For the first time in the Seth Appert era, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team didn’t lose a game to Union in the regular season.
Lou Nanne and Drew Melanson each had a goal and an assist, Jimmy DeVito scored the tiebreaking goal and the 16th-ranked Engineers won the Mayor’s Cup for the second time by beating the Dutchmen 5-2 before 8,485 fans in the fourth annual meeting Saturday at the Times Union Center.
Each team has won the Mayor’s Cup twice in alternating years. But the statistic RPI (13-7-6) can be most proud of is it went 3-0 against Union (9-9-6) in the regular season. The last time the Engineers didn’t lose a regular-season game to the Dutchmen was in 2003-04, when Dan Fridgen was RPI’s head coach and Nate Leaman was in his first year behind the Union bench.
“Obviously, they’re our biggest rival,” said Appert, who is in his 10th season as RPI’s head coach. “We have an unbelievable amount of respect for them. There’s a reason they’ve built their program over the last 20 years into being a national championship program. We just know how hard it is to beat them, and playing them makes us better because the games are so competitive. They play such high-quality hockey.
“We know how difficult is to beat them once. To do it a couple of different times in a year, and then to back it up early in the year with the effort tonight was just an important step in the maturing process of this current team that we have.”
Between 2004-05 and 2013-14, Union went 23-5-4 against RPI, which included a 10-game winning streak. That was snapped in the 2014 Mayor’s Cup.
But the tide is turning. RPI has won six of the last seven.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, for sure,” RPI senior defenseman Chris Bradley said, “and especially as a senior class, to go out and sweep Union in a year.”
And so will the Dutchmen, who are winless in their last five.
“It’s pretty sickening,” said Dutchmen sophomore center and alternate captain Ryan Scarfo, who scored a first-period power-play goal that tied the score 2-2. “It’s a huge rivalry game. You don’t want to give any points away to those guys. You want to take every point you can get from them. We didn’t deserve to win tonight, and we didn’t deserve any of the three games.”
Scarfo was critical of his team’s effort. The Dutchmen were slow clearing rebounds, which led to goals by Nanne in the first period and Phil Hampton late in the third period that made it 4-2. There were also too many turnovers. One of them led to Mike Prapavessis’ first-period goal that gave RPI a 2-1 lead.
And no one checked DeVito when he redirected a Jesper Ohrvall pass past goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos with 6:56 left in the second period that put RPI up 3-2.
“It’s certainly frustrating,” Scarfo said. “We need to have more pride as a group. As of now, we’re kind of inconsistent. We talked about as a group, we’re a part-time team. That’s something we have to focus on getting better at. Obviously, we didn’t deserve to win. We have to get back to work Monday.”
Union coach Rick Bennett backed Scarfo’s comment.
“We can hoot and holler with the best of them. We can kick the soccer ball around with the best of them,” Bennett said. “But when it comes time to get out there and put that uniform on and go for three periods, he’s right, he’s 100 percent right and he’s a captain. It’s up to myself, our staff and the captains to right this ship.
“If we’re relying on freshmen, we’re going to have serious problems these last 10 games.”
Union 2 0 0 — 2
RPI 2 1 2 — 5
First Period — 1, RPI, Nanne 5 (Bradley, Melanson), :50. 2, Union, Lichtenwald 4 (Brassard, Maier), 2:27. 3, RPI, Prapavessis 2, 13:08. 4, Union, Scarfo 12 (Brassard, Foo), 15:17 (pp). Penalties — Miller, RPI (elbowing), 13:45; Bradley, RPI (roughing), 15:57.
Second Period — 5, RPI, DeVito 1 (Ohrvall, Liljegren), 13:04. Penalties — Henry, Uni (slashing), 6:33.
Third Period — 6, RPI, Hampton 2 (Wood), 16:05. 7, RPI, Melanson 4 (Nanne), 18:50 (en). Penalties — Bubela, RPI (slashing), 7:04.
Shots on Goal — Union 16-4-12 — 32. RPI 9-9-14 — 32.
Power-play opportunities — Union 1 of 2; RPI 0 of 1.
Goalies — Union, Sakellaropoulos 7-7-4 (31 shots-27 saves). RPI, Kasdorf 7-5-3 (32-30).
A — 8,485. T — 2:12.
Referees — Kevin Curtis, Robert St. Lawrence. Linesmen — Ryan Knapp, Dan Taggart.