Stakes higher for Union, RPI with ECACH standings points on line

The first two meetings between the Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst­itute hockey teams this sea

The first two meetings between the Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst­itute hockey teams this season produced dramatic finishes.

Can Round 3 match that?

Considering that tonight’s game at Houston Field House is the first ECAC Hockey meeting between the two teams, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The 20th-ranked Dutchmen (3-0-3 ECAC Hockey, 7-3-5 overall) make their second trip to Houston Field House in 12 days to face the Engineers (3-3, 8-8-1). Union, which is 4-0-4 in its last eight games, beat RPI, 5-4, in overtime to win the Rens­selaer Holiday Tournament title. That came a month after the Engineers overcame a 3-2 deficit at Messa Rink to take a 4-3 overtime victory over the Dutchmen.

Both of those games were non-league contests.

“They were both great games,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “I thought they both meant a lot, whether there were points involved, or a trophy involved. Anytime we play each other, there’s going to be a lot of pride on the line, so you’re going to get both teams’ ‘A’ games.”

Union defenseman Mike Schreiber is expecting the intensity to be higher because it is a league game.

“Every ECAC league game is huge,” Schreiber said. “It’s tough to get two points. As the season carries on, it definitely gets a little bit harder. And when we’re going on the [Christmas] break here, we want to have a winning record against RPI.”

RPI coach Seth Appert believes it may be difficult to match what the first two games produced.

“Those two games were pretty intense,” Appert said. “Anytime you play a rival of yours, the intensity is high. When you put league points on the line, it’s higher. When you put in the fact that we’ve had two overtime games with them that we’ve split in the last month and a half makes it even higher.

“I like the fact that we’ve played a couple of times. I like that they’ve been two hard-fought, tough games. That continues to build the animosity between the two teams.”

One big reason the games have been decided in overtime is that Union’s Stephane Boileau took two late-game penalties.

In the first game, his interference penalty led to Bryan Brutlag’s power-play goal with 2:54 left that tied the score, 3-3. Chase Polacek won it for the Engineers 1:58 into OT.

In Game 2, the Dutchmen had a 4-3 lead when Boileau was called for tripping with 31 seconds left. Paul Kerins scored the power-play goal with two-tenths of a second remaining to tie it. Boileau got off the hook when he set up Jason Walters’ OT game-winner at 3:39.

Union defenseman Mike Wakita took an elbowing penalty 1:08 into OT, but RPI couldn’t score.

“The discipline is a huge factor,” Walters said. “Both teams’ power play and penalty kills have been huge factors for their success this year.”

And that was a point of emph­asis for Leaman to his team in the practices it had Monday and Tuesday.

“The big thing we’re going to talk about is that we’ve taken bad penalties against them the past two games, and they’ve hurt us,” Leaman said. “They’re a team that’s capable of hurting you now on the power play, and we have to be really smart and disciplined in not giving them that opportunity.”

The Dutchmen, ranked for the first time in the NCAA hockey poll in nine years, have dominated the Engineers at Houston Field House, going 5-0-1 in the last six meetings there. RPI’s last home-ice win over Union was a 5-1 triumph Jan. 9, 2004, Leaman’s first season as Union’s coach.

“It’s one of those things that’s tough to explain,” Schreiber said.


Leaman is seeking his 99th career win. .  .  .

Appert said it’s doubtful that forward C.J. Lee (ankle) and defenseman Mike Bergin (concussion) will play. .  .  .

The teams will meet Jan. 16 at Messa.

Categories: College Sports

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