Power play struggles haunt Union men’s hockey

Union's Gleb Murtazin passes the puck next to RPI's Lauri Sertti during Friday's ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Union's Gleb Murtazin passes the puck next to RPI's Lauri Sertti during Friday's ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.

It wasn’t a great weekend for the Union College men’s hockey team as it got swept by Capital Region rival RPI.

One main reason the Dutchmen struggled was their power play, which went 1 for 10. In Friday’s 4-2 loss at Messa Rink, the Dutchmen had a great opportunity to either tie or take the lead when they received a 59-second two-man advantage midway through the third period. But the Dutchmen spent the majority of that time passing the puck and looking for the perfect shot that never came.

In Saturday’s 3-0 defeat, Union got three power plays. On the first two advantages, the Dutchmen had trouble getting set up in the RPI zone.

Union was credited with two power-play shots on goal in the game. The best chance came on their third power play. With 10:31 left in the second period, sophomore forward Liam Robertson was coming down the slot when he fired a wrist shot. RPI graduate goalie Linden Marshall got his glove on it.

“We made some adjustments between periods,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said. “I thought [assistant coach] John Ronan did a good job and made some adjustments and allowed us to get in their zone and get set up. Again, it’s just getting the reps.”

Bennett has also been trying the right power-play unit combinations to produce. Union is just 6 for 36 (16.7%) on the power play.

“We’ve had a high turnover rate with the power plays, just putting guys in the lineup,” Bennett said. “It hasn’t been fair to John. As a player, you get the opportunity, you have to make the most of that.”

Some other observations from the weekend series.

SMALL, BUT LOUD

Can a crowd of 693 be louder than one nearly three times the size?

The answer is yes.

The 693 RPI fans who attended Saturday’s game were lively and into the game from the moment the teams came out for player introductions. They were in mid-season form with saying how bad the Union starters are, complaining about the officiating and cheering when the Engineers scored. The RPI Pep Band was also in fine form.

RPI is allowing only students, faculty and staff to attend athletic events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Union is allowing all fans, but they must wear a mask. Friday’s crowd at Messa Rink was 1,738. But, there didn’t seem to be the same enthusiasm that the RPI fans had Saturday.

When asked about the lackluster crowd at Messa after Friday’s game, RPI head coach Dave Smith said he wasn’t really paying attention to that.

But he had a different answer following Saturday’s game.

“I actually looked [Saturday night], and I was so happy and impressed and proud of the student body support,” Smith said. “I looked up, and it felt like that this whole one side was full of students. Honestly, that’s the first thing I noticed post-game.”

SHUTOUTS

The last time RPI shut out Union was Jan. 29, 2019, in the Mayor’s Cup. But the Engineers were also blanked in that game. Union won a shootout 3-2 to take the Mayor’s Cup.

When was the last time the Engineers blanked the Dutchmen in an ECAC Hockey game? You have to go all the way back to Jan. 15, 2000, when RPI shut out Union 5-0 at Houston Field House. RPI goalie Joel Laing made 31 saves and also picked up an assist.

KEEPING THE TROPHY

In sweeping the two-game series. the Engineers retained the Capital Skates Trophy for the third straight year.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Marshall, who made 38 saves in the two games.

CASUAL STAFF

The Union coaching staff went casual for Saturday’s game. They decided not to wear ties and went with the top button on their shirts open.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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