TROY, N.Y. — About the only thing Union did wrong this weekend was break the Capital Skates Trophy. Of course, no one was owning up to it in the joyous Dutchmen locker room Saturday at Houston Field House.
“That’s the rumor I heard,” Dutchmen forward Josh Coyle said. “I’m not verifying that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Coyle’s tongue was firmly planted in cheek. He and his Dutchmen have every right to be happy.
The hot Dutchmen ended a perfect weekend against slumping Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, posting a 4-1 ECAC Hockey victory and taking the Capital Skates Trophy for winning the two league games.
The Dutchmen (5-3-2 ECACH, 10-8-3 overall), who got a 2-1 victory over the Engineers in Friday’s game at Messa Rink, tied a team record with their sixth straight win. It has been done two other times, Dec. 21, 1996-Jan. 10, 1997, and Nov. 5-20, 2004.
Union also moved into a tie for fourth place with Cornell and Harvard, who were both idle.
“Right now, we’re finding ways to win games,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “Early in the year, we were finding ways to lose games a little bit.”
The opposite can be said about the Engineers (3-6-2, 8-14-3). After being ranked in the national polls for two months and playing some of the top teams in the country, RPI lost its ninth straight.
Desperate to wake up his team, RPI coach Seth Appert made some lineup changes. Appert scratched Andrei Uryadov, the team’s second-leading scorer, and Seth Klerer. Taking their places were Paul Kerins, who didn’t play Friday, and Tyler Eaves, who was making his season debut. Eaves sat out the first half of the year for personal reasons.
Also returning to the RPI lineup was defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer, who was suspended two games for a major hit-from-behind penalty against Cornell last Friday, and Mathias Lange started in goal instead of Jordan Alford, who made 41 saves Friday.
It didn’t help. Neither did scoring the first goal of the game for the second straight night. Not even killing off Dan Peace’s major fighting penalty early in the second could spark the Engineers.
“Our young men have to be accountable to how hard they’re competing,” Appert said. “We can’t control our skill level. We can work on it, and we do in practice. We can control our effort and our intensity on a shift-to-shift basis.”
Jonathan Ornelas gave RPI a 1-0 lead 6:47 into the game. Just like Friday, Union got that one back quickly. John Simpson skated down the left wing and fired a shot over Lange’s left shoulder 55 seconds later.
Stephane Boileau got a power-play goal with 7:35 left in the first. He was cutting through the slot when he redirected Lane Caffaro’s pass past Lange’s left pad.
Any momentum RPI could have generated after Peace’s penalty expired ended when Josh Coyle scored at 4:27 of the second, converting a Matt Cook pass on a two-on-one break.
“In between periods, we talked about that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we didn’t score [on the power play],” Coyle said. “We just had to work on the basics.”
Mario Valery-Trabucco got Union’s final goal with 5:20 left in the second, ripping a wrist shot from the slot past Lange after Boileau fanned on the initial shot.
“We had a little puck luck,” Leaman said.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.