OK, it’s really not a good sign, two days before the national semifinals, for the Union College hockey team to be tuning out the coach.
Rick Bennett has lost this team.
On the ride from Schenectady to the Frozen Four on Tuesday, Bennett went with the painfully obvious “Rocky II” for the bus movie, a choice that senior Daniel Carr called “suspect.”
Junior Shayne Gostisbehere popped on his headphones.
On Wednesday, senior Mat Bodie hesitated, then said, “It’s a good movie.
“Personally, I didn’t really watch all of it because I’ve seen it before.”
“I know the guys aren’t pleased with the choices, but it’s good to be the coach sometimes,” Bennett said.
It’s very good to be the coach of this team, right now, because the Dutchmen are as loose as anyone could hope them to be heading into today’s 5:05 p.m. Frozen Four semifinal against Boston College at the 19,500-seat Wells Fargo Center.
“Rocky II,” of course, fits this trip like weird viscous fluorescent mystery cheese sauce fits on weird crumbly mystery meat and a roll.
This is Philly, where Rocky sucked down pre-dawn raw eggs, pummeled sides of beef in a frigid meat locker until the tape on his knuckles was bloody and sprinted to the top of the Art Museum steps.
That was the first one.
This is the second one.
Bennett told the media not to read too much into his movie choice, but the distinction is clear: Rocky lost his first fight against Apollo Creed; he won the second one.
Union has reached the Frozen Four for the second time in three seasons under Bennett, suffering a 3-1 TKO at the hands of Ferris State in 2012.
The Dutchmen, ranked No. 1 in the country but seeded third of the remaining four teams, have been throwing left-right combinations to ward off both the underdog label and the favorite label for the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Gostisbehere has been absorbing flurry after flurry of questions about his post-tournament status.
The third-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers has the type of blueline playmaking skill the Flyers sorely need, and he skated over those very lines during practice on Wednesday.
“It was cool to get out there with the guys for the first time,” he said. “Just waiting in line for the next rep of the drill, you catch yourself staring at all the banners, just looking around.”
I made a guess in November that Gostisbehere would leave Union for the pros after this season, and haven’t seen anything to dissuade myself of that theory. For someone with so much weighing so heavily on his shoulders, Gostisbehere hasn’t lost his good humor or easy manner.
“I think it’s pretty cool — the team drafts you, you’re having a great season and then you get to go to the rink that you’re drafted in,” Bodie said. “He’s done a great job with it. He’s fully invested in Union College right now, and fully invested in this next game. I’m sure he’s getting pressure from different sources, but he doesn’t bring it up. It’s not a team issue, that’s for sure.”
The Dutchmen face the ridiculously productive line of Bill Arnold-Kevin Hayes-Johnny Gaudreau and likely could face an early deficit against Boston College, which admitted to having taken Union lightly in a 5-1 East Regional semifinal loss last year, and surely will not make that mistake ever again.
The Dutchmen expect to have a counterpunch for that, too, because, “like our sports psychologist tells us, you can’t get ’em all back in one shift,” Bodie said.
The trip from Schenectady was a two-movie deal, and Gostisbehere said he brightened upon walking out of a rest stop and being told by Bennett that the multiple Razzie-nominated “Road House” would be up next.
You know, Patrick Swayze facing thug after thug, and kicking tail.
“Swayze was the man back then,” said Gostisbehere (whose nickname happens to be “Ghost”). “So that was pretty cool. Little better than Rocky, I thought.”
“I think coach chose ‘Road House’ because he thinks his hair looks like Patrick Swayze,” Carr said, ignoring the fact that his bald coach was sitting to his right with his Swayze hair cut off this week for a cancer charity promotion.
“That’s pretty much all I’ve got.”
“I went with Rocky because this team has a lot of heart,” Bennett said. “We’ve seen ‘Road House,’ ‘The Warriors,’ ‘The Outsiders’ . . . It’s just a feel thing.”