In what was supposed to be a spirited rivalry matchup between Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Albany, N.Y., turned into a little-too-spirited melee. With Rensselaer leading 2-1 with just over a second to play, there was one final faceoff.
Union defenseman Mat Bodie cross-checked Rensselaer forward Brock Higgs high and the two started going at it. Then several other players paired off as the final horn sounded. As all that is happening, the two coaches started screaming at each other. What happened next was rather shocking (at the 0:40 mark of the video).
Union head coach Rick Bennett charged after RPI head coach Seth Appert and needed to be restrained by players and assistants. Bennett even took a few swipes at various assistant coaches as well, never reaching a target.
More from the scene from Ken Schott of the Daily Gazette:
As the Dutchmen went out on the ice, Union coach Rick Bennett charged after RPI coach Seth Appert. Bennett, who was a tough guy during his pro playing days, was in a rage. He had to be held back by one of the referees.
There were a couple of fights, with the main event being RPI defenseman Luke Curadi and Union forward Eli Lichtenwald. [Mike] Zalewski was involved in a fight. Union defenseman Mat Bodie grabbed someone’s facemask hard.
Those four players not only got five minute majors, but game disqualifications, as well. That means they will miss their team’s games Friday. Union is at St. Lawrence, and RPI is at Clarkson.
A total of 19 penalties were handed out to nine different players as time expired in the game. As for the coaches, they’re likely to be getting a phone call very soon as well.
Fighting, as you may know, is not allowed in college hockey. Scenes like Saturday’s in Albany are extremely rare in the NCAA. There’s a whole lot of ugliness in this one and we likely haven’t heard the last of what will come out of it.
Bennett and Appert addressed their actions in his post-game comments. Also from Schott:
“I’m actually embarrassed about my actions,” Bennett said. “I apologize to our president, our athletic director, our fans, Garnet Blades members, to the RPI fans, their coaching staff, their players. That’s now we want to be represented.”
“I’d like to apologize for that end of the game [incident],” Appert said. “These are two heated rivals that have had some of these incidents, but we have a tremendous amount of respect for Union. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rick Bennett and his coaching staff. When you play in a heated rivalry game, sometimes things boil over. But that’s not the way we want to be portrayed at all. I know they don’t either.”
With the win, RPI snapped a 10-game losing streak to Union and now there’s a whole new chapter to a intensifying rivalry.
UPDATE: Here’s the latest on the fallout from the Mayor’s Cup Melee.
Union College has suspended head coach Rick Bennett two games for his role in the post-game dust-up. He will miss games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
“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,” said athletic director Jim McLaughlin. “At this time we will be suspending Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Rick Bennett for two games, effective immediately. Assistant Coach Joe Dumais will serve as the Acting Head Coach during the team’s two ECAC Hockey league games next weekend at St. Lawrence and Clarkson.”
“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,” said Bennett. “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.”
The ECAC dished out a few more suspensions to players on both teams. The league could have opted to suspend Bennett further as well, but said only that it “supports” Union’s two-game suspension and will issue no further discipline to the Dutchmen’s head coach.
You can read full suspension details from the ECAC here.
UPDATE 2: ECAC Issues Additional Suspensions
After initially announcing that the league would not suspend the coaches any further than Rick Bennett’s school-imposed two-game ban, the ECAC will suspend both Bennett and Seth Appert.
The ECAC levied an additional two-game suspension for Bennett’s role in the fracas, while Appert gets one game. Bennett will miss four games as he is already suspended for the next two games by the school.
“ECAC Hockey has continued to review the entire situation that occurred Saturday,” said Commissioner Steve Hagwell. “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.”
Weird bit of backtracking here by the league, but probably the right call. The ECAC caught quite a bit of flack for not acting more harshly on the coaches, who both deserved more scrutiny.
(Video via Laurel White)