With the ECAC schedule just around the corner, the Engineers had a light family weekend scheduled, with just a Saturday afternoon non-conference tilt against Union on the schedule. Unfortunately for RPI, a combination of sloppier than usual play coupled with an ever-improving Union squad led to a 3-2 defeat for RPI in front of what may end up being one of the largest crowds of the season.
Letuligasenoa/Le Donne/Missy Mankey
From very humble beginnings in Division 1, Union has been on a slow but steady upward trajectory in recent seasons and it showed in Saturday's game against the Engineers. Despite being widely outshot, the Dutchwomen carried play for significant stretches of the afternoon, and used a pair of early goals coupled with capitalizing on an RPI defensive lapse late in the game to fight for a 3-2 win in nonconference play.
Union's first tally came just 9 seconds into a power play and 2:20 into the game. With Delaney Middlebrook off for interference, the Engineers attempted a weak pass around the boards from behind their own net, which was intercepted by Christine Valente and fed into the slot where Courtney Turner put it home for a 1-0 lead.
Turner doubled the lead just past the midpoint of the first period on Union's second power play opportunity of the game. Digging out the puck from the corner, Jessica Kaminsky fed it to the slot for a similar setup to the first goal, and Turner was able to poke it in after several quick tries on the doorstep.
Union held the 2-0 lead through the majority of the second period and it looked like that score would hold into the second intermission, but Eleeza Cox got the Engineers on the board in the final minute of the frame. Taking advantage of some top line minutes, Cox took a feed from defenseman Jenn Godin and snuck it past Shenae Lundberg to make it 2-1.
Alexa Gruschow knotted the score just 3:30 into the third period, fighting through several Union defenders to beat Lundberg and make it 2-2.
The score would not hold, however. With Godin in the box for high-sticking, the Engineers had an opportunity to clear the puck down ice but instead turned it back behind their own net where it was stolen by Camille Corbin. Corbin fed it out to Turner who fired it on net, and the ensuing rebound was put home by Valente to give Union the 3-2 lead.
The Dutchwomen held on to the lead through the final minutes, including a late RPI power play which the Engineers couldn't convert. RPI racked up a 13-5 shot advantage in the final frame but they wouldn't be able to draw even again.
While the result doesn't count in the standings, it exposed several areas the Engineers will need to work on going into league play. There were more than a few unforced turnovers in the defensive zone which turned into Union scoring opportunities, and all three Union goals directly resulted from opposing skaters being allowed to get in close to the RPI net with little resistance from the defense.
If Union capitalized on these lapses three times, they will undoubtedly be exploited by the upper echelon of the ECAC if the Engineers don't make some tweaks to their game in the coming weeks.
RPI hits the road next weekend to open up the ECAC schedule at St. Lawrence (4pm Friday) and Clarkson (3:30pm Saturday). The Saints are off to a rough start, losing four straight (although they were facing #5 Clarkson and #1 Minnesota). Clarkson, with that #5 ranking, has started off 5-1 following a 14-0 thrashing of the PWHL's Ottawa Senators in an exhibition. The Golden Knights' lone loss came this past weekend at the hands of #7 Mercyhurst. It should prove a tough test to start off the league schedule for the Engineers.
RPI vs. Union
Non-Conference Game – Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/20/12 - 4pm
Union 3, RPI 2
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/1213/boxes/wrenuni1.o20
Video Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kTUGeU5QgA
Oct. 26 - at St. Lawrence (4pm)
Oct. 27 - at Clarkson (3:30pm)
Oct. 31 - at Vermont (7pm)
Nov. 9 - Princeton (7pm)
Nov. 10 - Quinnipiac (4pm)