RPI sweeps Union off of their Skates

Engineers build 4-0 lead and win 4-2 to grab the Capital Skates Trophy away from their crosstown rivals
RPI's Jake Johnson, left, checks Union's Cole Maier during the Engineers' 4-2 victory.
RPI's Jake Johnson, left, checks Union's Cole Maier during the Engineers' 4-2 victory.

SCHENECTADY — Any notion that the Union-RPI hockey rivalry means more to the media and fans than it does to the players was emphatically dispelled Saturday night.

The Engineers took a 4-0 lead after two periods and polished off not only a 4-2 victory at Messa Rink and a weekend sweep, but enjoyed the experience of the Dutchmen handing over the Capital Skates Trophy on Union’s home ice.

The whole weekend was a remarkable result, considering how RPI came in winless in three games while barely generating any offense, while undefeated Union (4-2-1) had risen to No. 11 in the country. Everyone likes to say the won-lost records don’t matter when these teams face each other, and this time, that certainly was the case.

“We didn’t come into the weekend trying to sweep Union, we came in trying to have a good shift, and then another good shift,” RPI head coach Dave Smith said. “We had the same approach tonight, and it sneaks up to you, because you’re in such a heated battle. I think it was with seven seconds that it hit you … ‘We just had a good weekend.'”

“Oh, Lord, does it sting more because it’s them,” Union junior defenseman Vas Kolias said. “They’re a good team, but you never want to lose to them. They’re not a fun team to lose to.

“It was bitter. It made me bitter. It made a lot of the guys bitter. The locker room after the game, there were not a lot of happy guys. But we can learn a lot from it.”

RPI took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals in transition from defense to offense.

Donovan Ott scored at 12:46 after RPI responded to a good scoring chance for Cole Maier by counter-punching with a rush the other way.

Todd Burgess made it 2-0 at 13:56 with an easy tap-in off a give-and-go with Jacob Hayhurst, who slid the puck across the front of the crease from the left circle.

“Not specifically just for Union, but that’s something we work on all the time, quick transition, catching their defense off guard and just going hard to the net,” Ott said.

Ott scored his second of the game and second of the season at 9:53 of the second when he easily flipped in the second rebound during a goalmouth scramble with goalie Jake Kupsky sprawled on the ice to make it 3-0.

The Engineers went up 4-0 at 14:46 of the second on a nifty redirection by Brady Wiffen while he was camped near the left post on the power play. Defenseman Jake Johnson’s shot from the left point was a little wide, but Wiffen deflected it just enough to sneak it into the back of the net.

Ryan Walker got one back for Union at 2:43 of the third when his turnaround shot from a very tight angle in the corner bounced off a skate and in.

Although Union’s power play went 0-for-13 for the weekend after the Dutchmen scored with their first man-advantage in Friday’s 5-3 loss, Union did score with an extra skater as head coach Rick Bennett pulled Kupsky with 5:35 left in the game.

Less than a minute later, Kolias’ shot from the point found its way through traffic to cut it to 4-2 with 4:33 left, but that was the end of the scoring.

“There was a turning point after the first period on Friday,” Smith said. “I just turned it over to them. You have a choice, you can play winning hockey — and at that moment, we pointed at Jacob Hayhurst, because he plays winning hockey, he doesn’t chase guys. He pursues the game really aggressively. And whatever they did, they came out and played five great periods.”

After Walker’s goal cut it to 4-1, Union wasted a five-minute major early in the third that led to a game disqualification for RPI’s Patrick Polino, who will have to sit out the Engineers’ next game.

He crunched Kolias into the corner boards, and the Union player needed a few moments to get back on his feet. While Polino paid a stiff penalty for the hit, “We didn’t make them pay for it, though,” Kolias said.

Then Union had to watch the Engineers celebrate with the Capital Skates Trophy that Union had held for the last two seasons.

“I, personally, am not a fan of watching it, but it’s something to light a fire,” Kolias said. “At the same time, there’s something to learn from it, watching how happy they were and knowing that could’ve been us if we had brought our ‘A’ game.”

“They earned it, and did a great job,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t the easiest thing, bringing that trophy over, but they earned it.

“By no means are we down. It’s a long season, especially in our league. We have 20 battles left until we get to the playoffs. So we’re going to learn. But as we talked about in there, I let my foot off the gas, gave them a day off on Tuesday, shorter practices, just to try to get rest. And that’s not our culture. We’re going back to hard work.”

RPI 2 2 0 — 4

Union 0 0 2 — 2

First period — 1, RPI, Ott 1 (Hayhurst, Leppanen), 12:46. 2, RPI, Burgess 1 (Hayhurst), 13:56. Penalties — Brierley, U (tripping), 2:30; Hayhurst, RPI (holding), 17:07.

Second period — 3, RPI, Ott 2 (Wiffen, Ferner), 9:53. 4, RPI, Wiffen 1 (Johnson, Hayhurst), 14:46 (pp), 14:46 (pp). Penalties — Marrello, RPI (holding), 1:53; Grant, RPI (interference), 11:22; Morton, U (high sticking), 12:55; Marrello, RPI (interference), 18:15.

Third period — 5, Union, Walker 1 (Maier, Morgan), 2:43. 6, Union, Kolias 1 (Campolieto, Foo), 15:27. Penalties — Polino, RPI (major-hitting from behind, game disqualification), 2:52; Adams, U (hooking), 16:49.

Shots on goal — RPI 9-8-4 — 21. Union 10-11-17 — 38.

Power-play opportunities — RPI 1 of 3. Union 0 of 5.

Goalies — RPI, Marshall 2-3-0 (38 shots-36 saves). Union, Kupsky 2-1-1 (21-17).

Win – Linden Marshall, REN (2-3-0). Loss – Jake Kupsky, UNI (2-1-1).

T — 2:20. A — 2,151.

Referees — Douglas Place Jr., CJ Hanafin. Linesmen — Stephen Drain, Matt Brady.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

Categories: -Sports, College Sports

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