TROY, N.Y. — No. 11 Union withstood a late five-on-three power-play opportunity by the Rensselaer Engineers and hung on to a 2-2 tie on Friday.
The Dutchmen (6-1-2, 3-0-1 ECAC) saw Brandon Snee make 34 saves, 18 in the second period alone, and came back twice in order to gain the tie.
“I think it’s a disappointing tie,” Engineer coach Dan Fridgen said. “We played hard enough, we played well enough to win the game, but give them credit, they’re a good hockey team.”
“I think it’s a good sign for our program to come away with a tie,” Dutchmen coach Kevin Sneddon said. “They totally dominated that second period and Brandon was there once again for us and he’s been the rock for us all year.”
The Engineers (5-3-1, 1-2-1 ECAC) and Dutchmen went scoreless in the first period and it took until 18:17 of the second period had elapsed for the first goal of the game to be scored. On the power play, Nolan Graham won the puck back to Jim Henkel. Henkel fired from the blue line and Graham tipped the puck over Snee to give the Engineers the 1-0 lead.
The Dutchmen didn’t take long to answer as Doug Christiansen fired from the blue line 26 seconds later and the knuckling puck eluded Kevin Kurk’s right skate and went into the net.
“I thought Kevin was too deep in his net,” Fridgen said. “The puck was close to the blue line and he got caught and the puck was on edge and when you shoot the puck like that anything can happen. And I didn’t think he was ready for it.”
Union could consider itself lucky to be out of the second period tied at 1 as the Engineers pasted 19 shots on goal, including seven on one power play that started out as a five-on-three advantage. Snee stopped all the shots, including one with the cage of his mask.
“We were a little flat and I think we got caught by RPI’s aggressive play,” Sneddon said. “It was a different team than what we saw at Achilles Rink.”
The Engineers retook the lead early in the third period when Charles Simard made a cross-slot pass to try to break out of his own zone and it landed on the stick of Henkel. Henkel had the puck on his backhand and immediately put a shot toward Snee. It got through him to give the Engineers the 2-1 lead.
“I think he would like to have that one over,” Sneddon said about Simard’s turnover. “That’s a play he never makes. I have to give him credit, he bounced right back and showed good mental toughness. A lot of players would put their head down and bury it on the bench but he was right back out there and that’s a sign of maturity.”
The Dutchmen tied the game later in the third period when a power play at 13:07 gave the Dutchmen the chance. Randy Dagenais fired a puck from center point that got through everyone and between the legs of Kurk for the tying goal.
Less than two minutes after Dagenais tied the game, the Engineers were given a two-man advantage for 1:22. The Engineers tried, but couldn’t put one in the net and the game ended in a 2-2 tie soon thereafter.
“As far as the five-on-three we had in that third period I didn’t think we did a good job executing whatsoever,” Fridgen said. “We were looking for that perfect shot and you’re not going to get a perfect shot when you’re playing guys that like to pack it in defensively and are going to try to block every shot. You have to get the puck moving to get them moving and again, I didn’t think that we executed it very well. Shooting rolling pucks, going back to the same guys instead of moving it around, it was frustrating to watch.
“There were other opportunities that we could capitalize on and I thought we outplayed them. One big save and it’s a different ball game and we let them hand around. But they’re a good hockey team and they kept it real simple. When they relied on Brandon he was there for them.”
“I’m satisfied from the standpoint that I thought they outplayed us tonight,” Sneddon said. “Any time you can come into the Houston Fieldhouse and come away with a point, it’s a good sign for our program. And to take three of four points in the series is another great sign and it’s the first time we’ve ever done it.
“So, I’m never happy tying, but if you take a step back and look at the big picture in a game where they outplayed us in the second period and parts of the first and third and to come out with a tie is a good sign for us.”
Both teams will take on Quinnipiac later this weekend, the Engineers on Saturday and the Dutchmen on Sunday.