By Andrew Stinchfield
The Union Men’s Hockey team now has eight straight wins in the Route 7 Rivalry against RPI.
The two rivals faced off in the inaugural Mayor’s Cup game Saturday in front of more than 5,000 fans at the Times Union Center. Freshman forward Matt Wilkins had himself a birthday that he most certainly will not forget, after drawing an RPI penalty late in the game and scoring the game winning goal in the final minute to give the Dutchmen a dramatic 3-2 win.
Special teams and the stellar performance of Union goaltender Troy Grosenick ‘14 were the keys to success in the first period. A few minutes into the game, RPI’s Guy Leboeuf was penalized for crosschecking, and Union’s nation-leading power-play had an opportunity to give the team an early lead.
During the ensuing man advantage, senior defenseman Greg Coburn fired a shot from the point, which RPI goalie Jason Kasdorf got a piece of. But sophomore Daniel Ciampini scooped up the puck and jammed home the rebound to score his eighth goal of the season and give the Dutchmen an early 1-0 lead.
However, RPI started to gain some momentum in the first period as they peppered Grosenick with a number of shots.
He made a series of spectacular glove saves to help preserve Union’s one-goal lead going into the second period.
RPI Head Coach Seth Appert must have riled up his team during the intermission, because the Engineers needed just 16 seconds to even the game in the second period, scoring on their first rush into the Union zone.
RPI’s C.J. Lee started the play with a long shot from the left point where Grosenick made the easy initial save. But RPI’s Ryan Haggerty found the loose puck and scored to tie the game at 1-1.
The two rivals entered into a heated third period, which ended with a fantastic and exciting finish. Early in the third, Coburn received a pass from senior forward Wayne Simpson, and beat Kasdorf with a shot from the point to help the Dutchmen regain the lead.
RPI quickly responded when Mark McGowan scored on a rebound to set up what would be an epic finish to the game.
Union and RPI, two rivals that share such a long and deep history, were tied in the final minutes of the first ever Mayor’s Cup.
RPI forward Nick Bailen was called for interference at 18:37, giving Union a late power-play to close out the game. With less than 40 seconds left in the game, junior defenseman Matt Bodie fed junior forward Josh Jooris on the right side. Jooris skated into the offensive and found Wilkins, who slipped behind the RPI defense for a tip-in goal to give Union a 3-2 victory.
RPI outplayed Union for most of the game, outshooting the Dutchmen 38-20. Grosenick had an outstanding night in net, making a number of spectacular saves and stopping 36 shots on goal.
“I know we didn’t have our ‘A’ game, and you’re going to have those nights,” Head Coach Rick Bennett said. “But, we stuck with it, and it was a great win.”
With more than 30 games in a season, every team is going to have one of those nights in which they don’t put forth their best efforts. But as Bennett said, Union stuck with it and was able to come up with a big win against their rivals.
Union will host Dartmouth College Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in an important ECAC match up. Both teams are currently tied for third in the conference with 15 points.