Union coach Rick Bennett and team captain Mat Bodie are embarrassed with the way they conducted themselves at the end of the Mayor’s Cup hockey game against Capital Region-rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday.
Meanwhile, RPI coach Seth Appert didn’t sound like a very happy person, not after the suspensions ECAC Hockey handed out for the postgame fracas, and one punishment that wasn’t given.
The league made its ruling on the aftermath of the postgame brawl in the Engineers’ 2-1 win. Bodie, who already was suspended one game for a game disqualification he received for facemasking, got an additional game off by the league for triggering the fracas with his cross-check to the head of RPI’s Brock Higgs as time expired. He will miss the games at St. Lawrence on Friday and at Clarkson on Saturday.
Getting one-game suspensions were Union left winger Daniel Ciampini and RPI right winger Ryan Haggerty, the team’s leading scorer, and defenseman Bo Dolan. They will sit out Friday — RPI is at Clarkson. Also sitting out Friday are Union center Eli Lichtenwald and RPI center Mike Zalewski, who scored the game-winning goal, and defenseman Luke Curadi. All three players got DQs for fighting.
Not getting an additional suspension was Bennett. On Sunday, the school suspended Bennett for two games, without pay, for going after Appert and throwing a punch that appeared to connect with RPI center Milos Bubela as Bubela was pushing Appert away from Bennett.
Bennett won’t travel with the team. Assistant coach Joe Dumais will serve as acting head coach this weekend.
“I don’t feel good about it,” Bennett said in a press conference late Monday afternoon in the darkened lower lobby of Messa Rink, which was affected by a campus-wide blackout. “It was one bad choice. I will live with it, I’ll move on, I’ll learn from this, and I’ll be a better coach from it.”
ECACH commissioner Steve Hagwell didn’t think an additional penalty was necessary for Bennett.
“We were apprised to this prior to Union’s announcement, and had discussions,” Hagwell said. “It was in line with what we felt was appropriate.”
Haggerty, who has 19 goals and 11 assists, and Dolan each received a minor for roughing and 10-minute misconducts.
Neither player was made available to the media.
Appert had little to say about the ruling handed down, offering several “No comments” before saying, “The league made their decision. There’s no reason to comment further on whether I agree or disagree with the decisions made by the league. It’s done and over with. You have to deal with the consequences of those decisions. That’s it.”
Bodie knows he put his team in a tough situation for this weekend’s North Country trip. He explained why he cross-checked Higgs in the head.
“He was coming at me,” Bodie said. “I guess emotions just got the best of me. I got the hands up too high, I guess. I tried to hit him in the chest, and just got a little too high.”
Ciampini didn’t receive any penalties from the fracas, but he had his gloves and helmet off. He wasn’t sure why he got suspended.
“I just found out about a half-hour ago,” Ciampini said. “I haven’t really gotten the full details. Me and coach Bennett are going to talk about it [this] morning. We’ll go from there. The league has to do what it has to do. It’s upsetting to me, but rules are rules.
“For whatever it is, I’m sure it’s warranted. They took a couple of days. I’m sure they have a valid reason for the suspension.”
Bennett wouldn’t reveal what led him to go after Appert.
“Hockey’s a passionate game,” Bennett said. “I’m a passionate person, and I have a lot of pride. It’s just one of those things.”
Hagwell said he watched numerous videos of the fracas.
“Frankly, I don’t know where they all come from,” Hagwell said. “People were sending it to me. I saw video that was available. I didn’t document where they came from. I can tell you that I’ve seen a lot of video.”
The brawl was all over the news nationally, being covered by the likes of ESPN, USA Today and The Huffington Post. Fans who shot videos posted them on YouTube and sent them on Twitter and Facebook.
It’s not the kind of attention anyone wants. Bennett apologized to his players for his actions.
“I really feel for our school, our president, our athletic director, everyone involved in our program, our Garnet Blades members and more importantly, our players,” Bennett said. “They didn’t deserve that from me. As much as I respect their support, they’ve been great through this.
“But in the same token, I have to be better than that.”
“I and our board and many of our members who have checked in today support Rick Bennett completely,” said Garnet Blades president Tim Meigher in an email. “His contribution to our program and our student athletes over many years is the body of his work — not the ninety seconds after Saturday’s game that he agrees was regrettable. His apology was sincere, and knowing him like we do, we remain very pleased to have him as our coach now and for many years to come.”
Union slipped from third to fourth in the USCHO.com/NCAA hockey top-20 poll. The ECACH-leading Dutchmen received 847 points. . . .
The Dutchmen are tied for fourth in the PairWise Rankings.