SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Once again, untimely penalties, particularly ones in the offensive zone, proved to be Union’s undoing Saturday against Rensselaer.
Scott Romfo and Kevin Croxton scored power-play goals as the Engineers completed a weekend sweep of the Dutchmen with a 3-1 ECAC hockey victory before a standing-room only crowd of 2,376 at Frank L. Messa Rink at Achilles Center.
RPI (6-3-1 ECAC, 11-8-2 overall), which moved into third place in the league standings, scored three power-play goals in Friday’s 5-1 win. For the weekend, the Engineers were 5-for-17 with the man advantage.
“We’re just firing pucks at the net, getting good bounces and capitalizing this weekend,” Romfo said. “Guys are putting chances away when we need it.”
The Dutchmen (2-7-1, 7-11-3), who lost their ninth straight and 0-9-1 in their last 10, were 0-for-7 on the power play over the weekend.
“You can’t go to the box eight times a game and expect to kill them all,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “You can’t do that. That will be addressed in practice this week.”
What had Leaman angry is the number of offensive-zone penalties his team took. Obstruction-hooking penalties by Jason Visser and Brent Williams led to the power-play goals.
Also, after Ben McManama pulled the Dutchmen within two with 4:33 left in the game, penalties by Matt Vagvolgyi and Brent Booth in the final 3:15 thwarted any hopes of a comeback.
Asked if his players weren’t being smart with their penalties, Leaman paused for 10 seconds before answering.
“We’re not a real strong team,” Leaman said. “When you’re not a real strong team, we sometimes mistake toughness for that. We need to be smarter.”
Union could take a cue from RPI.
“We did a good job of staying disciplined and keeping out of the box,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “It was a huge key for us. In situations where you get frustrated, there’s a tendency to retaliate. I thought we were real smart with it.”
Romfo, who was in the penalty box for hooking when Visser was penalized, scored the first power-play goal. He ripped a slapshot from the top of the slot past the right side of goalie Kris Mayotte, who was screened perfectly by Kirk MacDonald.
“I got the puck from Nick [Economakos] down in the flank,” Romfo said. “I gave over to Matt McNeely, and he gave it back to me right into the wheelhouse and I just stepped into a one-timer. I wasn’t aiming. Fortunately, it went into the net.”
Croxton scored his power-play goal at 6:36 of the second period. Romfo’s right-point shot went wide to Mayotte’s left. But the caromed off the backboards and out to the other side, where Croxton was stationed. He flipped it into the net.
“When things aren’t going your way, you have to be disciplined,” Mayotte said. “It’s also my job to make saves.”
Ryan Shields, who missed the last three games, beat Mayotte with a wrist shot from the right wing at 6:33 of the third period. Mayotte got his left elbow on it, but it slipped past him.
RPI goalie Nathan Marsters stopped 27 shots to earn the win. … RPI and Union head to central New York next weekend. The Engineers visit Colgate on Friday and Cornell next Saturday. The Dutchmen play Friday at Cornell and next Saturday at Colgate.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.