One year ago, after taking final exams for the first trimester, the Union College hockey hosted first-year NCAA hockey team Penn State for two games.
Although the Dutchmen won both games by scores of 2-0 and 4-1, their efforts in those games were uninspiring. After the first game, Union coach Rick Bennett said he felt fortunate to win.
The 15th-ranked Dutchmen 3-2) hope to avoid repeat performances when they travel to Univ-ersity Park, Pa., to face the Nittany Lions (3-5-1) tonight and Sunday night at 7.
“Last year, definitely, wasn’t our two best games,” Dutchmen senior left winger Cole Ikkala said. “But luckily, we came out with the two wins. It kind of happens sometimes with the non-conference games [when] you’ve never seen them before. It has been a couple of weeks off, but we’ve been preparing and working hard, although it was exams week. We are ready going into this weekend.”
Union has been off since its 4-1 win over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Nov. 16. The Dutchmen had some practices prior to final exams. They returned to practice Wednesday after the exam period ended.
The Dutchmen have won three straight, and are 5-1 this month.
“We have to keep the roll we’ve been on lately,” Dutchmen senior defenseman and team captain Mat Bodie said. “It’s not the same opponent as RPI being a rival, but you’ve still got to get up for the games. I know the guys are real excited to get back to hockey. The exam time is not the [best] time for a college student. But to get back to hockey is appreciated by the guys.”
Bennett is making sure the Dutchmen are ready this time. He made some changes to the practice routine.
“There’s more game-like type of atmosphere,” Bennett said. “There’s more small-game type of stuff. [There’s] choice games. Choice games are basically small games. You have a choice to win and a choice to lose, and the losers are going to skate.”
Now that exams are over, all the Dutchmen have to worry about now for the next few weeks before the second trimester begins in January is hockey.
“We’re more relieved now, actually, that [exams] are over, and all we have to focus on is hockey now,” Dutchmen junior defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Live a little of the pro lifestyle, as they say here.”
But Bennett wants to make sure that the players aren’t focused solely on hockey during the trimester break.
“Sometimes, you have to be careful with that because during the year, it’s not all about hockey. You have school to focus on, first and foremost,” Bennett said. “Now, it’s hockey. So, what we’re going to try to do is try to get a few books, have them read it and take a step away from hockey when they are away from the arena.”
Bodie is four points away from 100 for his career. He will be the 11 Dutchmen at the Division I level, and the first defenseman, to reach that plateau. . . .
Senior left winger Daniel Carr, who leads the team with seven goals and seven assists, needs 11 points to become Union’s all-time Division I leading scorer. Adam Presizniuk had 131 points from 2007-11. . . .
Union is 3-0-1 on the road this season. . . .
Penn State’s leading scorers are freshman forward David Goodwin and sophomore defenseman Luke Juha, who have three goals and three assists each. Sophomore goalie Matthew Skoff, who had 82 saves in last year’s games against Union, is 3-2-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.