Discipline and having your players stay out of the penalty box can always be a challenge for college coaches. Particularly early in the season when referees and players are getting used to one another – and what is and isn’t a penalty – you often see penalty totals that are, shall we say, a bit inflated over the norm.
Last weekend, penalty trouble boiled over for two Hockey East teams and as a result led to their respective head coaches boiling over after the game.
On Friday night, both Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin and Maine bench boss Tim Whitehead were beyond frustrated with their team’s inability to stay out of the box. For Cronin, the result wasn’t that bad as his team scrapped for a 2-2 tie at home against Rensselaer. For Maine and Whitehead, the story wasn’t as pleasant as penalties were a large part of a 3-2 road loss to Michigan State that dropped the Black Bears to 1-1-2 in the early going.
The fact that Northeastern earned a tie was nearly miraculous. The Huskies were whistled for 48 minutes in penalties which included not one, but two five-minute checking for behind majors that sent Zak Stone and Randy Guzior to the locker room early with game misconduct penalties. Add to that the fact that the Huskies gave RPI three looks with a 5-on-3 and it’s a miracle that the Engineers managed just two goals.
When asked what can be done to teach players the pitfalls of taking bad penalties, Cronin just shook his head.
“I [kept thinking] when I was on the bench, ‘How do you [take penalties] when you know you’re going to be sitting in the penalty box and that your teammates are going to be shorthanded,'” said Cronin. “The guys that really should be pissed off are the guys out there on the 5-on-3s blocking shots. They did a great job. I’d be pissed if I were them.
“So to answer the question, I don’t know.”
Cronin says he can’t really even bench guys for bad penalties as his team’s roster is already thin with the injury bug.
“We’re down to the last of the Mohicans so to speak,” Cronin said. “I hope that what happens is that these guys will get upset in the room.
“Any team that has a sense of responsibility to themselves, that has a sensitivity to their teammates, they don’t [take bad penalties]. Some of the penalties are penalties. That’s why they have referees because you’re going to have penalties. But when you’re going to whack a guy on the faceoff and give a team a 5-on-3 for 1:52, I don’t know. It’s just not good.”
For Maine, Friday’s loss was definitely amplified by the number of penalties Tim Whitehead’s team took. A night after taking 11 minor penalties and letting a 4-2 lead slip through their fingers on Thursday, settling for a 4-4 tie, the Black Bears continued its troublesome ways handing the Spartans seven power play opportunities. Maine killed all seven penalties, including a full two-minute 5-on-3 when Will O’Neill and Jeff Dimmen were both sent off for roughing after the whistle. Though happy with his penalty killers, Whitehead was none too happy with the team’s discipline.
“We had a great third period but you can’t win a game by playing one period against a really good team in their rink,” said Whitehead referring to a rally from a two-goal deficit that knotted the game at two with 8:40 remaining. “The penalties we took cost us. I waited too long to bench [O’Neill] and some of the other guys, but when I did, I thought the boys played well. It was too little too late.”
Whitehead said he felt since the opening game of the season, an 8-2 win over Massachusetts-Lowell at home, his team has looked a little too comfortable. That led to two ties and then Friday’s loss. And more importantly, a reckless abandoning of the necessary discipline on the ice.
“[Lack of discipline] cost us,” said Whitehead. “I don’t know how many ways to say it. It’s a great wake up call for us. We know we’re not going to win if we get in the penalty box.”
Travis Roy feautre to air tonight on Versus
Versus will air a special feature story on former BU forward Travis Roy who, as most know, was paralyzed 11 seconds into his BU career in October of 1995. The extended feature will include interviews with Roy, his family, BU head coach Jack Parker and former BU teammate Chris Drury. The feature will air at 7 p.m. during Versus’ Hockey Central pre-game show for the Boston Bruins game against the Washington Capitals. The feature will chornicle Roy’s courageous battle with paralysis and provide never-before-seen footage. Sounds like something for which to set the DVR!
Thanks to Paula Weston, who contributed to this report.