Opponents pulling plug on Union power play

One of the main reasons Union has become a national power the last few seasons is its power play. Si

One of the main reasons Union has become a national power the last few seasons is its power play.

Since 2009-10, the Dutchmen have been ranked in the top 15 in the country on the power play. They had the top-ranked power play in 2010-11, when they won their first ECAC Hockey regular-season title and made their first NCAA tournament appearance at the Division I level.

But eight games into this season, the Dutchmen’s power play hasn’t been very effective. That was pointed out by Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, when Union went 0-for-6. He said the team would look at video and make the necessary changes.

After Wednesday’s practice, Bennett wouldn’t say who will be on the two power-play units tonight when the eighth-ranked Dutchmen try to snap a three-game losing streak when they host Dartmouth at 7 at Messa Rink.

The Dutchmen (0-2 ECACH, 5-3 overall) are just 6-for-40 on the power play, tied for 28th in the NCAA with Merrimack and Vermont. The team did lose some key members of the power play in defensemen Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere and forward Daniel Carr, but Bennett isn’t making excuses.

“You can go up and down our power play and look at the ages on it, and it takes a while, just like it took Shayne a while,” Bennett said. “It took Mat Bodie a little bit. Jeremy Welsh, [too]. It takes time. It’s not an instant drive-thru at McDonald’s — I want my happy meal, and I’m on my way. It is what it is.”

The Dutchmen spent time working on the power play more this week in practice.

“It’s such a focal area, such a big part of the game, as everyone knows,” Bennett said. “We’re readjusting some personnel.”

One glaring problem from last Saturday’s game was that the passes weren’t strong. On several occasions, backhanded passes off the boards from the circles to the point were slow in reach the pointmen, and that enabled the Engineers to clear the puck down the ice.

Senior left winger Daniel Ciampini knows that the puck movement must be better.

“Always, with the man up, you want to make sure that you’re supporting the puck all over the ice and having an extra guy to outnumber them,” Ciampini said. “We worked on it this week in practice, and we tweaked a few things here and there. It’s just a will and a matter to want the puck, and to keep the puck down low and to make sure we’re winning the one-on-one battles when we dumped the puck or we enter [the offensive zone].”

Sophomore defenseman Jeff Taylor thinks the power-play units are pressing a little bit.

“We’re just trying to stay to our game,” Taylor said, “stay to our power play, just getting pucks to the net and keeping it simple.”

While the power play has struggled lately, there have been times it has been good, even when Union hasn’t scored. That was the case in the 3-1 victory over New Hampshire on Oct. 11. Despite going 0-for-4 in the second period, the Dutchmen wore down the Wildcats. When UNH got its first power play of the game in the second, it didn’t have the energy, which allowed Union to score two short-handed goals.

“I don’t get wrapped up in the percentage,” Bennett said. “I thought, early in the year, we were good. We had teams on the ropes, and we used it as momentum. I thought it won us the game against UNH. Up at Maine, we were fine.

“The power play’s struggled at times. It struggled last year with the units that we had. It’s just one of those things that you have to keep battling.”

The Dutchmen and Big Green (0-0-1, 0-0-1) meet for the first time since last March’s ECACH tournament quarterfinals. Union swept the best-of-three series. The Dutchmen beat the Big Green four times last season, and has a seven-game unbeaten streak against them including winning the last six in row.

Dartmouth’s last win against Union was a 3-2 decision at Thompson Arena Nov. 10, 2012. The Big Green haven’t won at Messa since Jan. 21, 2011, a 4-1 triumph.

RPI faces Harvard

After sweeping the Dutchmen, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2-0, 3-5) looks to extend its two-game winning streak when it hosts Harvard (0-0-1, 0-0-1) tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.

Sophomore forward Riley Bourbonnais and junior goalie Jason Kasdorf played key roles in getting RPI off to a good start in league play. Bourbonnais had a hat trick — his first three career goals — in last Friday’s 6-1 victory. Kasdorf stopped 58 shots in the sweep.

Harvard opened its season last Saturday against Dartmouth. The teams played to a 3-3 tie.

Categories: College Sports

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