RPI women’s hockey earned its first weekend sweep of the season, defeating local rival Union College in a home-and-home series. Friday’s match, played in Schenectady, resulted in a 3-1 Engineer victory, while Saturday’s game saw Rensselaer blank the Dutchwomen in a 3-0 decision. The two wins move RPI to 8-16-4 overall on the season, including a 5-9-2 ECAC record. Union falls to 4-20-4 overall and 2-12-2 in league play.
The Engineers opened Friday’s contest at 13:42 of the first period with freshman Eleeza Cox’s team-leading 10th goal of the season. Sophomore Jordan Smelker carried the puck into Union’s zone and sent a low pass to Cox, who was positioned in front of the net. Cox backhanded the puck through senior goaltender Kate Gallagher’s five-hole for the first tally of the afternoon.
Both teams skated through a scoreless second frame, although Rensselaer had several opportunities to extend its lead. During a power play, Smelker ricocheted one shot off the post, and had another blocked by a Union defender.
The two teams combined for three goals in the third and final period of play. Smelker finally had a shot hit the back of the net as she collected a pass from Cox and sent the puck past Gallagher at 9:56. Less than two minutes later, senior Sierra Vadner gave RPI a three-goal lead as she took advantage of an odd-man rush up the ice to beat the Dutchwomen’s defense.
Union sophomore Maddy Norton would score the Dutchwomen’s only goal of the weekend at 13:25 as her shot from the point trickled under the pads of freshman goaltender Kelly O’Brien. With just over a minute remaining in regulation, Union pulled Gallagher in favor of the extra skater, but three penalties against the Dutchwomen in the waning seconds gave the Engineers the win.
O’Brien stopped 16 of 17 Union attempts on the afternoon to improve to 4-9-1 on the year, while Gallagher made 18 stops at the other end of the ice.
The next afternoon saw O’Brien continue her impressive performance as the rookie netminder stopped all 12 shots faced to earn the shutout, and helped the Engineers to their third win in four games.
After scoring a goal and two assists in Friday’s match, Cox kept the momentum going on Saturday as she netted the eventual game-winner at 10:22 of the opening frame. Junior defenseman Andie Le Donne fired a cross-ice pass to Cox, who then weaved through the Union defense deep into the offensive zone. Cox then deked a defender before burying a backhanded shot on freshman goaltender Shenae Lundberg.
The two teams would play out the remainder of the first period scoreless, as well as the majority of the second. However, with 26 seconds remaining on the clock in the middle frame, Cox gave the homestanding Engineers a two-goal advantage. Freshman Taylor Mahoney dished the biscuit from the top of the near circle to Cox, who ripped the shot past Lundberg’s left side.
Smelker closed out the game with her tenth goal of the season on a shorthanded play. The Dutchwomen pulled Lundberg in favor for the extra skater following a late penalty on the Engineers, giving the visitors a 6-on-4 advantage. However, Smelker intercepted a pass by the Dutchwomen and sped down the ice before tossing the puck into the empty net at 18:13 of the third.
O’Brien made 12 saves to earn her third shutout of the season. Lundberg made 34 stops for Union, including 21 in the third period alone.
Cox was later selected as the leauge’s Rookie of the Week for her performance this weekend.
The Engineers are back in action this weekend as they take on No. 2 Cornell University and Colgate University on the road. Friday’s match against the Cornell Big Red is set for 7 pm, while Saturday’s contest with the Colgate Raiders is slated for 4 pm.