Friday, November 9, 2018

Weekend Preview: RPI/Union

Luke Shiplo and the Quinnipiac defense look to rebound from its loss to Dartmouth

RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (2nd Season) 9-31-4 (181-254-63 overall)

2018-2019 RPI record: 3-4

All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 13-7-9

RPI Key Players: Jacob Hayhurst (F), Patrick Polino (F), Brady Wiffen (F), Todd Burgess (F), Will Reilly (D), Linden Marshall (G)

A week after splitting its ECAC opening weekend slate Quinnipiac returns home to welcome RPI and Union to the People's United Bank Center. The Bobcats won in impressive fashion Friday night against Harvard before getting beaten pretty good 5-1 the following night against Dartmouth. The loss against Dartmouth which was the first of the season should be a wake up call for the Bobcats in that need to come ready to play each and every game. RPI comes to Quinnipiac in year two of the Dave Smith era with a 3-4 record having swept rival Union in impressive fashion but scoring only three goals in four losses to UMass, UConn and Clarkson. Smith has his team headed in the right direction even if the talent isn't fully there. The wins over Union definitely were eye opening showing that they can beat anyone on any given day. Even though Quinnipiac has owned RPI to a tune of a 10-1-5 record since the 2010-2011 season, this RPI team shouldn't be overlooked at all and a strong, clean game will be needed to beat them.

Scoring is an issue for RPI as they have only 15 goals in 7 games played. Junior Jacob Hayhurst is off to a strong start with 11 points in 7 games while six other players have 3 points apiece. Hayhurst can't just be the only guy getting the points. He is going to need some other players to step up around him. The question for RPI is who is going to score goals and which team will show up? If its the team that swept Union then Quinnipiac will have its hands full. If its the team that got its doors blown off against Clarkson and UMass then Quinnipiac should be in a good shape. RPI averages around 25 shots a game and Quinnipiac usually does a good job of keeping teams in the low 20's or below.

Defensively RPI has looked good in some games and really poor in its losses. They are giving a over three and half goals per game. Will Reilly is probably the team's most talented defender but over two plus seasons in Troy he is a -37. Collectively the defense is a -14 overall this season. The biggest surprise is how well they played against Union holding the Dutchmen to just five goals despite getting massively out shot both games. Honestly you don't know what defense will show up in Hamden Friday night but if you are Quinnipiac hope its the one that struggled against Clarkson and UMass.

Goaltending is an issue so far for RPI. Sophomore Linden Marshall has a goals against average of almost three and half and he has a sub .900 save percentage. RPI will need strong play from Marshall if they want to come out with a win against Quinnipiac. If he has similar play from what he has done already this year it could be a long night for RPI.

Union Head Coach: Rick Bennett (8th Season) 164-86-33

2018-2019 Union record: 6-2-1

All-time vs. Union: Quinnipiac leads 16-15-4

Union Key Players: Cole Maier (F), Brett Supinski (F), Ryan Walker (F), Sebastian Vidmar (F), Liam Morgan (F), Jack Adams (F), Anthony Rinaldi (F), Vas Kolias (D), Greg Campbell (D), Jake Kupsky (G)

Not enough good things can be said about the program that Rick Bennett has built in the seven plus seasons he has been in the capital region. Six winning seasons in seven years. Three ECAC Regular Season and tournament titles. Four NCAA appearances. Two Frozen Fours and the 2014 National Championship. Who would have thought that this was even possible a decade or more ago? The job Bennett has done led to some interest from Boston University in the off season but he remained with Union which has a lot of returning talent on its roster ready to make another run to the ECAC championship and possibly the NCAA tournament. Union has a four game winning streak against Quinnipiac.

Four of their top five scorers and eight of their top ten from a year ago return. The seniors in Maier, Supinski, Walker and Vidmar have gotten off to hot starts are are averaging a point per game or more on the season. Joining them are sophomores Jack Adams and Liam Morgan who already have combined for seven goals on the season. They are averaging almost three and a half goals per game this season with a very solid power play at 21.7%. Its definitely a quality offense that has put the third most shots up in the nation with 303.

The inexperience of Union is on the blue line with only Campbell and Kolias as the upperclassmen. Six underclassmen are part of the defensive corps including three freshman. The youth and inexperience has shown at times especially giving up nine goals in two losses against RPI along with seven goals against Nebraska-Omaha. Shots are an issue as they are allowing 227 already this season and they have one of the weakest penalty kills in the country at 70.7%.

Senior Jake Kupsky has gotten the majority of the starts but may start to be pressed by sophomore Darion Hanson due to Kupsky having a sub .900 save percentage. The two shared duties last season with Kupsky getting the majority of the starts. In his four seasons with Union, Kupsky a draft pick of the San Jose Sharks has not lived up to expectations of being a top goaltender having two prior sub .900 save percentage seasons. If Union expects to go far this year, either Kupsky or Hanson will really need to play strong in between the pipes to potentially cover up a young defense.

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