There was a hint of animosity.
There was even a hint of RPI scoring.
But except for a burst of penalties with less than five minutes left and what was essentially a meaningless tip-in by the Engineers’ Jared Wilson with 6:16 to play, Union was on its best behavior in Friday’s night’s Route 7 Rivalry game at Houston Field House.
That included both their play before whistles and their discipline to avoid almost all potential shenanigans after them.
Cole Maier scored a back-breaking short-handed goal early in the third period, goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos was sharp all night and the Dutchmen beat the Engineers 4-1 to start a home-and-home that continues at Union’s Messa Rink at 7 tonight.
The Dutchmen’s top line of Mike Vecchione, Sebastian Vidmar and especially wing Spencer Foo continued to roll, accounting for five of Union’s 10 points. Foo and Vecchione assisted on Jeff Taylor’s goal to make it 2-0 at 12:50 of the first period, and Foo and Vidmar assisted on Vecchione’s ninth goal of the season to make it 3-0 with 3:20 left in the second.
RPI appeared to be in position to make a game of it with most of a power play to start the third, but Maier intercepted a pass and skated in alone to beat Cam Hackett and make it 4-0 1:02 into the third.
“It was an up-and-down game, but we were able to stay disciplined and not get into it after whistles,” Foo said. “That paid off, because we were on the power play a lot.”
“I think I was the only one who took an undisciplined penalty,” Taylor said. “But we did a job of staying out of that stuff.”
He was referring to a cross-check with 4:52 to play that matched a cross-check by Wilson. RPI co-captain Riley Bourbonnais also went to the box for roughing on that sequence, which started when Wilson sent Foo into the boards.
The Engineers’ other captain, Jimmy DeVito, was already in the box for tripping, and he and Taylor engaged in what appeared to be a cordial conversation.
“Yeah, sure, we’ll call it that . . . ‘cordial.’ ” Taylor said with a grin.
“We stuck with it. We kept our brains,” Union head coach Rick Bennett said.
The Dutchmen (5-1-1) had plenty to smile about, especially since RPI had beaten them six of the last seven meetings in the fierce cross-river rivalry, including all three games last year.
Ryan Scarfo got it started by scoring his second goal of the season, ringing the puck off the post for Union’s only goal on 10 power plays against an RPI penalty kill that had given up only two goals in 28 chances through the first five games.
Taylor made it 2-0 when he drove through the left circle and tried to pass it to Foo, who was tied up with a defenseman in front of the crease. Instead, the puck tipped off the RPI stick and over goalie Cam Hackett’s glove.
In the second period, Foo beat his man on a drive to the right post and shoved it diagonally behind him into the slot, where Vecchione waited all alone and flicked it into the open net for one of the easiest goals he’ll ever get.
With nine goals through seven games, the ECAC player of the week has scored as many times as he did in 34 games last season.
“Vecs always seems to be open, that’s why he’s such a great player,” Foo said. “He just knows where to be, and there was no one even close to him. It was a pretty easy pass to make.”
“That’s a one-on-one battle that Foozie won,” Vecchione said. “He outworked the ‘D,’ got it to the backdoor and it was just a wide-open net. I couldn’t miss.”
“He was very good tonight,” Bennett said of Foo. “He provides a lot of energy for us, but the other guys on his line were pretty darn good, too.”
Union dominated on faceoffs, winning 44 of 66, and Sakellaropoulos made 32 saves.
The Engineers came into the game with a 1-3-1 record, but at least had been solid on special teams.
The Maier short-handed breakaway was a killer, at a point when the Engineers had a chance to make things interesting.
“Huge momentum shift,” Bennett said. “They were looking to swing the momentum a little bit, and Cole goes down and makes an awesome play.
“God knows, we’ve been working on the PK enough. Cole had his stick in the lane, and he was rewarded for it and showed a burst of speed that we didn’t see last year and his freshman year.”
“We got outplayed on special teams, it’s that simple,” RPI head coach Seth Appert said. “They had a higher sense of urgency on special teams.”
Union 2 1 1 — 4
RPI 0 0 1 — 1
First period — 1, Union, Scarfo 2 (Kolias, DeSimone), 8:38 (pp). 2, Union, Taylor 2 (Foo, Vecchione), 12:50. Penalties — Liljegren, RPI (hooking), 5:57; Prapavessis, RPI (tripping), 7:00; Jake Wood, RPI (boarding), 11:10; Maier, Union (interference), 11:13; Wood, RPI (holding), 15:52; Foo, Union (interference), 15:55; Vidmar, Union (interference), 17:46.
Second period — 3, Union, Vecchione 9 (Foo, Vidmar), 16:40. Penalties — Melanson, RPI (holding the stick), 9:17; Bourbonnais, RPI (goaltender interference), 14:33; Prapavessis, RPI (holding the stick), 17:01; Pontarelli, Union (holding), 19:33.
Third period — 4, Maier 2, Union (ua), 1:02 (sh). 5, RPI, Wilson 4 (Tironese, DeVito), 13:44. Penalties — Taylor, Union (hooking), 4:26; Brassard, Union (interference), 7:50; Reilly, RPI (tripping), 12:42; Kolias, Union (interference), 13:16; DeVito, RPI (tripping), 14:16; Taylor, Union (cross-checking), 15:08; Wilson, RPI (cross-checking), 15:08; Bourbonnais, RPI (roughing), 15:08.
Shots on goal-Union, 12-14-13 — 39; RPI, 11-12-10 — 33.
Power-play opportunities-Union, 1 of 10; RPI, 0 of 6.
Goaltenders — Union, Sakellaropoulos 4-0-0 (33 shots — 32 saves); RPI, Hackett 1-1-0 (39 — 35).
Time — 2:18. Attendance — 4,074.
Referees-Bryan Hicks, Chip McDonald. Linesmen-Stephen Drain, Philip Kitchen.