With Bennett on administrative leave, Ronan guides Union men’s hockey to win over Brown

Union College hockey assistant coach John Ronan talks with Gabriel Seger Friday, January 21, 2022.

Union College hockey assistant coach John Ronan talks with Gabriel Seger Friday, January 21, 2022.

SCHENECTADY — Union men’s hockey assistant coach John Ronan treated Friday’s ECAC Hockey game against Brown like it was just another contest.

But it wasn’t just another contest for Ronan. He was running the show.

With Dutchmen head coach Rick Bennett on paid administrative leave after the college announced it was investigating an unspecified allegation against the coach who led Union to a national championship in 2014, Ronan guided the Dutchmen to a 3-1 victory over the Bears at Messa Rink.

After the victory, Ronan said he has talked with Bennett leading up to Friday’s game.

“Rick Bennett’s my boss. Rick Bennett’s my co-worker. Rick Bennett’s my friend,” Ronan said. “He’s in a tough situation right now. I’m going to support him to the end. We talked. We talked hockey.”

Ronan added: “No one’s told me not to speak to him, but I’m checking in on him. We have been together for several years now. I’m checking in to make sure he’s OK.”

Union captain Josh Kosack, who scored the game-winning goal on the power play early in the second period, said he’d sent a text message to Bennett.

“I let him know that I’m thinking about him,” Kosack said. “Whatever happens, happens. It’s out of our control. It’s up to the school.”

Bennett, 54, was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday night after the college received an allegation against him Wednesday night. Bennett — who didn’t respond Thursday or Friday to requests for comment from The Daily Gazette — is in his 11th season as Union’s head coach, and his 17th season overall. He spent his first six years as an assistant/associate head coach under head coach Nate Leaman.

Ronan, 38, is in his second stint with the Dutchmen. He was a volunteer assistant coach when the Dutchmen won the NCAA title in 2014. He served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms in 2014-15, then Ronan returned to the college coaching ranks when he was hired as an assistant coach at Mercyhurst. After that season, Ronan replaced assistant coach Joe Dumais at Union when Dumais joined Quinnipiac as an assistant coach.

Ronan played college hockey at Maine from 2001-05, collecting 25 goals and 22 assists in 132 career games. He was team captain his senior season. In his junior year, Maine reached the NCAA championship game and lost to Denver 1-0.

Ronan emphasized during the postgame press conference that “it was business as usual” for the Dutchmen despite their head coach not being with them for the game.

“Obviously, this is a unique spot for me,” Ronan said. “I came in with the job to do. Being behind the bench is my job, my passion and I love it, so that came naturally. I owe it all to the [players]. They were fantastic.”

Ronan was the only Union coach on the bench. Fellow assistant coach TJ Manastersky missed the game because he was in COVID-19 protocol. Ronan did say Manastersky is scheduled to be back for Saturday’s game against Yale, which starts at 7 p.m., while Bennett’s status remains unresolved. Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin had offered no comment Thursday beyond the school’s press release announcing Bennett’s leave.

“I was joking around that I was getting my steps in working with the forwards and the defense,” Ronan said. “I give credit to the guys. We’re really fortunate with having a veteran ‘D’ corps — Brandon Estes, Ryan Sidorski, Dylan Anhorn — so they made my life simple. I didn’t have to bother them too much, and I could spend a little more time with the forwards. After the win, it was pretty empty there.”

Kosack said the team didn’t let its head coach’s absence become a distraction.

“There’s a lot going on right now,” Kosack said. “We just tried to stay as focused as we could on today’s game. Coach Ronan did a great job, kind of centering us, getting us in the moment and coming up with a game plan to make us successful. I’m really happy for him.”

Ronan said the team had a good week of practice, including on Thursday when the team learned of Bennett’s situation.

“We took a lot of information in right before practice, but I thought they had a good practice,” Ronan said. “It carried over to the game. The bigger picture [is], we’re a team that’s been starting a little slow lately. Those guys were focused in on their start. We had a pretty good first period that got us going.”

Union (5-6-1 ECACH, 14 points; 7-11-3 overall), which allowed six first-period goals in an 8-2 loss to Clarkson last Saturday, grabbed a 1-0 lead against Brown (3-7-0, 10 points, 3-12-0) on a Collin Graf power-play goal late in the period.

Kosack’s goal made it 2-0 1:06 into the second period. James Crossman pulled the Bears within one on a power-play goal 5:26 later.

Ville Immonen, who had both of Union’s penalties, sealed the win on his first career goal, an empty-netter with 1:13 remaining in the game.

“It was a huge win for us,” Kosack said. “I’m really happy for the guys.”

Brown 0 1 0 — 1

Union 1 1 1 — 3

First Period — 1, Union, Graf 6 (Anhorn, Seger), 18:33 (pp). Penalties — Maloney, Bro (tripping), 11:13; Cocca, Bro (boarding), 18:06; Schlaht, Bro (cross-checking), 19:36.

Second Period — 2, Union, Kosack 4 (Watkins, Smedsrud), 1:06 (pp). 3, Brown, Crossman 1 (Niinissaari, Maloney), 6:32 (pp). Penalties — Immonen, Uni (interference), 4:50; Crossman, Bro (interference), 10:20; Crozier, Bro (interference), 13:42.

Third Period — 4, Union, Immonen 1 (Robertson, Estes), 18:47 (en). Penalties — Plessis, Bro (hooking), 9:10; Immonen, Uni (tripping), 11:42.

Shots on Goal — Brown 7-9-6 — 22. Union 6-14-9 — 29.

Power-play opportunities — Brown 1 of 2; Union 2 of 6.

Goalies — Brown, Caron 2-7-0 (28 shots-26 saves). Union, Murphy 7-10-2 (22-21).

A — 1,493. T — 2:21.

Referees — Tyler Loftus, Anthony Kenney. Linesmen — JP Waleski, Adam Wood.

Categories: College Sports, Sports


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