Union defenseman J.C. Brassard can pinpoint the play where his problems began.
With Union leading Maine 1-0 in an Oct. 23 game at Messa Rink, he took a cross-checking penalty late in the third period during a Dutchmen power play. The Black Bears scored during the 4-on-4 situation, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Brassard was a healthy scratch in the next night’s encounter with the Black Bears. Freshman Greg Campbell replaced him.
“I wouldn’t say I took things lightly,” Brassard said. “I really worked hard last summer. I took a bad penalty against Maine, and I got punished for that. Campbell jumped in and did really well, so they went with what works. I trust their decision.”
As a freshman last season, Brassard played in all of Union hockey’s 39 games. The only other Dutchmen defenseman to do that was senior Charlie Vasaturo. Brassard collected two goals and nine assists, and had the top defensive rating among Dutchmen defenseman with a plus-7.
But Brassard hasn’t been a regular in his sophomore year, spending nearly half of the team’s games watching from the stands.
“It actually helps a lot,” Brassard said. “You see the whole game, as opposed to just from the defensive side and the point of view side. You see all the little things that we might not be doing as well that you could work on to help the team get better.”
Brassard, who has played in Union’s last four games, knows his inconsistent play had a lot to do with not being in the lineup as much as last season, and he has been doing something about that.
“I think I’m doing pretty well. I’m just trying to keep my head clear,” said Brassard, who has five assists in 14 games. “The coaches pick who they pick for a reason. I have faith in them and what’s best for the team. It was a little tough at first, but I’m back at it and [I’ve] just got to keep grinding.”
As the Dutchmen prepare to play ECAC Hockey games at 11th-ranked Yale tonight at 7 and at Brown at 7 p.m. Saturday, Brassard is doing everything he can to become a regular again.
The 20-year-old from Scituate, Mass., was one of the few bright spots for the Dutchmen in their 5-2 loss to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Mayor’s Cup game last Saturday. He assisted on both Union goals and was a plus-1 defensively.
“If you’re always playing in fear of being out of the lineup, then you’re going to have problems,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “That’s one of the messages we tell our guys. You’re going to make mistakes; it’s a game of mistakes. But they just have to be limited. For the most part, hopefully [last Saturday’s] game is something he can feed off of.”
Bennett believes Brassard got away from what it took to be successful.
“His freshman year, he was keeping it simple,” Bennett said. “I think he’s gotten back to that. He just had to go through that sophomore process. He’s playing well now.”
Asked why he thought Brassard wasn’t keep it simple, Bennett said, “That’s a fair question. I think, sometimes, you think it’s going to be a little bit easier in your sophomore year. We’ve seen that with a lot of guys. I’ve seen it at this level. I’ve seen it in the pro hockey.”
Despite his limited playing time, Brassard has a plus-3 defensive rating, second among Union defenseman. Campbell, who has played in 18 games, leads with a plus-4. The other five Dutchmen defenseman have minus ratings.
“It is concerning,” Bennett said. “But you have to be careful with that. That is one stat where guys could be out, like our last game, where you’re out there on a 6-on-5 and they bury an easy one on you. But, collectively, I think that’s on the goaltender and the forwards as much as it is on the ‘D.’ ”
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