SCHENECTADY — Growing up in Hudson Falls, Union College junior goalie Connor Murphy knew about the rivalry between the Dutchmen and RPI.
On Friday night, he’ll get to experience it for the first time.
In the first official meeting between the Capital Region rivals since the Mayor’s Cup game on Jan. 25, 2020, Union and RPI begin ECAC Hockey play against one another at 7 p.m. Friday at Messa Rink. The teams will meet at Houston Field House in Troy at 7 p.m. Saturday.
At stake is the Capital Skates trophy, which goes to the winner of the series. RPI is the current holder of the trophy.
“It’s exciting,” said Murphy, who transferred from Northeastern. “I think everyone is pretty fired up for it. Obviously, I do have a little bit of knowledge of what it’s like for these two teams to go against each other. For the younger guys and sophomores who haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s going to be pretty exciting for them once they finally get on the ice and see what it’s like.”
Union senior forward and team captain Josh Kosack is looking forward to facing the Engineers.
“Obviously, our first six games could have definitely gone better. We have a lot to learn from,” Kosack said. “But now league play starts, and for a lot of guys, they don’t know this rivalry. They’re going to learn pretty quick. I know all the returners are ready to go, and we’re super excited.”
The Dutchmen (1-4-1) and Engineers (2-2-1) played in an exhibition game Oct. 2 at Messa, which was won by the Engineers 5-2. It was the first game for both teams since the end of the 2019-20 season. Neither team played last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The exhibition game didn’t have the intensity of a regular-season game, when standing points or the Mayor’s Cup are on the line.
“Our guys are very excited to play Union,” RPI head coach Dave Smith said. “I know that it was an exhibition game, but that was the first time we stepped on the ice. I would hesitate to call it not meaningful, even though it was just an exhibition game. It had a lot of meaning, [but] not in the standings. It was truly an exhibition game, but that had so much meaning because we hadn’t played in 18 months.”
While no attendance was announced for the exhibition game, the stands were about three-quarters full. Friday’s game will be packed because it’s sold out.
“I think it’s going to be an absolutely electric barn,” Union freshman forward Michael Hodge said. “Each game, our sophomores and freshmen who hadn’t played in any games are starting to learn more and more every time you step on the ice. I think our confidence is going up, and it should be a good battle coming up here.”
RPI graduate student goalie and co-captain Linden Marshall knows the intensity will be ratchet up this weekend.
“I think the [three] points on the line definitely adds some,” said Marshall, who was named ECACH Goalie of the Week on Monday after his 28-save performance in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Vermont. “But when it comes to us and Union, it’s always a big rivalry. I know both teams really want to win those games.”
The Dutchmen are coming off of a pair of losses at Lake Superior State last weekend. Union head coach Rick Bennett believes his team is ready for ECACH play.
“I like to think we’re better than the exhibition game,” Bennett said. “Our record may not show that. Honestly, going into the year, I wasn’t too focused on the first half as far as wins and losses. We were focused on if we were improving each week.”