Finally, Union coach Rick Bennett got to work with the Dutchmen in practices this week.
And it wasn’t a lot of fun.
After a season-opening 4-1 loss to Merrimack last Saturday, Bennett put the Dutchmen through some spirited workouts from Monday through Wednesday in preparation for their two-game series at Bowling Green. The teams play tonight and Saturday night at 7:05.
Last Saturday was the first day that NCAA hockey teams could fully practice. The NCAA allows “skill sessions,” but the coaches are limited in what they can do.
“It’s been pretty hard,” Bennett said after Wednesday’s practice, a few hours before the team took the bus trip to Bowling Green. “You could see it [Wednesday] and in the past two days, there’s been a lot of battle-type of drills, a lot of full ice, a lot of choice games, as we call them, where you have a choice to win and you have a choice to lose.
“If you make a choice to lose in that game, then you’re going to skate after.”
Union senior defenseman Greg Coburn has notice the difference in the tempo of the practices, as opposed to the skill sessions.
“It has been intense,” Coburn said. “It’s been a good intense. We’ve had some things we wanted to work on, and I think we’ve worked on them. We’ve had our compete level up, which is good going into the weekend.”
After watching the lack of offensive production in the opener, Bennett knew what he wanted to work on. Even though the Dutchmen had 34 shots on goal, they didn’t create traffic in front of Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta.
“I would say about 85 percent of our drills have been screens,” Bennett said. “It’s all the stuff that we needed to correct from Saturday night.”
Junior forward Daniel Carr, who has scored 20 goals in each of his first two seasons, saw a lot of improvement in getting to the net during this week’s practices.
“That’s where the goals are scored, within 10 feet of the net,” Carr said. “We worked on getting there.”
The Dutchmen left campus at midnight Thursday. Getting away from campus and being able to focus on hockey and having camaraderie will help bring the team closer together.
“It just gives other guys a chance to know other guys a bit better through being on the bus, through team meals and roommates on the road, depending on who’s rooming with who,” Bennett said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get to know your teammates more on a personal level, so you know that guy a bit better and makes it easier to battle for him.”
Bennett said there may be some lineup changes, but nothing major. . . .
Union last played at Bowling Green Oct. 24-24, 2003. The Dutchmen went 1-0-1. Current Union volunteer assistant coach Joel Beal assisted on Ian Ross’ game-winning goal in a 3-1 victory the first night. The teams played a 1-1 tie the next night. . . .
Bowling Green also opened its season last Saturday, playing to a 2-2 tie at Niagara.