Hitting Its Stride
Union Peaks at the Right Time, Earns 2nd Straight ECAC Championship
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
Up and down its lineup, Union had the talent all season to put together a run. Coming off a Frozen Four appearance, it seemed like the Dutchmen were capable of something similar.
Inconsistency plagued Union for much of the season and threatened to ruin it. Right up until the championship game, Union still had to win to make the NCAAs.
But Union knew it was on to something in recent weeks, and it certainly was. And, if anything, the question marks only fueled the run.
“First of all I want to thank all of you here in the media for giving us a lot of bulletin board material,” said Union goaltender Troy Grosenick. “We really used it as motivation in the room. We never thought we were as bad as people made us out to be. It’s all about keeping that even level and steadily improving, night in, night out. We stuck to the process of working hard and that’s all that matters."
Still, Bennett knew he had work to do. Union wasn't bad, no, but Bennett has massaged this season all year, trying different things to get the team going on all cylinders. He was aware of the team's post-Frozen Four hangover, and as recently as four weeks ago, he benched top scorer Wayne Simpson in a game at Cornell.
“Last year was really special,” said Union coach Rick Bennett. “I don’t want to take away from last season, but this season has been phenomenal. It is a lot of fun to work with these guys and it never gets old coming.”
Bennett became the second active ECAC coach to win tournament championships in his first two seasons, joining Cornell's Mike Schafer (1996-97). Union did it with a 3-1 win over an up-and-coming Brown team, in a game that certainly wasn't easy, with Brown outshooting the Dutchmen 33-22.
The repeat was the first in the ECAC tournament since St. Lawrence in 2000 and 2001.
“Last year’s experience really helped our guys to stay composed and relaxed,” said Grosenick. "You could really tell that guys were doing a great job staying relaxed and just keeping it simple. That is what it takes to win tournament games. That experience was very important this year.”
Said Bennett, “If you keep writing peaks and valleys you will keep our bulletin board stocked. It’s all part of the racket in sports but our guys did a great job handling it. The locker room is sacred and these guys do a great job keeping that locker room sacred. There is just tremendous character in there.”
Union looks like a team on a mission now, just as it was for most of last season, right up until the Frozen Four. The same feeling exudes from the Dutchmen now.
“It is always the goal to win the last game of the season,” Bennett said. “It’s every college hockey team’s goal, to raise that trophy at the end of the season. Obviously we didn’t accomplish that last year and it is one of our goals this year. We have to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time, one period at a time and we can’t be thinking about raising that trophy before we play the first game in the tournament. We will get back to work on Monday and work from there.”
Grosenick was helped by two goals from New Jersey native Max Novak.
“The feeling never gets old,” said Bennett. “Grosenick and Max Novak had phenomenal weekends and that is one of the reasons why we are celebrating tonight.”
Grosenick was the goaltender of the year last season in the ECAC, but this year he allowed nearly a half goal more per game and didn't even make the all-ECAC teams. But there was no panic in his mindset and he again has been lights out when it mattered the most.
Grosenick is a big game goaltender and it showed against Brown. He stopped everything he had to in preserving the win but Grosenick knows Union still has business left; one of the few things last year’s Union team did not accomplish.
“The defense all year has been great in front of me,” said Grosenick. “Any time a goalie can see almost every shot; and those guys are clearing out rebounds in front of me it is a goaltender’s best friend. The forwards do a great job blocking shots as well. When we do those things it makes my job pretty easy and it’s how we get the job done. If we do that we will be pretty successful.”