It had been a month since Union last played at Messa Rink, and Dutchmen coach Nate Leaman thought his team was a bit nervous.
With Capital Region-rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute the Dutchmen’s opponent and a standing-room only crowd of 2,341 looking on, the Dutchmen weren’t doing the things that helped them to the top of the ECAC Hockey standings and No. 13 ranking in the USCHO.com NCAA hockey poll.
But an important save by goalie Keith Kinkaid and a couple of faceoff wins led to two goals sparked another Union win.
Adam Presizniuk tied the score in the second period, and Wayne Simpson got a power-play goal early in the third, lifting the Dutchmen to a 3-1 victory over the Engineers to take the season series, 3-1, and the Capital Skates Trophy.
The Dutchmen (7-0-3 ECACH, 13-4-5 overall), who have won five straight and are 10-1-4 in their last 15 games, have a one-point lead over second-place Cornell. Union, which got an empty-net goal from Luke Cain with 1:02 left in the game, is the only unbeaten team in league play.
For the first half of the game, the Dutchmen were sluggish. They gave up a short-handed goal to Chase Polacek late in the first period. RPI (5-5, 12-11-1) was dictating the pace.
“I thought we had a lot of weight on our shoulders when we started that game,” Leaman said. “We wanted to impress a little bit too much, and because of that, we were a little tight.”
Polacek almost got another short-handed goal with 14:24 left in the second. He had a breakaway on goalie Kinkaid.
“A couple of things went through my head,” Polacek said. “I was going pretty fast, and I realized that he came out pretty far. Originally, I was going to go five-hole, and then I thought deke because he was so far out. The last minute, I switched to blocker.”
Kinkaid stopped the shot.
“I knew I had to come up big after I let that short-handed goal in,” said Kinkaid, who made 22 saves and won all three games against RPI. “Hopefully, it gave us a little momentum.”
A faceoff win by Jason Walters in the RPI right circle turned the tide. He drew the puck to Mario Valery-Trabucco, and then Presizniuk dug it out of a scrum in the circle. He fired a shot from the high slot over goalie Allen York’s glove with 6:32 left in the second.
“ ‘Preszie’s’ goal was a big goal for us,” Leaman said. “That’s what got us going. It loosened us up.”
Simpson’s goal, which came five seconds after RPI’s Peter Merth went off for hooking, came as a result of a faceoff win by his brother, John. Wayne Simpson was standing to the right of the net when Greg Coburn’s left-point shot deflected through a maze of players to him. He had an easy tap in.
“It was key,” Leaman said. “We, obviously, watched a lot of video on it this week. We even watched video on their particular centers, and how to win their draws. You can do that when you have enough time this week to prepare for only one opponent.”
The goal ended a 14-game scoring drought for Wayne Simpson. His last goal came Oct. 30, against RPI.
“It’s a big relief,” Simpson said. “I don’t know what it is. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
While RPI coach Seth Appert was happy with his team’s effort, he knows that the goals off the faceoff hurt his team.
“Certainly, we played hard,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “The few mistakes that we made gave them opportunities. And I thought they were good in the third. I thought that they earned that win in the third period.”
RPI 1 0 0 — 1
Union 0 1 2 — 3
First Period — 1, RPI, Polacek 16 (D’Amigo, Merth), 16:33 (sh). Penalties — Malchuk, RPI (boarding), 13:39; Burgdoerfer, RPI (interference), 15:04.
Second Period — 2, Union, Presizniuk 7 (Valery-Trabucco, Walters), 13:28. Penalties — Foss, RPI (holding stick), 5:28; Presizniuk, Uni (hitting from behind), 14:30; Boileau, Uni (interference), 18:00.
Third Period — 3, Union, W. Simpson 4 (Welsh, Coburn), 1:16 (pp). 4, Union, Cain 2 (Welsh), 18:58 (pp). Penalties — Merth, RPI (hooking), 1:11; Shaffer, Uni (kneeing), 9:18; Pirri, RPI (interference), 10:29; Merth, RPI (slashing), 11:29; Wakita, Uni (hooking), 19:54.
Shots on Goal — RPI 9-7-7 — 23. Union 8-7-12 — 27.
Power-play opportunities — RPI 0 of 4; Union 1 of 6.
Goalies — RPI, York 9-9-1 (26 shots-24 saves). Union, Kinkaid 7-2-2 (23-22).
A — 2,341. T — 2:12.
Referees — Dan Murphy, John Murphy. Linesmen — Justin Prusak, Andy Petrus.
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Categories: College Sports