The injury bug is hitting Union early this season.
Heading into this weekend’s two-game series with Lake Superior State, five Dutchmen have significant, if not publicly known, injuries. Four of the players have been listed as doubtful. They are goalie Colin Stevens, and forwards Eli Lichtenwald, Max Novak and David Roy. Forward Matt Wilkins is listed as day-to-day.
“We’re just going to have to structure practice a bit different, probably have a skills day [Monday] while guys are having their maintenance days,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “Maybe we’ll have to shorten practice up a bit.”
Three of the players were injured in Friday’s 3-3 tie against Bowling Green. The one that everyone saw was Stevens getting run over heavily by Falcons forward Bryce Williamson as he drove to the net on a scoring opportunity. Stevens was down on the ice for a few minutes before getting up and heading to the locker room. Freshman Alex Sakellaropoulos replaced Stevens, who didn’t dress for Saturday’s
rematch with the Falcons.
Stevens’ injury is still being classified as upper-body. The other two Dutchmen who were hurt Friday — Lichtenwald and Wilkins — were less noticeable.
Lichtenwald, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound center, scored his first collegiate goal in the game, but later suffered a lower-body injury.
“Eli got tangled somehow with a player. It looked like that on tape,” Bennett said. “I really couldn’t see what the heck the injury was.”
Wilkins, a sophomore left winger, suffered an upper-body injury.
“I’m not sure if it was from a hit or not,” Bennett said. “Because he hit [a Bowling Green player] so hard, I don’t know if he hurt himself more than he hurt the other kid.”
Both players sat out Union’s 5-2 win over Bowling Green.
Novak and Roy are out with lower-body injuries. Bennett said Novak was hurt coming into the season, while Roy was injured in practice.
Bennett isn’t panicking, and will give the players the necessary time to get healthy.
“Championships aren’t going to be won here in October,” Bennett said. “The most important thing is for these guys to get the necessary treatment. The guys that are out have to approach it like they’re playing in a game. They have to approach their injuries and are they doing everything possible to get healthy. If it means two, three treatments a day, then that’s what they need to do. That’s what the focus has to be.”
Sophomore forwards Nick Cruice, who played in 19 games last season, and Theo DiPauli, who saw action in eight games last year, stepped into the lineup Saturday, and Bennett thought they did a nice job.
In fact, Cruice scored the game-winning goal in the second period.
“For the players that are sitting up in the stands, they, hopefully, learn something,” Bennett said. “They’re going to have to earn their right to get back into that lineup because I thought that game Saturday night, and I just got done watching the film with [volunteer assistant coach] John Ronan, was one of the more impressive wins in my time here. They worked tremendously hard. They did the right things. Everyone was plugged in. They paid attention to details.
“Those guys aren’t coming out just based on the way they played because they earned every right to gain a second night in the lineup.”
Union steady in polls
Union remained steady in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. The Dutchmen remain 16th in the USCHO top-20 poll with 283 points, and stayed 15th in the USA Today top-15 poll with 58 points.
RPI dropped from 15th to 17th in the USCHO poll after beating Sacred Heart, 6-0, Saturday and losing, 7-2, to Boston College Sunday. The Engineers got 203 points. They had 23 points in the USA Today poll.