Friday night, RPI hosted the defending national champions, Union College, at the Houston Field House in game one of a home-and-home series. Over 4,000 fans piled into the stands to witness the first game between the two teams since the infamous Mayor’s Cup brawl. Despite their weak record and five-game losing streak, the Engineers came prepared to encounter the formidable offense of their arch-rivals. Union entered the game with an impressive 5-1 record. With 60 minutes of unabated tenacity, RPI routed the Dutchmen 6-1 at Black Friday game.
The first period started with exhilarating emotion from both teams, as back-and-forth play foreshadowed a very physical match between the rivals. The Engineers were first on the scoreboard when, at 7:43 into the game, sophomore forward Riley Bourbonnais scored his first collegiate goal, assisted by junior defender Chris Bradley with a simple flip of the puck right past Union starting goalie Colin Stevens. Freshman defender Jared Wilson also scored his first collegiate goal at 15:58, assisted by fellow freshman and forward Drew Melanson and junior forward Mark Miller. The Engineers finished the first period with a 2-0 lead over their heavily-favored opponents.
Rensselaer entered the second period with even more intensity than the first, as they saw victory within their grasp. At 5:10 into the second period, Bourbonnais scored his second goal for the Engineers, assisted by junior forward Travis Fulton and freshman defender Mike Prapavessis, extending the lead to 3-0. With 5:56 left in the second period, Head Coach Seth Appert called a timeout to reorganize the Engineer defense after an urgent Union tallied 11 shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the period. The amazing goaltending of junior Jason Kasdorf kept the Dutchmen scoreless, as he tallied 17 saves through two periods.
At 16:49, Union forward Mark Bennett was penalized two minutes for roughing, creating a scoring opportunity for the Engineers. Only four seconds into the power play, freshman forward Lou Nanne passed the puck from behind the net to fellow freshman forward Viktor Liljegren, who put it into the back of the net, making the score 4-0 at the end of the second period.
Union found their only goal of the night three minutes into the third period, after RPI suffered a two minute penalty for hooking. At 4:24, forward Mike Vecchione took advantage of the power play and scored for Union, making the score 4-1. Dutchmen players and fans found a spark of excitement after this goal; however, immediately following that goal, RPI won the faceoff and Bourbonnais raced down the ice and scored unassisted, completing his hat trick while simultaneously silencing the rejuvenated Union crowd. Nanne concluded the Engineers’ goal-scoring with a shot past Union backup goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos at 7:36, assisted by Miller.
With a final score of 6-1, the Engineers handed Union their worst defeat since December 2010, when they lost 5-0 to Yale University. With the win, the Engineers advanced to a record of 2-5.
Rensselaer traveled to Schenectady the following night to play the second game of the series against the Dutchmen. In the opening period, Union forward Spencer Foo put the defending champions on top, 1-0.
Then, both defenses anchored down and matched each other stop for stop through the second period and well into the third. Kasdorf made 26 saves during the final 46 minutes of regulation to keep the Dutchmen at one goal. Stevens countered with 23 saves of his own during the first 51 minutes of play to keep the Engineers scoreless. He needed 24. With just 3:49 remaining in the third period, RPI senior forward Mark McGowan scored unassisted to tie the score at one.
In overtime, Kasdorf made a clutch save on a Foo shot to hold Rensselaer’s hopes alive. Then, two minutes later, Liljegren collected his own missed shot and slipped the puck past Stevens to give the Engineers a 2-1 victory and a regular season series sweep over Union.
The win marks the Engineers third consecutive victory over Union in the past 10 months (Union has lost only two other games during that span with an overall record of 21-5-1).
The Engineers will host Harvard University on Friday, November 7, as they try to continue their winning streak.