SCHENECTADY — Friday’s Capital Region-rivalry matchup between RPI and Union came down to which team could take advantage of its breaks.
The Engineers were able to take advantage of a fortuitous bounce. The Dutchmen could not.
Ryan Mahshie scored the tie-breaking goal just over three minutes into the third period, and the Dutchmen failed to generate any shots on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third. That was the difference in the Engineers’ 4-2 ECAC Hockey victory before a sellout crowd of 1,738 at Messa Rink.
“It was a really even game that came down to a really big penalty kill and a few bounces,” RPI head coach Dave Smith said.
The two teams will play again at 7 p.m. Saturday, this time at Houston Field House.
On Mahshie’s goal, RPI graduate defenseman Anthony Baxter fired a shot from the high slot that sailed over the net. The shot hit the glass, and came out perfectly to Mahshie in front of the net. Union goalie Connor Murphy slid over to his left, which left the net open to his right, and Mahshie buried it to give the Engineers (1-0 ECACH, 3 points, 3-2-1 overall).
“I just tried to screen the goalie and get in front,” Mahshie said. “Obviously, ‘Bax’ had a great shot. I think I tipped it over the net, and it then hit off the glass. I was kind of lucky on the backside there and banked it in.”
The Dutchmen (0-1, 0 points, 1-6-1 overall) had a golden opportunity to at least tie the game for the third time, or even take the lead midway through the period.
RPI sophomore defenseman Lauri Sertti was called for holding at 9:25. Then Engineers senior forward Jakub Lacka was sent off for hooking at 10:27. That gave Union a two-man advantage for 59 seconds. The Dutchmen called their timeout to talk about strategy for the 5-on-3.
Whatever plan Union head coach Rick Bennett drew up, it didn’t work. The Dutchmen didn’t get a shot on goal during the 5-on-3. There was too much passing.
“It didn’t go our way,” Bennett said. “We didn’t capitalize on the power play. You lose the game. That’s how it works.”
What the Union players’ thoughts were remained unknown. They were not made available to the media at the post-game press conference.
The RPI players certainly had some thoughts on that penalty kill. For the game, the Engineers killed six of seven Dutchmen power plays.
“It’s the game on the line, basically,” said RPI graduate goalie Linden Marshall, who made 23 saves. “I think all night, we were outstanding on our penalty kill. They’re obviously a strong power-play team, and we knew that going in. We were definitely prepared for what they had to offer tonight, I thought.”
It was a strange start to the game. The teams combined for seven penalties in the first period. At one point, the teams were skating three aside.
RPI jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Simon Kjellberg goal as the teams were skating four aside in a penalty-filled first period. The junior defenseman carried the puck into the Union zone, and he fired a shot from the left circle that appeared to deflect off of Union freshman defenseman Cullen Ferguson and past Murphy’s glove, ringing off the post and into the net.
Freshman forward Michael Hodge got that one back for Union. He was in front of the net when a shot by Chaz Smedsrud deflected off of RPI junior defenseman Mason Klee and into the low slot. Hodge fired it past Marshall
The teams then exchanged power-play goals. RPI’s Zach Dubinsky scored late in the first. Tyler Watkins got one for Union just over 5 1-2 minutes into the second.
Lacka scored an empty-net goal with 31 seconds left to seal RPI’s win.
It will be the third period that will eat at Bennett and the Dutchmen.
“That was a nice puck bounce for them,” Bennett said, “but I guess you earn those puck bounces, too.”
RPI 2 0 2 — 4
Union 1 1 0 — 2
First Period — 1, RPI, Kjellberg 2, 12:50. 2, Union, Hodge 3 (Smedsrud, Kelly), 15:14. 3, RPI, Dubinsky 1 (Addamo, Walsh), 18:04 (pp). Penalties — Mahshie, RPI (cross-checking), 3:55; Addamo, RPI (tripping), 10:20; Seger, Uni (interference), 10:43; Smedsrud, Uni (faceoff violation), 12:08; Walsh, RPI (interference), 12:16; Murtazin, Uni (hooking), 17:10; Leppanen, RPI (tripping), 19:38
Second Period — 4, Union, Watkins 2 (Ferguson, Graf), 5:33 (pp). Penalties — Brackett, RPI (interference), 4:20; Petruolo, Uni (high-sticking), 9:14.
Third Period — 5, RPI, Mahshie 3 (Baxter, Beaton), 3:04. 6, RPI, Lacka 2, 19:29 (en). Penalties — Estes, Uni (holding), :21; Sertti, RPI (holding), 9:25; Lacka, RPI (hooking), 10:27.
Shots on Goal — RPI 14-8-9 — 31. Union 5-10-10 — 25.
Power-play opportunities — RPI 1 of 4; Union 1 of 7.
Goalies — RPI, Marshall 3-1-1 (25 shots-23 saves). Union, Murphy 1-4-1 (30-27).
A — 1,738. T — 2:11 .
Referees — Anthony Dapuzzo, Tom Steinel. Linesmen — Rick Lembo, Jordan Patarino.