The first weekend of hockey after Winter Break was about as exciting as anyone could have hoped for. The Engineers played Dartmouth at home on Friday and came up with a 4-2 win. However, the big game was played against Union on Saturday. The Engineers and Dutchmen faced off for the Second Annual Mayor’s Cup at the Times Union Center in front of 7,100 spectators. Fans from Troy, Schenectady, and the rest of the Capitol Region filed into the arena to watch the two rivals square off.
Although it was a non-league game and the result wouldn’t mean much in terms of how the season played out for either team, the game was monumental for both teams. Union came in to the weekend ranked third in the nation having beaten Harvard on Friday night. RPI has been struggling lately and was looking to continue to build off of its win over Dartmouth. Union had come away with the victory in each of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. Saying that the two teams are rivals is more than putting it lightly. Tensions and tempers have only been growing between these two teams with each game, making victory that much sweeter.
Most people were expecting the emotions to run high and to possibly see fireworks early. The comment “I wonder how long until this game gets chippy?” was answered by “I’ll give it ‘til the middle of the second” by fans in the stands. Only time would tell as the puck was dropped and the game got underway. After going back and forth for a short while, the first penalty was called on RPI at 3:20 for charging. RPI was able to beat the Union goalie on the play but the goal was waved off due to the delayed penalty. The Engineers killed the penalty successfully and got their own powerplay opportunity 6:58 into the period when Mike Vecchione of Union took a roughing penalty in front of his own goal. The engineers had crashed the net hard, causing a crowd to gather, resulting in the Union penalty. However, it would be Union’s Shayne Gostisbehere who would score shorthanded. After the game, RPI coach Seth Appert once again mentioned that Gostisbehere is “one of the best players in the country”. The shorthanded goal seemed to deflate RPI for the rest of the period and the 1st ended with RPI getting a too many men penalty with only 7.5 seconds left to play.
The second period started by RPI killing the penalty. A breakaway opportunity for the Engineers hit the post and drew a hooking penalty against the Dutchmen 1:51 in to the period. The momentum continued to build for RPI and sophomore Milos Bubela was able to get the first goal for the Engineers at 5:17. Bubela went top shelf from the slot off of a rebound on a junior Matt Neal shot attempt. Assists were credited to junior Jacob Laliberte and junior Curtis Leonard. The first half of the period was dominated by the Engineers. RPI stifled the Dutchmen and didn’t allow a shot in the first 10 minutes of the second period. However, RPI would take a series of penalties starting at 11:10 that left them shorthanded for much of the remainder of the period. Union was not able to score in that time but was able to reclaim some of the momentum.
The tie game resumed with the start of the third period. RPI had been playing physically all night, but seemed to step it up during the last twenty minutes. At 6:33, things got heated in front of RPI junior netminder Scott Diebold. The crowd that gathered and the pushing and shoving that ensued were the first real signs of bad blood between the two teams. The period saw both teams trade rushes until sophomore Mike Zalewski was able to tuck away a rebound from right on the doorstep at 16:22. Zalewski’s goal was assisted by senior Brock Higgs and junior Ryan Haggerty and set up an exciting final few minutes. With just over two minutes left to play, Diebold took a high shot off of his shoulder/arm area that stung him a bit. After the shot Diebold dropped to his knees causing a near audible gasp from the RPI fans. With sophomore Jason Kasdorf still out, Diebold was the only game experienced goalie the Engineers had, and expecting any goalie to come into that kind of situation cold and perform was asking a lot. Luckily for RPI, Diebold stayed on the ice after a brief chat with the trainer. During this time, the Dutchmen pulled their goalie to gain a sixth attacker late in the game. Union controlled play for the last few minutes, keeping the puck deep in the Engineers zone and letting shots fly from anywhere trying to even the score. Diebold made two huge saves for the Engineers. He flashed the glove around the one minute mark robbing Union of a sure goal. He also kicked out a bouncing puck through traffic to keep RPI in the lead. The horn blew and RPI had won, 2-1 in dramatic fashion. Diebold had looked a bit shaky early on, but was phenomenal down the stretch making 28 saves in the game.
The end of the third period did not mean the end of the meeting between the two teams. A high crosscheck from Union Captain Mat Bodie in the last second of play started a bench clearing altercation between the two teams. The sparks that the fans had been expecting all game finally lit a fire. Nearly everyone from both teams was tangled up with someone else. Fists flew as the four officials attempted to break up some of the crowd. Just as things seemed to be dying down, Union Head Coach Rick Bennett came across the red line and went after RPI Head Coach Seth Appert. Referees, players, and assistant coaches all gathered as Bennett pursued Appert. Appert was pulled away by his assistant coaches and players and the Union coaches were finally escorted back onto their side of the ice by the officials. Once the teams had separated, the Engineers stayed on the ice as the Dutchmen went off. Union tried to come back out for the traditional hand shake but Bennett pulled his players off the ice because he didn’t want to risk any further fighting. The two captains, RPI’s Tinordi and Union’s Bodie, shook hands at center ice for their respective teams. RPI was then presented the Mayor’s Cup accompanied by the applause of the RPI fans.
On ice and off ice officials stuck around for a while after the game to issues 125 minutes worth of penalties. Two players from each team were issued disqualifications meaning they will not play in their team’s next game. The diqualifications were issued to Bodie and Lichtenwald of Union and Luke Curadi and Zalewski of RPI.
More disciplinary action was taken by Union’s athletic director as he suspended Bennett for two games. The Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference also investigated the incident issuing further suspensions. Bodie was suspended an additional game on top of his disqualification. Daniel Ciampini of Union will miss one game due to his actions in the altercation. Haggerty and senior Bo Dolan of RPI were also both suspended one game by the league. The ECAC took no further action against Bennett, who issued a public apology for his actions in the post-game press conference and statement.
The Engineers are away this weekend as they take on Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Men’s hockey returns to the Houston Field House February 7 when they take on last year’s national champions, Yale.