Hockey: When rivals Union, RPI meet, games usually go down to the wire (with videos)

There is one thing that is nearly guaranteed when Capital Region college hockey rivals Union and Ren

There is one thing that is nearly guaranteed when Capital Region college hockey rivals Union and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute get together — the games will be very close.

Seven of the last eight games, and 11 of 14, have been either a one-goal decision or a tie. And both sides are expecting more of the same tonight, when the Dutchmen travel to Troy to face the Engineers in an ECAC Hockey showdown at 7 at Houston Field House.

It will be the first of three regular-season meetings between the two teams. If it’s anything like last season’s games, it will be very exciting.

“You believe so,” said RPI coach Seth Appert, who has a 4-10-3 record against Union. “I kept saying in the last two to three years that I don’t think we could top the game that just happened. Somehow, we find ways to top what just happened.”

Last year’s games produced last-minute dramatic finishes.

– Mat Bodie scored with 30 seconds left in the third period, helping Union to a 3-3 tie in the Halloween Havoc game at Lake Placid Oct. 30.

– In the first ECACH game between the teams Nov. 12 at Messa Rink, RPI thought it had scored the tying goal with seven seconds left in the third. Instead, referee Bryan Hicks became public enemy No. 1 among RPI fans when he ruled that an Engineer interfered with Dutchmen goalie Keith Kinkaid and waved off the goal.

That played produced “Video-Gate.” Appert brought a computer laptop to the postgame press conference and showed the video. That later got Appert suspended.

– The next night at Houston Field House, there was another last-second goal. This time, it counted. Marty O’Grady scored with less than a second left to tie the score, 3-3, and send the game into overtime. RPI won it, 4-3, on Nick Bailen’s power-play goal at 2:56.

“It’s obviously going to be a hard-fought game,” said Dutchmen leading scorer Kelly Zajac, who scored an overtime game-winner against RPI Feb. 7, 2009, at Messa Rink. “They always are against RPI. Those are the types of games you want to play in as a player. It shows what kind of player you are, what kind of team you have. We have to come out and set the tone early.”

Last year’s game in Troy was the third straight crazy finish there. The other two came less than two weeks apart.

In the championship game of the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament Nov. 28, 2009, RPI’s Paul Kerins scored a power-play goal with under a second left to tie the score, 4-4. But Jason Walters won it for Union with 1:21 left in overtime.

In the ECACH matchup Dec. 9, Walters scored with 51 seconds left in the third period to make it 4-4, and the game seemingly was headed for OT. But Dutchmen defenseman Mike Schreiber’s wrist shot from the left point beat goalie Allen York 32 seconds later, giving Union a 5-4 lead. Walters got a tripping penalty with six seconds left, but the Dutchmen held on for the win.

Rick Bennett has been part of the rivalry since joining the Union hockey staff as an assistant coach in 2005. He even guided Union to a 5-1 win over RPI in the third-place game of Vermont’s Catamount Classic Dec. 30, 2006, while then-head coach Nate Leaman was working with the United States World Junior team.

Now, Bennett gets his first chance as the Dutchmen’s head coach in this rivalry.

“I’m expecting a very close game,” Bennett said. “It looks like both teams, at the moment, trying to find the back of the net [and] trying to find ways to score goals. Anytime you have that, sometimes it could be a 2-1 game, or it could be a 6-5 type of game. Either way, it’s going to be exciting.”

Bennett hopes the Dutchmen learned a lesson in last year’s game in Troy.

“I just want to keep our com­posure, stay poised, not leave your feet as we did last year, having a defenseman go down and taking himself out of the play,” Bennett said. “My advice to our team will be poise versus panic. We want to be a poised hockey team in those situations.”

Both teams struggled offensively over the weekend against Brown and Yale, scoring just one goal each. RPI’s goal came in a 1-0 victory over Brown on Saturday. Union’s goal came 32 seconds into Friday’s 2-1 loss to Brown. Neither team could solve Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm.

RPI defenseman and co-captain Mike Bergin believes goals will be scarce tonight.

“It’s usually a defensive battle between us, close checking and a lot of hits,” Bergin said.


The Dutchmen dropped in the polls. They fell from ninth to 13th in the hockey poll, and from ninth to 12th in the USA Today/USA Hockey Mag­azine poll. . . .

Bennett said who starts in goal will be a game-time decision. Troy Grosenick was pulled from the Yale game after allowing four goals on 18 shots and was replaced by Colin Stevens. Stevens, a Niskayuna

native, started against Brown. . . .

RPI leads the all-time series, 45-23-70, including 18-16-6 in ECACH play. . . .

Dutchmen forward Jeremy Welsh returns to the lineup. He was suspended for Saturday’s game against Yale after getting a game disqualification penalty against Brown. . . .

Union seeks to hold onto the Capital Skates Trophy, which goes to the winner of the season series, for an eighth straight season.

Categories: College Sports

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