Friday, February 15, 2019

Weekend Preview: Union/RPI

Alex Whelan and Quinnipiac head out on their 2nd to last road trip of the regular season

Union Head Coach: 
Rick Bennett (8th Season) 172-93-37

2018-2019 Union record: 14-9-5 (7-8-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Union: Series tied 16-16-4

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), Brandon Estes (D), Greg Campbell (D), Jake Kupsky (G)

For a team that got off to an 8-3-2 start, it has been a struggle at times for Union to find consistency. At 14-9-5 the Dutchmen find itself 20th in the pairwise but two losses and a tie to RPI and along with being swept by Brown and a loss to Princeton loom large right now. They probably need to win all six remaining regular season games to get into the top 16 prior to the conference tournament. Union has won five straight games against Quinnipiac with the Bobcats not winning since the 2015-2016 season ago the Dutchmen. The last Quinnipiac win in Schenectady was back in the 2014-2015 season when they won 4-3.

The Dutchmen are a top 20 offensive team in the country averaging 3.04 goals per game. Its a balanced roster that brings the scoring as the top seven players have scored six or more goals and have 16 or more points this season. They are led by three senior forwards in Cole Maier, Brett Supinski and Ryan Walker who have 23, 20 and 20 points respectively this season. Walker leads the team with 10 goals. As we have seen this season this is a team that can score in bunches with the their 5-1 win in Hamden as proof. The Union power play has been solid this season at 18.8% (19-of-101) which is good for 25th in the country.

On defense Union has been a little above average this season giving up 2.64 goals per game which is good for 25th in the country. Sophomore Brandon Estes has had a breakout season with 15 points and a plus 7 on the blue line while junior Vas Kolias and senior Greg Campbell have been steady presences for the Dutchmen. If there is an area where Union struggles it is on the penalty kill as they have one of the worst in the country at 74.4% (67-of-90) which is 56th in the nation. This is an area where Quinnipiac's top five power play unit needs to capitalize but we must see how they adjust especially with the season ending injury to Brandon Fortunato.

Sophomore Darion Hanson has taken over the starting duties in the second half of the season from senior Jake Kupsky due to the more consistent play from the second year goaltender. Hanson was spectacular against Quinnipiac earlier this season when he made 34 saves in a 5-1 win over the Bobcats in Hamden. His numbers this season are solid with a 2.37 goals against average and a .922 save percentage which are superior to Kupsky's and the reason he is seeing more time in net for the Dutchmen. Expect Hanson to get the nod Friday night.

RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (2nd Season) 15-44-7 (187-267-66 overall)

2018-2019 RPI record: 9-17-3 (6-9-2 ECAC)

All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 14-7-9

RPI Key Players: Jacob Hayhurst (F), Patrick Polino (F), Brady Wiffen (F), Ottoville Leppanen (F), Todd Burgess (F), Will Reilly (D), Kyle Hallbauer (D), Owen Savory (G)

While RPI has a poor record of 8-17-3, they have been pretty solid since the calendar changed to 2019. Since the start of the new year, RPI is a respectable 4-4-3. They tied Cornell, Dartmouth and Union in that stretch and also played to competitive losses against Harvard, Yale and even Brown. Give this team a lot of credit for battling and playing hard in the second half of the season as Dave Smith continues to mold this team into his own. This should be a competitive game against a team that is clearly starting to get better as the season winds down.

Scoring continues to be an issue for RPI as they only average 1.93 goals per game this season. Junior Jacob Hayhurst has 23 points but only 3 goals this season while Ottoville Leppanen has 16 points on 3 goals and 13 assists. Juniors Todd Burgess (13 points) and Patrick Polino (11 points) along with defenseman Will Reilly (15 points) make up the majority of the Engineers offense. With RPI not being a high scoring team they have to rely on their defense and goal-tending to keep games low scoring in order to get a bounce here or there on offense to win some of these games. The RPI power play has struggled this season to a tune of just 14.5% (12-of-83) which is 53rd in the country.

Defensively RPI has played much better in 2019 than 2018 so far. They are a middle of the pack team in goals allowed at 3.07 which is good for a tie at 36th with Boston University. While Will Reilly has been a consistent point guy for RPI his plus/minus has vastly improved this season as he is an even right now after being a minus 36 combined the past two seasons. Three freshman in Kyle Hallbauer, Jake Johnson and Brady Ferner have given the Engineers a lot of games on the blue line for young players. The experience these players are getting now will only help in the long run and its seemingly paying off with better defensive play in the second half of the season. RPI's penalty kill is middle of the pack at 80.2% (77-of-96) which is good for 34th in the country.

Freshman goaltender Owen Savory has taken over the reins in between the pipes from an ineffective Linden Marshall and has run away with the job. Savory has started the last eight games for RPI and has kept the Engineers in pretty much every game against the one against Clarkson. In 17 games played he has a 2.30 goals against average and a .933 save percentage which are excellent numbers despite having a record of 3-9-3. His team has been on the short end of the stick but has been very competitive. He has given this team stability in between the pipes which gives them a chance to compete every single game even with the lack of talent on the roster. Expect Savory to be in goal when they face Quinnipiac on Saturday night.

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