On Monday, when ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell handed out additional suspensions for the Mayor’s Cup postgame brawl between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union, one of the persons not penalized was Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett because the school had done so the day before, giving him a two-game punishment.
“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.”
But on Wednesday, Hagwell changed his mind.
The league announced it suspended Bennett two games, giving the third-year Dutchmen coach four games off. Also suspended was RPI coach Seth Appert for one game. Appert will miss the Engineers’ game at Clarkson on Friday.
Bennett will be out for this weekend’s games at St. Lawrence and Clarkson, and next weekend’s Messa Rink contests against Brown and defending NCAA-champion Yale.
Bennett and Appert nearly came to blows at the end of RPI’s 2-1 win at the Times Union Center. Bennett had his hand cocked and appeared to hit RPI forward Milos Bubela as Bubela was trying to push Appert away from the situation. Both coaches apologized in their respective postgame press conferences.
“ECAC Hockey has continued to review the entire situation that occurred Saturday,” Hagwell said. “After additional review and consideration, and discussions with league administrators, additional sanctions have been assessed.
“The league members pride themselves on adhering to the highest level of sportsmanship. Those objectives were not attained Saturday.”
Bennett, who won’t be paid during the college-imposed suspension, said at a Monday press conference that he will “live with it, I’ll move on, I’ll learn from this, and I’ll be a better coach from it.”
He addressed the additional two-game punishment at the end of Wednesday’s practice.
“Basically, I said what I needed to say the other day,” Bennett said. “I stand by those words. I always will. I’m a man of my word. I respect what the league handed down.”
Bennett is allowed to conduct practices. Because of the school-imposed suspension, Bennett won’t travel with the team this weekend. It’s unclear whether or not the league will allow him to watch next weekend’s games from the stands.
Assistant coach Joe Dumais will be the acting head coach for the fourth-ranked and ECACH-leading Dutchmen the next four games.
RPI issued a statement, saying, “ECAC Hockey has taken the action it feels is necessary, and we fully support the decision of the league.”
The fracas started at the final buzzer, when Union defenseman Mat Bodie cross-checked RPI forward Brock Higgs in the head.
The Engineers who were coming off the bench to celebrate their first win over the Dutchmen in 11 tries, went after Bodie. The players on Union’s bench stayed there for a minute before coming on the ice.
Numerous altercations broke out. Many videos made by fans were posted on YouTube, and the brawl attracted the attention of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” USA Today and The Huffington Post.
A total of 125 penalty minutes were assessed. Four players — Union’s Bodie and Eli Lichtenwald and RPI’s Luke Curadi and Mike Zalewski — were given game disqualifications, which carries an automatic one-game suspension.
On Monday, Bodie received an additional one-game suspension. Also getting suspended for one game were Union’s Daniel Ciampini and RPI’s Bo Dolan and Ryan Haggerty.