SCHENECTADY — “Consistency” is a word that comes up in many contexts when Union men’s hockey head coach Rick Bennett talks about his team.
One example of that right now is that the Dutchmen are getting consistent scoring from a variety of sources, without any one standout. Nobody on the roster has more than five goals (Cole Maier), but seven players have at least three, including five with four goals.
Junior right wing Anthony Rinaldi is one of those with four, but not because he has been a consistent scorer. Still, it’s encouraging for a player who had a significant spike upward in scoring last year to get two goals in Union’s most recent game, a 5-1 victory at Quinnipiac.
After he had two goals early in the season in a 5-4 win over Omaha, Rinaldi had a seven-game cold spell in which he totaled just one assist in five games and did not dress for two. At this point on the calendar last season, Rinaldi had eight goals and four assists on his way to a 17-11-28 season that was in stark contrast to his freshman year (3-1-4).
If the Quinnipiac game represents a breakout, that can only help the Dutchmen.
“He had a nice game, he was opportunistic and he went to the net,” Bennett said, putting a little extra emphasis on the word “net.”
“That’s something that was missing earlier, and that’s the one thing that jumped out at us as coaches. He had the hunger to get inside, and when you do that, sometimes you’re fortunate and get those tap-in type goals. His second one, he just absolutely beared down and rifled it at the back of the net. That’s what we’ve been looking for from him.”
For the most part, Rinaldi has been on a line centered by Brett Supinski, with Sebastian Vidmar on left wing. That was a combination that worked well last year, marrying Rinaldi’s speed with the playmaking of Supinski and Vidmar.
Against Quinnipiac, Rinaldi had an easy rebound tap-in during a 2-on-1 with Sean Harrison to make it 3-1 midway through the third period, then followed that up with a sharp one-timer with plenty of net to shoot at 3:10 later.
“Scoring goals is always fun; whoever says otherwise is lying,” Rinaldi said. “We didn’t get two wins, but it was good to get a couple goals and help provide for the win on Saturday.
“Every season is different. Last year, I started off hot. Maybe this year, I’ll finish off hot. Who knows. But I don’t think I was discouraged. I thought I was practicing well. They’ll come. As long as you’re working hard, the results will come.”
As expected, Bennett and his staff continue to face the question of who to use in goal on a game-to-game basis.
Sophomore Darion Hanson was at times spectacular against Quinnipiac, his first start in five games, and first since a 10-save performance in a 5-3 loss at RPI, which came on the heels of an ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week award.
Senior Jake Kupsky has played in seven games to four for Hanson. If the decision was based solely on save percentage, Hanson (.926) would get the nod over Kupsky (.926), but it never comes down to one variable.
So it’s anybody’s guess who will be in net next time. The Dutchmen (7-3-1) are off this weekend and fly to Northern Ireland Sunday for the Friendship Four Nov. 23-24.
“If I could eliminate the question ‘Who’s in net tonight?’ that would be great,” Bennett said. “It really would. But that’s not the case, and sometimes those two, when you get the net, you’re so excited to get the net that it works against you. So we’re trying to low-key it a little bit, just like we did Saturday night. We really didn’t tell Hanny he was playing until later, just to calm him down a little bit. But honestly, I don’t have the right answer. It’s got to come from them. Who wants to take the net and run with it. It’s really that simple.”
“It’s a tough situation,” Kupsky said. “I came here because I wanted to play goalie, right? You want to be in the net every night, and that’s exactly why Darion came here, too. So it’s a tough situation, but down in juniors, I played goalie with a guy named T.J. Black, who’s one of my best friends, too. It’s weird how that works, but it just does. We switched every night and ended up doing well that year, and we did well last year, and I think we’ll be fine this year.
“They [coaches] have two very good goaltenders and can probably play either one any night. You just have to prepare like a pro every night and every day in practice. Then you’re just hoping your name is called during the week.”
Hanson played so well against the Bobcats that he was awarded ECACH Goalie of the Week for a second time.
“I saw a guy that was pretty darn focused and really kind of helped us out tremendously,” Bennett said. “And it was really nice to get that kind of response from him. He’s working hard. He always has. That’s never been an issue. It just has to be consistent, just like with Jake. That’s all.
“I can’t say that’s all we’re looking for, because if it was that easy, then every team in the country would have consistent goaltending. So it’s a work in progress for them, just as it is for our forwards and defensemen. But I’ve got to tell you, he [Hanson] was on on Saturday night.”
Union remained at No. 12 in the national rankings after the split last weekend.
Both Princeton and Quinnipiac were ranked in the USCHO.com top 20 at the time.
“That was a good test for us last weekend, and it’ll only help us going forward,” Kupsky said.
“I thought we had a lot of fight, in the fact of there was absolutely no quit in our guys, even going down against Princeton and coming back,” Bennett said. “We lost that game, but I felt like we played better on Friday night than we did on Saturday night. It was kind of disheartening. And then to lose in OT and come back and play a very good team in Quinnipiac, they did a nice job. The fortitude of these guys is something I really admire.” …
While Union and Yale are idle this weekend, the other two teams playing in the Friendship Four will be in action.
Boston University plays host to Maine Friday and Saturday, and Connecticut, which beat Brown 3-1 Tuesday, has a home-and-home against UMass Lowell. …
The Dutchmen will bus to Newark International Airport and will be in Northern Ireland on Sunday. They’ll practice Tuesday through Thursday. …
With the Quinnpiac victory, Union is one shy of 500 as a Division I program. The Dutchmen moved to that level in 1991-92.