Bennett closes practices to get Union refocused

It has been a trying week for Union men’s hockey coach Rick Bennett.

It has been a trying week for Union men’s hockey coach Rick Bennett.

Last Saturday, he was upset about the lack of effort the Dutchmen showed for nearly 50 minutes against Quinnipiac. Not even scoring three third-period goals to make a 4-3 loss look interesting could calm Bennett.

Then on Sunday, freshman forward Kevin Shier met with Bennett to tell him he was leaving the team and school, a decision that didn’t sit well with Bennett.

In order to get ready for tonight’s game against Cornell at 7 at Messa Rink, Union’s first home game since Nov. 15, Bennett didn’t allow the players to speak with the media this week.

Bennett said there isn’t any panic with him or the players.

“I’ve done this in the past, so it’s not something relatively new,” Bennett said. “I just wanted to refocus, basically, get our thoughts going again. We just got back in school, so I want to refocus on school and our hockey.”

Bennett’s anger has subsided.

“After the fact, the players know why I was upset and why our staff was upset,” Bennett said. “But when you look back and look in the mirror, the way I look at it is we didn’t have our best performance against one of the top teams in this league. Looking in the mirror, it’s my job to get these guys to perform at a top level against the top teams. So, it’s very easy to put it on them.”

The defending NCAA champion Dutchmen (4-5-1 ECACH, 11-8-2 overall) are still trying to straighten out their play, which continues to be inconsistent. They posted a 5-2 win last Friday at Princeton, but fell behind, 4-0, to Quinnipiac after two periods.

Bennett stuck to his normal routine in practices this week.

“We, as a staff, met for a while on Monday and navigated a path that we felt was best,” Bennett said. “What’s best is sticking with the drills we know and doing them well.”

The Dutchmen’s chances of winning a second straight ECACH regular-season title, and fourth in five years, is slim, at best. They are tied for seventh place with Yale, 11 points behind league-leading Quinnipiac.

There is still plenty of time to get into a top-four spot and a first-round bye for the ECACH tournament. The Dutchmen, who have won three straight ECACH tournament championships, are five points behind second-place Harvard, two points in back of third-place Colgate, Union’s opponent Saturday night, and a point behind three teams that share fourth place — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

“We haven’t discussed it,” Bennett said. “Each practice and each weekend brings something different. So will this weekend with the matchups. But we have to worry about today in order to get better for Friday night.”

Union will face a Cornell team that is having its own challenges.

The Big Red (4-4, 6-7-2) have scored just four goals in their last five games. During that stretch, they were shut out in twice in their two Florida College Hockey Classic games, marking the first time they failed to score in two straight games for the first time since December 1963. The Big Red went 195 minutes, 22 seconds without a goal before Jacob MacDonald’s goal at 8:10 of the third period in last Friday’s 3-1 loss at St. Lawrence snapped the skid.

“If you ever take Cornell lightly, you’re going to pay for it,” Bennett said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for [coach] Mike Schafer and his staff and the players he always has, as long as I’ve been here. Even before I got here, they were a dominant group. Mike Schafer’s track record speaks for itself.”

In Union’s last home game 62 days ago, it posted a 6-1 win over Princeton.

“It will be a nice change of pace for the players and community,” Bennett said about being home again.

RPI hosts Colgate

After snapping a nine-game losing streak with its 5-2 win over Princeton last Saturday, RPI (5-6, 7-16-1) seeks its first winning streak since November when it hosts 15th-ranked Colgate (5-2-1, 13-6-1).

The Engineers haven’t had put together consecutive wins since beating Dartmouth, 2-1, Nov. 8 and downing Princeton, 3-1, Nov. 14. They did have a two-game unbeaten streak later that month, earning a 1-1 tie at UConn on Nov. 18 and a 2-1 victory at New Hampshire Nov. 25.

Categories: College Sports

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