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Union hockey coach suspended

School takes action for behavior following loss to RPI

January 26, 2014
Updated 11:01 a.m.
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RPI's Guy Leboeuf (3) checks Union's Kevin Sullivan (16) at the Mayor's Cup at the Times Union Center in Albany on Saturday, January 25, 2014.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
RPI's Guy Leboeuf (3) checks Union's Kevin Sullivan (16) at the Mayor's Cup at the Times Union Center in Albany on Saturday, January 25, 2014.

— It didn’t take long for some punishment to be handed out to Union College men’s hockey coach Rick Bennett for his actions at the conclusion of the Mayor’s Cup game against Capital Region rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday night at the Times Union Center.

The school suspended Bennett for two games on Sunday in what could be the first of several penalties for the third-year Dutchmen coach.

Bennett charged after RPI coach Seth Appert while there were numerous players grabbing and punching each other after the Engineers upset the third-ranked Dutchmen, 2-1. Looking enraged, Bennett had to be restrained from one of the on-ice officials before he could reach Appert.

“We regret the incidents that took place upon the conclusion of last night’s men’s ice hockey game vs. RPI and wish to apologize for our actions,” Union College Athletic Director Jim McLaughlin said in a released statement. “At this time, we will be suspending head men’s ice hockey coach Rick Bennett for two games, effective immediately.”

Bennett, who was a standout player at Providence College and was a very physical player during his pro career, expressed remorse for his actions.

“On behalf of Union College and the men’s hockey team, I apologize for my actions and behavior after last night’s game against RPI,” Bennett said in the statement. “The administration, supporters, and loyal fans of both programs deserve and demand better from me. I’m truly sorry for the events that took place after the game.”

To see a video of the end-of-game brawls, click here

Bennett won’t travel with the Dutchmen when they head to the North Country this weekend for ECAC Hockey games against St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Saturday. Assistant Coach Joe Dumais will serve as acting head coach. Bennett will still be able to run practices.

But there could be more discipline against Bennett and possibly some of the other players.

A league spokesman said that ECACH commissioner Steve Hagwell and director of officiating Paul Stewart were reviewing tape of the postgame fracas, as well as the written reports of referees Chip McDonald and Scott Whittemore. An announcement is expected today.

Two players from each team will sit out Friday’s game because of game disqualifications they received. Union defenseman Mat Bodie and center Eli Lichtenwald will miss the St. Lawrence game, while RPI defenseman Luke Curadi and forward Mike Zalewski, who scored the game-winning goal, will be out for the Clarkson contest. Bodie got his DQ for facemasking. The other three players received theirs for fighting, which, unlike pro hockey, is not allowed in NCAA hockey.

A video posted on YouTube showed that shortly after a faceoff in the RPI circle with 1.7 seconds left in the game, Bodie cross-checked RPI’s Brock Higgs in the head. Several RPI players who were coming off the bench to celebrate the end of a 10-game losing streak against Union went after Bodie, and everything broke loose. The Dutchmen had six skaters on the ice before the rest of the team joined in. Bodie then squared off with Zalewski at center ice.

Then, the video shows Bennett going after Appert near the RPI bench. Appert was being pushed away by Engineers forward Milos Bubela.

Both coaches apologized during their respective postgame press conferences. Appert compared the battle to fighting with a best friend.

“He’s a great coach. He’s a great man,” Appert said. “He’s tough. He’s competitive. [The incident] doesn’t change how I feel about him.

“This isn’t just fluff for the cameras. Rick and I have a good relationship, and there’s a lot of respect. I respect how tough he is, and I respect how competitive he is. I would have loved to be a teammate of his. Things happen. They boil over. I’ve fought my best friend before at Ferris State, and he was my captain, and you don’t think anything about it the next day.”

 
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