After guiding the Union hockey team to a second straight ECAC Hockey tournament title and a second chance to play for a berth in the NCAA hockey tournament Frozen Four, Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett has been rewarded yet again.
The school announced Tuesday that Bennett has signed a one-year contract extension. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
Bennett, who has been with Union as an assistant/associate head coach since the 2005-06 season, was promoted to head coach on April 22, 2011, after Nate Leaman resigned to become head coach at Providence College.
“I’m just extremely grateful to [Union] president [Stephen] Ainlay, [vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty] Therese McCarty and [athletic director] Jim McLaughlin for showing their faith in me and loyalty in this job,” Bennett said. “I’m really humbled by it. I’ve been fortunate enough to get the job about 30 minutes after Nate had left and . . . not be out looking for other jobs when I am 100 percent comfortable at Union College.
“I don’t have any desire to go anywhere else. I’m extremely happy here.”
It’s the second straight year that Bennett has received a contract extension. Last year, he received a four-year extension after leading the Dutchmen to their second straight ECACH regular-season title and first ECACH tournament championship. The Dutchmen went on to win the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional title and make the Frozen Four for the first time in their Division I history. Union dropped a 3-1 decision to Ferris State in the semifinals.
After having an up-and-down campaign for most of this season, the Dutchmen got hot at the right time. They finished the regular season with wins over St. Lawrence and Clarkson to clinch the fourth and final ECACH tournament first-round bye spot, then beat Dartmouth in the quarterfinals to make the championship round in Atlantic City, N.J. There, Union beat Yale in the semifinals and Brown in the final to become the first team to win back-to-back ECACH tournament titles since St. Lawrence in 2000 and 2001.
Union blasted defending NCAA champion Boston College, 5-1, in the NCAA East Regional semifinal. But ECACH rival Quinnipiac ended Union’s season with a 5-1 victory in the championship game.
Bennett is completing the second year of his original four-year deal. The added year to his contract takes him through the 2019-20 season.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with what he’s done for this program and for the college, overall,” McLaughlin said. “His success, both on and off the ice, speaks for itself. We’re pleased that he’s going to be here as our head coach for the foreseeable future.”
Also getting contract extensions were assistant coaches Joe Dumais and Jason Tapp.
“The staff is an extension of me,” Bennett said. “If I’m the one who signed the new deal, then everyone signed new deals, as well. They deserve everything I get.”
While the contract extension gives Bennett security, he doesn’t want to get comfortable.
“Comfortable is coming to work late, leaving early and not putting effort into preparing our student-athletes to be the best student-athletes they can be in the classroom and on the ice,” Bennett said. “We don’t want to take shortcuts as a staff, and that’s the reason for some success here recently.”
News of the contract extension comes a day after Dutchmen goalie Troy Grosenick gave up his final year of eligibility to sign with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
“Obviously, we took a little hit here recently with Troy signing,” Bennett said. “It’s happened the past three years. It’s funny how the players are really resilient, and someone new steps up. That’s nice to know.
“I’m really grateful for the players.”