Even though his team has an 8-2-1 overall record and is ranked eighth in the USCHO.com/NCAA top-20 college hockey poll, Union coach Rick Bennett believes the Dutchmen are still trying to find an identity.
With 16th-ranked Quinnipiac coming in tonight, the Dutchmen better find it quickly .
The two-time defending ECAC Hockey champion Dutchmen (3-1 ECACH) return to league play when they host the Bobcats (4-0, 8-3-2) at 7 at Messa Rink before taking on Princeton at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Dutchmen are coming off two lackluster wins over Penn State. Bennett wasn’t happy with the intensity shown in either game, and he wasn’t pleased with the defensive play in Sunday’s 4-1 win. The Dutchmen gave up a season-high 38 shots in the game.
“We’ve got to get back to our kind of hockey, and I think the past three games, we really haven’t really shown Union hockey,” said Bennett, who was also talking about a 3-2 loss to Dartmouth Nov. 10. “We’ve just got to get back to the fundamentals of our game and stop taking shortcuts.”
Dutchmen senior defenseman Shawn Stuart agrees with Bennett.
“We usually pride ourselves on defense,” Stuart said. “I think we got away from it a bit last weekend, so we’ve been working on it this week. It’s usually the staple of our team, so it’s pretty important to get that staple back.”
Especially against a team like Quinnipiac that has been known, for years, to emphasize offense.
“We know they’re a good team,” Dutchmen junior left winger Daniel Carr said. “We know they’re 4-0 in league play, and they’re tearing through their non-conference schedule right now. We know we’re going to be in for a battle.”
But the Bobcats, who are 5-0-1 in their last six games, have been playing well, defensively. It starts in goal with senior Eric Hartzell, who is 8-2-2 with a 1.55 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts.
Quinnipiac, which has a senior-laded defense with Loren Barron, Zack Currie, Mike Dalhuisen and Zach Davies, has allowed just 1.77 goals per game, which is tops among ECACH teams. Union is second at 1.91.
“You’ve got an excellent goaltender, you’ve got four defensemen that are seniors, you have a junior [Zach Tolkinen] and a sophomore [Danny Federico],” Bennett said. “That tells me that’s an older corps. It might be the oldest corps in the country. [They have] forwards making the commitment to playing defense. They do clog up the neutral zone with the best of them.”
bodie’s wrist better
Union junior defenseman Mat Bodie could be back sooner than expected from his broken left wrist.
Bennett said that Bodie’s status is now day-to-day. Bodie, the Dutchmen’s captain, had been expected to be out until after the Christmas break.
Bodie broke the wrist on the first shift of the game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Nov. 2. He has missed the last five games.
“It’s not as bad as before,” Bennett said. “Will you see him in the lineup [tonight]? I don’t know yet. Is it a possibility? Yes, it’s a possibility. But we’re just not sure yet.”
Bennett isn’t surprised by how fast Bodie is healing.
“He’s like the wolverine. He heals quickly,” Bennett said. “He’s got this skeletal system that’s just different from everybody else in the country. He’s going to heal quickly.”
Dutchmen junior left winger Cole Ikkala is most likely out this weekend with a lower-body injury. He was hurt in Sunday’s game against Penn State.
rpi back in action
RPI (0-4, 3-5-2) returns to action after a two-week break when it hosts Princeton (2-1-1, 3-4-1) tonight at 7 and Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. Saturday at Houston Field House. However, the Engineers will be without at least two of their players for the games.
Senior forward and team captain
CJ Lee (back, knee) won’t be back until after Christmas. Also out is sophomore forward Mark McGowan, who has mono.
RPI coach Seth Appert said forwards Brock Higgs, Johnny Rogic and Zach Schroeder are questionable.
The Engineers have been off since beating Mercyhurst, 4-1, Nov. 17.
“We’ll be just fine,” Appert said. “We’ve got plenty of guys in that locker room, and the guys that play have to deliver, and they’ve got to step up and they’ve got to take ownership of their opportunity.”
Appert hasn’t decided on who will start in goal. Bryce Merriam and Jason Kasdorf got the starts against Mercyhurst. Merriam played in the Nov. 16 game, and Kasdorf got the call the next night. Scott Diebold is RPI’s other goalie.
“Because none of them have separated, I think we’ll leave it to who’s looking best at practice, and then my gut feel going into the game,” Appert said.