SCHENECTADY — After the Union men’s hockey team was stunned by RPI 5-3 at Houston Field House in October, Dutchmen head coach Rick Bennett said, “We played like marshmallows out there.”
It was a prelude to a weekend sweep by the Engineers, the first of two soft spots in Union’s play this season.
Friday night at home against Canisius, the Dutchmen are looking to rebound from the second one, while coming off a holiday break in which a few of the Dutchmen may have overindulged in the mini marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole.
That will add an extra challenge as the Dutchmen attempt to shake off a 3-3 tie with Brown and a 3-0 loss to Yale last time out almost three weeks ago that Bennett called “disturbing” because of a lack of effort from his team. Union had gone 49 straight games without having been held scoreless. The last shutout was 2-0 to Minnesota on Oct. 7, 2017.
“I’m going to leave it like this, because I mentioned it to the team and to our staff: We wanted to come back on a positive note, but also understand that that weekend was arguably probably the worst weekend that I’ve seen in my time here as a coach, from an effort standpoint,” he said Thursday afternoon.
“That’s really the only thing we can control is our effort, so when that doesn’t come up to 100 percent, yeah, ‘disturbing’ I guess is a good word for that, because that’s something that’s completely up to us,” senior captain Cole Maier said.
Union (3-4-1 ECAC Hockey, 8-4-3 overall) will play a 7 p.m. game Friday and a 4 p.m. game Saturday at Messa Rink against Canisius of the Atlantic Hockey Association. The Dutchmen haven’t played at home since a 3-2 win over Clarkson on Nov. 3.
They faced a body fat test first thing back last Saturday, and Bennett said “only five guys” didn’t meet their fitness target.
“Our staff is going to hold those guys accountable because it’s not fair to the other guys that are meeting the requirements, that are detailed and disciplined,” he said. “They’re hurting the guys in that locker room. It does have a direct correlation to how you play, and your life.”
“Everyone had a productive break and didn’t just sit around,” senior wing Ryan Walker said. “Got on the ice, worked out a bit, and guys that needed to heal up healed up. I think we’re prepared to have a good second half here.
“There’s definitely some guys that need a little bit of work still, but it [fitness evaluation] was good overall.”
The Dutchmen, who were 4-0-1 when they were swept by RPI, responded well to that dip in play, and Bennett said he’s curious to see how they do with this one. Union tied Brown 3-3 despite having a power play in overtime, and lost to Yale while going 0-for-6 on the PP, giving up a short-handed goal to Joe Snively during a four-minute double minor.
Against Canisius, they face a team similar to Yale, with quick transition to offense on turnovers, and a similar player to Snively in senior Dylan McLaughlin, who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last year while piling up 48 points.
In contrast to Union’s balanced scoring this season, McLaughlin (11-11-22) and Nick Hutchison (9-6-15) have combined to produce almost 42 percent of Canisius’ goals.
“He’s [McLaughlin] an excellent hockey player, and he’s dangerous every time he hits the ice,” Bennett said. “Our job is to keep him under wraps as best we possibly can.
“We need to not get caught up in the tennis match or ping pong game where we’re trading chance for chance for chance. When we do that, you’re playing a Las Vegas game. You’re going to a casino.”
“He’s an excellent player,” Walker said. “He’s got 129 career points. We watched some video today, and he’s really skilled and really fast. We’ve got to finish our hits on him. I think that’ll slow him down some and maybe he’ll stop some of the moves that he’s trying to make. But you’ve got to be aware when he’s on the ice, because he’s extremely talented.”
No matter who the opponent this weekend, Bennett wants to see the Dutchmen respond like they did after the RPI sweep, especially since the low point of the season so far — the Yale loss — came right before the holiday break.
“The opinion of our coaches was that it [players’ approach] was ‘Let’s just get through these two games so we can get home for our break and see what Santa got us,'” he said.
“And the second was more about handling success. When we went into the RPI game, we were 4-0-1, and we didn’t handle success very well. But we still played a heck of a lot better in that series than we did in that last weekend. We went into the Brown-Yale weekend riding the high from the Ireland trip, people telling you how great you are. It’s all over the press and all over the USCHO and all the other jazz that’s on there.”
After two-plus seasons at Union, junior wing Luc Brown has left the program.
He had six goals and nine assists in 37 games as a freshman, then dropped off to 3-5-8 in 25 games last season. He appeared in just four of 15 games this year, without a point.
“That was his decision,” Bennett said. “He came in after Ireland and said, ‘I’ve had enough,’ and I wished him well.”
The Dutchmen and Golden Griffins have played just once in Division I.
Union beat Canisius 2-0 on Dec. 30, 2005, in the Dodge Holiday Classic in Minneapolis.
The current Golden Griffins are coached by Trevor Large, who was promoted to head coach from his assistant job after Dave Smith was hired from Canisius to coach RPI.
Large has been looking for a goalie solution this season, since junior Daniel Urbani has been unavailable due to injury.
Urbani, who played the bulk of the minutes for the Golden Griffins as a sophomore, was among 20 goalies on the Mike Richter Award watch list before the season. Large has juggled between junior Blake Weyrick and sophomore Tucker Weppner.
He had recruited a catcher off the Canisius baseball team, Jake Zurat (who played goalie in high school), for the third string before replacing him with freshman Matt Ladd recently.
The Golden Griffins have given up at least five goals in six of their 15 games, including a 9-6 loss at Niagara on Nov. 17.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports