Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Men's Hockey - Union Home-and-Home (30/31 Oct)

The Route 7 Rivalry was renewed once more last weekend, and it continued the trend that has been ongoing since 2014 began - the matchups continue to be dominated by one side, only now, that side is certainly RPI. For the fourth and fifth times in the last six meetings between the Engineers and the Dutchmen, RPI skated off with victories this past weekend, sweeping the ECAC series between the rivals for the second time in as many seasons with a 5-1 victory in Schenectady followed by a 3-2 win in Troy.

Friday
Liljegren-Bubela-Wood
Nanne-Tironese-Bourbonnais
Fulton-Schroeder-Gillespie
Ohrvall, Miller

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Hampton
Moore-Reno
Grant

Kasdorf

Sophomore Drew Melanson was a healthy scratch in the first game of the series, with freshman Tommy Grant getting his collegiate debut in his place. That led to a tiny bit of line juggling heading into the first ECAC weekend of the regular season.

It took the referees exactly six seconds to inject themselves into the game, calling a cross-checking penalty against Jake Wood off the opening faceoff, creating for Union what would be the first of nine power play opportunities on the evening. The Dutchmen, however, have been brutal on the power play all month long and that would continue for much of the weekend as well. RPI killed the Wood penalty with relative ease, and were unable to score on a power play of their own that came along about two and a half minutes later.

Midway through the first period, the Engineers struck first blood as Travis Fulton notched his first goal of the season with a tight-angle shot from along the goal line, sneaking one past Alex Sakellaropoulos after a neutral zone takeaway from Wood to make it 1-0 RPI. Five minutes later, a Phil Hampton blast from the point was redirected in front by Lou Nanne for the sophomore's first goal of the year to make it 2-0, the first in an outright volley of goals by the Engineers. 58 seconds after Nanne's goal, Kenny Gillespie scored the first goal of his collegiate career by picking up a drop pass from Fulton and blasting it from along the boards near the blue line, a bad goal for Sakellaropoulos to let in, and the Union junior was chased from the net.

Sakellaropoulos' replacement, freshman Jake Kupsky, couldn't initialy staunch the blood-letting. Just under two minutes later, Riley Bourbonnais one-timed a drop pass from Viktor Liljegren to the back of the net, making it 4-0 RPI just 18:12 into the contest. The Engineers outshot the Dutchmen 15-4 in the first period.

From there, things quieted down considerably, turning instead into the RPI march to the penalty box. Four separate penalties, including two to Milos Bubela, were called on the Engineers during the middle frame, but Union's rough power play abilities kept RPI ahead 4-0 after two periods. Over the first 40 minutes, Jason Kasdorf required only 11 saves to keep Union off the scoreboard.

Liljegren picked up a five-minute major for boarding just seconds after Bubela's second minor expired early in the third period, a penalty that had the potential to allow Union to creep back into contention. However, Bubela himself broke Union's back mere moments after the major began, jumping on a bad pass to create a shorthanded breakway that he buried to make it 5-0 Engineers. The remainder of the Liljegren penalty expired without too much of a problem for the visitors.

The penalties would not end there. Penalties to Evan Tironese, Mark Miller, and Jared Wilson would ensue, with Union finally breaking through for a goal on the Wilson penalty, their ninth and final power play of the evening, keeping Kasdorf from his first shutout of the season.

After that, it was all over but the requisite pushing and shoving that rears its head in any RPI-Union affair. Union captain Matt Wilkins was the first to go, getting hit with a contact-to-the-head penalty with about 90 seconds left. That was followed in the waning seconds with misconducts for Bourbonnais, Bubela, Eli Lichtenwald, and Connor Light for a general dustup, and a charging penalty to Nick Cruice as time expired.

Saturday
Liljegren-Bubela-Wood
Nanne-Tironese-Bourbonnais
Fulton-Schroeder-Gillespie
Melanson, Miller

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Hampton
Moore-Reno
Grant

Kasdorf

Melanson returned to the lineup for the Black Saturday game, replacing Jesper Ohrvall, who was a healthy scratch. Otherwise, the lineup remained exactly the same.

Union looked slightly better to start the game on Saturday, but it was not difficult for the visitors to look better than they had on Friday following a performance their coach described as the worst he'd ever seen since his arrival in Schenectady. Nonetheless, the opening 20 minutes were mostly controlled by the Engineers, especially late in the period as they peppered Sakellaropoulos with shots to emerge from the first with a 17-6 edge in shots. But unlike on Friday, that lopsided tally did not accompany a lopsided score, as the teams skated to a scoreless draw in the first period.

Wilson's first goal of the season ignited the scoring early in the second period, as his blast from the point 3:29 gave teeth to RPI's dominant early play, and Hampton's first of the year - on a similar play three and a half minutes later - put RPI up 2-0.

The third period is when the officiating - widely reviled from the previous night - reared its ugly head. Union cut the RPI lead in half on a power play goal 4:03 into the third as Sebastien Gingras scored following a behind-the-play interference call on Mike Prapavessis. A fairly weak slashing call against Union's Jeff Taylor midway through the period evened things out, however, as Mark Miller put together his first goal of the year on the ensuing power play, rifling one through traffic to put RPI up 3-1.

Both teams appeared lifeless after the Miller goal, but a terrible diving call against Melanson after a very clear takedown by Union's Brendan Taylor led to a 4-on-4 that got the Dutchmen back into the game once again as Ryan Scarfo scored on a rebound to make it 3-2.

Minutes later, a rough charge by Wilkins on Evan Tironese into the boards was not called, and Tironese was lost for the remainder of the game - and potentially longer - after injuring his wrist on the play. With the whistles swallowed, Union pushed for the tying goal late, pulling the goaltender and getting some decent looks, but Kasdorf stood up tall in the end to preserve the weekend sweep for the Engineers, who begin the season 2-0-0 in league play for the second consecutive season.

The road forward for the Engineers is one in which they'll be forced to prove themselves repeatedly - the next three games in a row are all against nationally ranked teams. If they are to prove that their start to the ECAC season was no fluke, they'll have to get some results on the road against a Clarkson team that is off to its best start in nearly a quarter-century and a St. Lawrence team that appears to be just as good as they were last season.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Harvard - 4 pts (2-0-0)
2. RPI - 4 pts (2-0-0)
3. Brown - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Clarkson - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Colgate - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Cornell - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Princeton - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Quinnipiac - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. St. Lawrence - 0 pts (0-0-0)
3. Yale - 0 pts (0-0-0)
11. Union - 0 pts (0-2-0)
12. Dartmouth - 0 pts (0-2-0) 

RPI at Union
ECAC Game - Messa Rink (Schenectady, NY)
10/30/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 5, Union 1

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RECORD: 2-4-0 (1-0-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

Union at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/31/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Union 2

RECORD: 3-4-0 (2-0-0 ECAC, 4 pts)

Upcoming games
06 Nov - at #17 Clarkson
07 Nov - at #15 St. Lawrence
13 Nov - #12 Yale
14 Nov - Brown
20 Nov - at Bentley

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