Another Union-RPI game, another wild finish. In five of the previous six meetings of the “Route 7 Rivalry,” the game has been decided by one goal or has ended in a tie. This game was no different, as Union pulled out a thrilling 2-1 victory thanks to Jeremy Welsh’s power-play goal 7:39 into the third period. RPI tied it up in the final moments of the game, but the goal was disallowed, securing Union’s victory.
“The emotions are really high,” said Union goaltender Keith Kinkaid. “You just got to keep your focus.”
“They made one more play then we did,” said RPI coach Seth Appert.
The first period was very intense and fast-paced, as each team flew at each other from the opening drop of the puck.
Union began the scoring in the latter half of the first period when their top-ranked power-play unit capitalized on Guy Leboeuf’s interference penalty with some beautiful tic-tac-toe passing. Mat Bodie began with the puck at the point and slid it diagonally to Josh Jooris at the left circle, who immediately fed Daniel Carr in the slot. Carr corralled the puck and fired it past the glove of RPI goaltender Allen York for his fifth goal of the year.
“That goal was one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever been a part of,” said Union coach Nate Leaman.
However, RPI struck back with four minutes left in the middle frame. With a Union penalty about to expire, the Engineers controlled the puck and worked around the Union zone. As soon as the man advantage expired, C.J. Lee passed the puck to Nick Bailen at the point, who blasted a one-timer past a screened Kinkaid to knot the score.
The goal set up a dramatic finish to another Union-RPI game.
Welsh’s eventual game-winner came after Bodie’s shot from the left circle went wide. Kelly Zajac picked up the puck off the boards at the bottom of the right circle and proceeded to pass the puck to Welsh at the point. Welsh received the pass and then blasted a shot past York, who was screened on the play.
“I didn’t even see it go in,” Welsh said. “I think it went through four guys.”
RPI tried frantically to tie it in the waning moments of the game. With 1:20 to go, Appert called a timeout and pulled York in favor of an extra attacker. It looked as if Appert’s tactics paid off with 7.6 seconds left in regulation when Mike Bergin tipped Chase Polacek’s shot past Kinkaid, but the referees disallowed the goal, claiming that Lee interfered with Kinkaid.
“I couldn’t tell you honestly [if I was interfered with],” Kinkaid said. “It was a blur, but I did end up sideways.”
“[Referee] Brian Hicks was right on it,” Leaman added. “It’s hard to tell from the tape.”
Appert was furious when the goal was called off as he jumped on top of the RPI bench and screamed at the referees. He still wasn’t happy about the call after the game when he showed the video of the waived-off goal to the media in the post-game press conference.
“I think the refs should be concerned about it,” Appert said. “You act emotionally when you know the call is wrong, but the goal is not why we lost. We lost because we were in the box too much.”
The two teams will meet again tomorrow in Troy for the third game of rivalry to see who brings home the Capital Skates Trophy.
“It’s all said and done,” said RPI captain John Kennedy. “We’re looking to tomorrow night.”