|Joe O'Connor and the Quinnipiac Bobcats return to Hamden after a four game road trip|
Union Head Coach: Rick Bennett (9th Season)
2019-2020 Union record: 2-10-0 (1-3-0 ECAC)
All-time vs. Union: Series tied 16-16-5
Union Key Players: Anthony Rinaldi (F), Owen Farris (F), Gabriel Seger (F), Sam Morton (F), Vas Kolias (D), Dylan Anhorn (D), Darion Hanson (G)
It's been 15 years since Union lost over 20 games in a season but they are on pace to eclipse that amount. Not since the early days of Nate Leaman have the Dutchmen been this bad but they are in the midst of a 2-10 start and haven't been competitive in many of the games. This is exactly the type of opponent that a struggling Quinnipiac team needs to face but they Bobcats have struggled against Union in the last three seasons going 0-5-1 against them. There is no better time to change that than this weekend Union having lost their last three games.
No team was gutted up front as much as the Dutchmen were. Gone are Cole Maier, Ryan Walker, Brett Supinski and Sebastian Vidmar to graduation. Liam Morgan the top returning scorer bolted for pro hockey in Europe while Jack Adams and Parker Foo are both hurt. Union has very little up front outside of Anthony Rinaldi. This is a team that is struggling to score goals averaging only 1.5 per game this season. However is Quinnipiac good enough defensively to keep Union struggling offensively? The power play is another area of concern as they are converting on just 4 of 52 chances which is good for 7.69%.
Defensively this Union team has struggled giving up 3.42 goals per game this year as senior Vas Kolias has really struggled on the blue line. Freshman Dylan Anhorn has been their best defender and only plus player on the roster at a plus 2. Its been a rotating door of defensemen for Rick Bennett as he has yet to find consistency with a specific group of players. If there is one bright spot its the penalty kill has been solid at 84.3% this year.
Junior Darion Hanson's numbers are down but that is because the defense in front of him has really struggled. He is probably Union's best chance at an upset as he has the ability to steal games like he did a year ago as he was dominant in two games against Quinnipiac going 1-0-1 and allowing just two goals total in those games. For Union to pull an upset, Hanson will need to be stellar.
RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (3rd Season)
2019-2020 RPI record: 4-4-0 (2-2-0 ECAC)
All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 15-7-9
RPI Key Players: Chase Zieky (F), Patrick Polino (F), Jake Marrello (F), Ottoville Leppanen (F), Todd Burgess (F), Zach Dubinsky (F), Will Reilly (D), Simon Kjellberg (D), Owen Savory (G)
The Dave Smith era is in its third season and the Engineers are trending upwards. The first two seasons produced six and ten wins respectively and with four wins already RPI is likely to exceed last years win total by a lot. Of their four losses, RPI was competitive in three of them only struggling in a 5-2 home loss against Connecticut. For a once proud program it is good to see RPI one of the better teams again in the ECAC. While they have not made the NCAA's since 2011, the program is definitely heading in the right direction and a Lake Placid appearance should be something the Engineers strive for this season as Dave Smith looks to continue to make his mark on the RPI program.
For a team that struggled to score in the past, its been a 180 this season. RPI is averaging 3.50 goals per game which puts them in the top 15 in the country. Four players are averaging over a point per game. Its been the seniors of Chase Zieky, Patrick Polino and Jake Marrello that have led the way so far for the Engineers as they have combined for 22 points. Sophomore Ottoville Leppanen is off to a fine start with six points while freshman Zach Dubinsky has four. RPI is getting contributions from everyone and its showing with their play. Quinnipiac needs to be wary of the RPI power play which has excelled this season to a tune of 26.67% (8 of 30).
RPI is solid defensively and has a young defense much like Quinnipiac and the Engineer defensemen will probably will improve as the season goes along as well. Senior Will Reilly is the leader back on the blue line and also the teams leading scorer who is also a weapon on the power play. Quinnipiac will need to account for him whenever he is on the ice. Freshman Simon Kjellberg, a New York Rangers draft pick has given some added skill and size to the blue line.
Sophomore goaltender Owen Savory is one of the better goaltenders in the ECAC. Named to the ECAC All-Rookie team at the end of last season, Savory has picked up where he left off. Coming into this weekend he is 3-3 with a 2.36 goals against and a .917 save percentage. Last season he stopped 35 shots against Quinnipiac in a 2-1 loss at the Houston Field House. Savory will clearly make it tough on Quinnipiac as outside of one game in which he allowed four goals against Massachusetts he has only allowed two goals in each of his other five starts. He will definitely play a factor in this game.
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