Union-RPI Route 7 Rivalry postgame report (with 5 videos)
A look back at Union’s 4-3 victory over RPI on Friday.
Almost blew it again
Four times this season, Union has blown leads. The Dutchmen lost two of those games, and tied the other two.
When the Dutchmen took a 4-1 lead early in the third period on goals 44 seconds apart by Eli Lichtenwald and Nick Cruice, it was time for the Dutchmen to put the game away. The memory of last Friday’s game against Colgate, when the Dutchmen wasted leads of 2-0 and 3-2, should have been fresh in their minds.
But once again, Union struggled to protect the lead. Two Matt Neal goals got RPI within one. The Engineers got a power play late in the third when Matt Wilkins was called for high-sticking.
This time, the Dutchmen held on. They killed off the Wilkins penalty, and did a superb job of keeping the Engineers away from goalie Colin Stevens after RPI pulled goalie Scott Diebold for an extra attacker with 2:03 left in the game.
“For our team psyche, it was very important,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “We’re going to be in these battles. They’re ranked 10th in the country. They’re a very good team. You’re going to have weather the storm sometimes, and I thought we did that.
“We learned a pretty good lesson that RPI’s not going to quit. That’s what we learned. We have some young guys in that lineup who saw that, so that’s a good thing.”
It was a big relief for the Dutchmen to be able to hold on.
“It says a lot about our team,” Dutchmen defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We went up, 4-1, and we got a little too comfortable at the end. We battled back. We just kept battling, stuck with it and got the ‘W’”.
Meanwhile, RPI managed just 10 shots on goal through the first two periods. Their first goal was a fluke as Dutchmen goalie Colin Stevens’ clearing attempt hit Brock Higgs’ shin pads and caromed into the net for a short-handed goal 4:56 into the game.
“It’s a credit to Union,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “They played well. It’s a good win by them.”
It wasn’t until the Engineers fell behind by three that they got rolling.
“We talked a lot after the second period. We just really wanted to come out strong,” Neal said. “We had a couple of hiccups, and that kind of whacked us back into it. We decided, as a team, we needed to be better. We started talking more on the bench, and just got into it from there.
“It was a good effort by our guys. I think we came out strong. But it was a little to bit too late.”
RPI had 11 shots in goal in the third period.
Gostisbehere was a busy player on and off the ice. He had two assists. Daniel Ciampini tipped in a Gostisbehere high slot shot on the power play in the first period.
The second was most impressive. He forced a turnover in the RPI left-wing circle. The puck went over to Cruice, who fired it past Diebold to give Union a 2-1 lead with 6:43 left in the second period.
“I pinched down low, and it went right to ‘Cruiser,’ thankfully,” Gostisbehere said. “He finished the job.”
A couple of hours before the game, Gostisbehere appeared on NHL Network’s “NHL Live.”
“It was good,” Gostisbehere said. “A little sweaty palms.”
To watch Gostisbehere on “NHL Live,” click here.
Cruice had the first two-goal game of his career. Both goals beat Diebold through five-hole.
Cruice claimed that wasn’t where he wanted to shoot the puck.
“Actually, I whiffed on both of them,” Cruice said. “I was trying to go upstairs, but they ended up going five-hole.”
“At least he was honest,” Bennett said. “That’s good to know because in practice, he’s usually going top shelf. It was his night. The puck had eyes.”
I have five postgame videos.
To see Bennett’s press conference, click here.
To see Crucie’s press conference, click here.
To see Gostisbehere’s press conference, click here.
To see Neal and Matt Tinordi’s press conference, click here.
To see Appert’s press conference, click here.
My three stars of the game:
1) Nick Cruice, Union right winger — Scores twice. The first was the tiebreaking goal, the second was the game-winner.
2) Shayne Gostisbehere, Union defenseman — Had two assists.
3) Matt Neal, RPI center — Scored twice.
That is all from Messa Rink. Unfortunately, I won’t be covering Saturday’s rematch Good Night! Good Hockey!