For the last seven games of the Capital Region Route 7 college hockey rivalry between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union, the Dutchmen have had the upper hand.
Union has won all seven games, including the two ECAC Hockey games in November. In those games, the Dutchmen outscored the Engineers, 33-13. The goalies who allowed those goals were Bryce Merriam and Scott Diebold.
But as the 19th-ranked Dutchmen prepare for tonight’s inaugural Mayor’s Cup contest at 7:30 at the Times Union Center, they will, in all likelihood, see an Engineers goalie they only got a glimpse of earlier this season.
Freshman netminder Jason Kasdorf played the final 20 minutes of the Engineers’ 7-3 loss to the Dutchmen at Messa Rink on Nov. 3. Union didn’t test him much, mainly because they had put the game away with a six-goal second period that made the score 7-2.
Kasdorf faced eight shots on goal in the third period. The Dutchmen even had a five-minute power play in the third, but spent most of it passing the puck.
“We don’t know what to expect,” said senior right winger Wayne Simpson, Union’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 26 points. “We’ll probably try to test him early. We always like to get shots on net early in the period, and see if the goalie’s feeling them and how he’s doing. It’s just going to be something we test out.”
Dutchmen senior forward Kyle Bodie agrees with Simpson.
“To be a freshman and a starting goalie, you must be doing something well,” said Bodie, Union’s second-leading scorer with six goals and 19 assists. “It’s just like another game. We’ve got to get pucks on net, and we’ve got to get men to the net. That’s something we’ve been working on and been improving on the last couple of games.”
Union coach Rick Bennett believes not seeing much of Kasdorf is a disadvantage to the Dutchmen.
“It’s like a pitcher coming from the National League to the American League, you just don’t know what you’re going to get,” Bennett said. “As much as you try to scout them, you just don’t know. If Seth decides to play him, that’s an area we’ll have to try to figure out.”
RPI coach Seth Appert was coy about whether or not Kasdorf will be in goal.
“Who’s to say [Union’s] not going to see him this weekend?” Appert said. “We’ll reserve judgment on who’s going to play in net until [this] morning, just like we always do. Jason’s playing very well, but I have a lot of confidence in our other two guys, as well. Bryce has been real sharp of late, especially in practice and in those two games he played at Quinnipiac and Princeton, and he was sharp at BU [Boston University].
“Whoever gets the nod [tonight], we feel confident that they’ll give us a strong performance.”
Here’s why Kasdorf will probably start. He is 4-1-2 with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. Kasdorf’s GAA and save percentage are fifth best in the nation.
He returned to the lineup last weekend after missing the previous six games because of a shoulder injury suffered during a game at St. Cloud State on Dec. 27. All he did was stop 66 of 69 shots in helping RPI (8-10-5) sweep Colgate and Cornell at Houston Field House. It was the first time the Engineers did that at home against the Central New York schools since Feb. 26-27, 1999. That helped Kasdorf earn ECACH rookie of the week.
Thanks to modern technology, Kasdorf isn’t sure how much of an advantage he has.
“They do video, we do video, so they can see as much of us as they want, and we can see them,” said Kasdorf, a 2011 draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets.
RPI’s last win over Union was a 4-3 overtime victory Nov. 13, 2010, at Houston Field House. Marty O’Grady scored just before time expired in regulation to tie it, and Nick Bailen scored in overtime to win it.
Engineers captain CJ Lee doesn’t believe his teammates are frustrated with their lack of success against the Dutchmen.
“It’s a little disappointing because they are our big rival,” the senior forward said. “It would be nice to get some wins on them. They’ve had the upper hand lately. But the next game is the next game for us. We’re not really focused on that we’ve lost the last couple of games [against Union]. We’re just concentrating on playing our game.”
Lee knows that the Engineers can’t afford to take penalties. Union has the nation’s top-ranked power play at 25.4 percent (29-for-114). In the two wins earlier this season, the Dutchmen were 5-for-13 with the man advantage.
“Their power play is lethal, and we know that,” Lee said. “We’ve got to stay out of the box.”
The Dutchmen clinched the Capital Skates Trophy for winning the two ECACH games. Bennett would love to have the Mayor’s Cup in display in the trophy case in the Messa Rink lobby.
“You have another trophy. That’s what we’re chasing here,” Bennett said. “I’m going to steal a little quote from [Boston College coach] Jerry York, we’re after trophies here. I thought it was a great quote. It’s the same thing here.”