th in the USA Today/U.S. Hockey Magazine poll, visit Niagara tonight at 7:05, then go to Rochester Inst­itute of Technology at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

“For the future of our program, we’re going to have to learn to play a better third period,” Bennett said. “That’s pretty obvious to the average fan and hockey gurus out there. But it was positive that you had the third-period lead.”

Last season, the Dutchmen were strong in the third period. In games when they took leads into the

final 20 minutes, they accumulated a 19-2-2 record. When they headed into the third period tied, they were 5-2-2.

After last Saturday’s game, Welsh spoke about the Dutchmen’s struggles with protecting the third-period leads against the Broncos.

“We got the lead, and we kind of let up in the third,” Welsh said. “That’s something we have to learn as a team. But last year, I don’t think we learned that until late December, [early] January when we started taking over third periods. It’s a learning curve.”

Bennett would like the learning curve to come a little sooner.

“We’re trying to make it pretty clear, as a staff, that all periods are important,” Bennett said. “The first two set up the third. When you do that, which we did, what’s the sense of playing the first two [periods] hard if you’re not going to play the third hard? It’s a message we’re trying to get across.”

When they had the third-per­iod leads against the Broncos, the Dutchmen got tentative, sat back and allowed Western Michigan to dictate the play.

Dutchmen defenseman Greg Coburn believes that they can correct that.

“We’ve just got to learn from it and move forward,” Coburn said. “I believe we sat back a bit, and we’ve got to learn to take a hold of that third period and get the ‘W.’ ”

Dutchmen forward Josh Jooris agrees.

“We really got good at that in late January last year,” Jooris said. “It was kind of a struggle for us, at first. We were still trying to get used to the team. Going forward, that’s going to be very important closing out those third periods.”

Union faces a Niagara team that is off to an 0-2-1 start. The Purple Eagles were shut out in their first two games.

The Dutchmen beat the Purple Eagles in last year’s meeting, 6-1, at Messa Rink.

“With Niagara, you’re going to see a tremendously hard-working team that has a long memory from last year,” Bennett said.


It has been a slow start for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offense. And now, injuries are taking a toll.

The Engineers (1-3) have been shut out in three of their first four games, including two in a row last weekend at Ferris State.

RPI has another Midwest road trip, this time a one-game affair at sixth-ranked Notre Dame (2-2), where they will help the Fighting Irish open their new $50 million home, the Compton Family Ice Arena. It replaces the Joyce Center.

The Engineers have gone 132 minutes, 31 seconds, since they last scored. All four goals they scored came in the Minnesota State game Oct. 8.

“I’m not real worried,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “The [first Minnesota State] game, I thought we weren’t hard around the net. But we created 38 shots and 24 scoring chances. You have to give credit to [goalie] Austin Lee that night. I thought he was tremendous.

“The Ferris weekend, we struggled creating that offense, especially Friday. Saturday, we did. That’s one of the best defensive teams in the country.”

The Engineers will be missing three forwards. Brock Higgs and Jacob Laliberte will be out at least two weeks because of hand injuries, and Marty O’Grady is out indef­initely because of a concussion.

Higgs and O’Grady missed last weekend’s two-game series at Ferris State. Higgs has a split on his right index finger. Laliberte was injured late in Saturday’s game when he was slashed on his right hand.

Forward Greg Burgdoerfer, who has been out with injuries and illness, is healthy and could be in the lineup tonight.

“We have to play with the guys we have,” Appert said. “It’s pretty much every healthy body on deck. That still might not be enough. I’m not sure. But we’re not worried about that. We have plenty of good hockey players in our program, and the guys that are real healthy are going to have to find us a way to win.”

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