While the Union Dutchmen have been out and about foraging the college hockey landscape as winter approaches, the Yale Bulldogs picked a good time to finally come out of hibernation.
On Monday, the busy Dutchmen moved into the national top 20 while riding a six-game unbeaten streak, then lost 6-4 at Holy Cross on Tuesday to fall to 6-2-1 through nine games.
Yale’s season opened on Saturday and, so far, amounts to all of one game.
Coincidentally, it was against a common opponent, and if comparative results are your thing, the Bulldogs’ 4-1 win over Sacred Heart (not to mention their No. 16 ranking) is a pretty good indication of the challenge Union faces tonight at 7 at Messa Rink.
That Sacred Heart team is the same one that tied the Dutchmen three weekends ago.
“The sample looked pretty darn good watching them against Sacred Heart, a team we tied and they beat 4-1. So I think that says it all,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said.
“You would hope that you would have the legs and they’re still trying to find theirs. But watching Yale on tape, I don’t see that.”
The teams split the series last year, each winning on the road.
Yale was 19-9-4 in 2015-16, losing its last four, including 3-2 in overtime to UMass-Lowell in the NCAA East Region semifinals at the Times Union Center.
Two points of emphasis for the Dutchmen during this patchwork week of practice are cleaning up the defensive end in general, including the penalty kill, and sharpening up the transition from offense to defense, specifically, because that’s an area where Yale is adept at hurting teams, Bennett said.
“You’re in your offensive zone, and the next thing you know, you’re chasing your tail and you’re in your ‘D’ zone in about two seconds,” he said. “It just creates problems. When you have that speed and that transition, that creates chaos. And chaos is not a good thing if you’re not talking out there and doing your assignments.”
The schedule quirk of a non-conference road game on a Tuesday wasn’t overly difficult from a travel standpoint, since Worcester, Mass., isn’t far away and the Holy Cross game was bookended by home weekend series.
Union was also coming off an emotional sweep of RPI, but if you’re trying to make the case to Bennett that the Dutchmen were due for a letdown against Holy Cross based on circumstances, well, good luck with all that.
“Oh, yeah, we could make a ton of excuses. We’ll be fully over that one at about 4:55, after their video session is done,” Bennett said at 4:35 on Thursday afternoon. “So put that one behind us, hit the ice and have at it.
“To me, there were no excuses. Why I scheduled that was to put these guys in an environment that, if they ever want to play this game after [graduation], then you better learn to play some back-to-back nights.
“And more importantly, it was just to challenge them. And you know what, it wasn’t quite as bad after watching film, but just the way we lost it. We didn’t block enough shots, we lost too many one-on-one battles.”
Sophomore forward Brett Supinski, who left the game after getting drilled into the corner boards by RPI’s Jared Wilson in the second period on Saturday, did not play on Tuesday but could be available this weekend.
“We’ll see how he looks today [Thursday], and we’ll make a decision on whether he’s good to go this weekend.” . . .
Union is 1-for-29 (3.4 percent) on the power play in its last four games, including some 5-on-3 advantages. Bennett said he’s more concerned with the penalty kill, though, since the Dutchmen at least have been getting plenty of good scoring chances on the PP. . . .
Union hosts Brown at 7 on Saturday. The Bears, who won five games last year, have been outscored 9-0 in two games this season, a 3-0 loss at Holy Cross and a 6-0 loss at Providence.
Still, Union was 0-1-1 against the Bears last season and hasn’t beaten Brown since Dec. 5, 2014.