BURLINGTON, Vt. — Unlike the last time they met, there was no need for a shootout this time between Rensselaer and Union.
With the way the Dutchmen outskated and outhustled the Engineers, the third-place game of Saturday’s Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup was never in doubt.
Lane Caffaro, Matt Cook Josh Coyle and Jason Walters had a goal and an assist each as Union held a 4-0 lead after two periods and cruised to a 5-1 win over RPI at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
The victory continues Union’s recent dominance over its Capital Region rival. The Dutchmen (8-8-2) are 4-0-2 in the last six meetings with the Engineers (5-7-6). That includes the 3-3 tie in the first round of the Governor’s Cup Oct. 28, but RPI advanced to the final by winning in a shootout.
“The guys came out fired up,” Union acting head coach Rick Bennett said. “After last night [a 4-2 loss to sixth-ranked St. Cloud State], they were ready to go.”
RPI coach Seth Appert couldn’t say the same about his team, which will see Union again Jan. 12-13 in ECACHL play.
“The better team won,” Appert said. “Their players performed better, executed better, made way more offensive plays and more skilled plays. The physical part of the game was there. Mentally, for whatever reason, we weren’t ready, and we weren’t capable of making enough good offensive plays to put them on their heels.”
The Dutchmen grabbed a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
T.J. Fox skated down the left wing and fired a shot on net. Goalie Jordan Alford made the save, and kicked the rebound into the slot. Torren Delforte got it, and didn’t get much of a shot off. However, the puck had enough momentum to slip under Alford’s pads.
Union’s penalty kill, which has struggled all season, got a break with 4:39 left in the period.
With Jake Schwan serving a holding penalty, Jason Walters skated down the left wing. He got between the bottom of the left circle and the goal line when he fired a bad angle shot on net. As Alford went down, the puck hit the shaft of Alford’s stick, rolled up over his right shoulder and dropped into the net.
“The coaches stress to us about putting the puck on net every chance we have,” Walters said. “Chris Potts was behind me, and he called for the puck. I thought I could beat [the defenseman] wide. I just put it on net. I don’t know how it went in.”
It was a backbreaking goal for RPI, which was outshot, 12-3, in the first. It was also the eight short-handed goal allowed by RPI this season. The Engineers allowed one all of last year.
“It was a bad goal,” Appert said. “Jordan knows that… That’s one your goalie has to have for you.”
The Dutchmen continued to pressure the Engineers in the second period. They got a two-man advantage early in the period, and cashed in on it when Caffaro one-timed a Coyle pass past Alford.
Cook made it a four-goal lead with 4:24 left in the period, beating Alford from the right circle on a two-on-one break. The play was set up when Potts chipped the puck off the glass along the left-wing boards in the Union zone. Cook got the puck in the neutral zone, and skated into the RPI zone with Walters on his left side.
“It was a great play by Pottsie, being patient and where he was in the defensive zone,” Cook said. “I was yelling, ‘Middle, middle, middle’ coming through. He was able to pick his head up, feel the heat from their [defenseman] and still make a great pass.”
Union goalie Justin Mrazek’s bid for his second shutout of the season was ruined 6:54 into the third period when Jonathan Ornelas tipped in a Peter Merth drive from the top of the slot for a power-play goal. Coyle scored the game’s final goal with 4:49 to go, beating a diving Alford from the blue line.
“Losing’s bad enough,” Ornelas said. “Losing to our rivals makes it 10 times worse.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.