SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — After taking a 1-0 series lead Friday night, Union completed the series sweep Saturday night, beating Rensselaer 4-2 for its first playoff win against the Engineers, and completing a season sweep.
Union will now head to the ECAC semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
Union got on the board first, tallying a power-play goal at 10:14 in the first as Kyle Bodie scored 12 seconds into the man advantage. Bodie received the puck in the corner and with an open lane to the net, fired a shot past RPI goalie Bryce Merriam for the game’s first goal.
“It’s always good to get the first one,” said Bodie. “Playing with the lead is a little better than playing catch-up. Our unit just did a good job working it around and it was a good goal.”
At the 14:03 mark in the first, Union added to its lead. Daniel Carr controlled the puck for Union and while fighting off defenders, made his way into RPI’s zone. As he approached the net, he noticed Jeremy Welsh wide-open across the net, and passed the puck to Welsh, who knocked the puck in the wide-open net for the one-time goal.
The goal was Welsh’s 23rd of the season, tying him with Mario Valery-Trabucco for the all-time single-season record in Union’s Division I history.
“I think it means more because I played with Mario,” said Welsh of the record-tying goal. “He is a terrific player. I roomed with him my freshman year and I just remember being in awe during his senior year. It’s kind of surreal to reach that.”
In the second, RPI came back.
At 15:03, Brock Higgs gathered a pass as he skated into Union’s zone and fired a shot at the net that goalie Troy Grosenick kicked out his pad to save. Unfortunately for Grosenick, the puck deflected up and over him into the net.
A little later, RPI scored its first power-play goal of the series. Matt Neal had the puck near the blue line and skated towards the net to draw a defender. He then threw the puck towards the net, where it hit off a Union defender’s stick and into the net. Neal was credited with his second the goal at 16:36.
Refusing to go into the period tied, Kevin Sullivan scored what would be the game-winning goal at 17:37 for Union. With the puck, Sullivan skated through traffic and tossed a backhander past Merriam to give Union a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
“That was a real big one, especially late in the period like that,” said Bodie. “It kind of deflates a team when they’re rolling, so that was a big one.”
In the third, Sullivan added some insurance for the Dutchmen, tapping in a rebound for his second goal of the night.
“I went to the net and Kyle hit the post,” said Sullivan. “It was a great shot by Kyle and all I had to do was tap it in.”
“Getting that two-goal lead back was really big for us,” said Union coach Rick Bennett. “You don’t want to play with a one-goal lead. Obviously, you want that breathing room. As RPI showed, even with the two-goal lead that we had, they still came back.”
While the Engineers were able to generate some scoring chances, they couldn’t get anything past Grosenick.
“I don’t want to say it was a great finish, because we don’t want to end our season right now,” said RPI coach Seth Appert. “We have seven young men whose careers at RPI are over. I know this wasn’t what they envisioned being the finishing point, so I don’t want to say it was great.”
Next up, Union travels to Atlantic City for the ECAC semifinal round. Their opponent has yet to be determined.