Friday, February 21, 2020

Weekend Preview: RPI/Union

Quinnipiac heads to the New York Capital Region this weekend
Its a big weekend for Quinnipiac hockey as they head to the New York Capital Region for an important road trip needing wins to help in the pairwise rankings along with some help from teams around them. At this point they cannot slip up if they want a potential at-large berth, otherwise they will have to win the ECAC tournament to reach the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.

RPI Engineers

RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (3rd Season)

2019-2020 RPI record: 13-15-2 (9-8-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 16-7-9

RPI Key Players: Chase Zieky (F), Patrick Polino (F), Mike Gornall (F), Ture Linden (F), Todd Burgess (F), Zach Dubinsky (F), Will Reilly (D), Simon Kjellberg (D), Cory Babichuk (D), Owen Savory (G)

The Engineers have seen vast improvement in the three years since Dave Smith has been at the helm. Its 13 wins currently, are the most since they had 18 wins in the 2015-2016 under former coach Seth Appert. RPI has a marquee win against Clarkson this year, but still has some troubles with the teams that are better than them. All in all you have to be impressed with how Smith has molded the Engineers in this time in Troy. This will definitely be a team that will be a tough out come the ECAC tournament next month.

While they don't have a player with double digit goals, they have a lot of balance scoring in their lineup with 12 players with 10 or more points this season. The Engineers only score 2.60 goals per game which is far from great. They are getting strong production from seniors Chase Zieky (20 points), Mike Gornall (17 points), Patrick Polino (15 points), Todd Burgess (14 points) and Jake Marrello (13 points). The biggest question is can the seniors elevate their game over the next month to become a factor in the playoffs? RPI's power play has not been good at just 15.1% this season.

RPI's defense has been solid this season allowing 2.83 goals per game. Will Reilly is the leader on defense with a plus 10 rating and second on the team with 17 points. But its the youth on defense that is playing well including freshman Cory Babichuk and Simon Kjellberg. The Engineers defense is clearly one of the reasons the team has played close to .500 this season. RPI's penalty kill is very solid at 83.8% which is 15th nationally.

Owen Savory has been one of the big reasons why RPI has been a very solid team this season and has a chance to make noise come March. While his record of 9-9-2 is far from impressive, his 2.38 goals against and a .920 save percentage are impressive. He has 3 shutouts to boot as well. Since the turn of the calendar to 2020, he has given up one goal or less in seven of the nine games he has played including three shutouts. His two worst games were to Western Michigan (6 goals) and Cornell (3 goals). He is in a groove right and definitely someone who can steal a game.

Union Dutchmen

Union Head Coach: Rick Bennett (9th Season)

2019-2020 Union record: 7-20-3 (5-12-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Union: Quinnipiac leads 17-16-5

Union Key Players: Anthony Rinaldi (F), Sean Harrison (F), Gabriel Seger (F), Vas Kolias (D), Dylan Anhorn (D), Darion Hanson (G)

It has been a trying season for the Union Dutchmen who are in the midst of their worst season in the Rick Bennett era and worst since the days when Kevin Sneddon was the programs head coach. Its been a massive struggle for Union who have only two wins since the calendar turned to 2020. The lack of talent at Union is a real factor and you have to wonder if Rick Bennett regrets not taking a bigger job when his name came up in the past. Quinnipiac has not won at Union since November of 2014.

Union's offense has been downright awful at 1.80 goals per game. Senior Anthony Rinaldi (20 points) is having a nice season while Union has found a nice player with freshman Gabriel Seger (16 points) but not having Jack Adams due to injury has hurt and Parker Foo missed half the season and has not put up big points like he was expected to. Sean Harrison is the only other forward who has double digit points at 12. The Dutchmen power play which in years past was strong has been terrible this year at 11.8%. Frankly, Union just can't score goals and it is hurting them on the ice.

Union defensively hasn't been great this season allowing 3.07 goals. However, they have found a nice young piece in freshman Dylan Anhorn (13 points, plus 3) to build around. Senior Vas Kolias has had another double digit point season but is a minus 13 this year. Junior Brandon Estes who was very good as a sophomore has taken a step back this season going from 21 points a year ago to just 7 this year. The penalty kill has struggled at just 78.6% this season.

Darion Hanson's play is down this season but its due to a weak defense in front of him. If he wasn't the teams goaltender they would probably have given up the most goals in the country this season. That why having Hanson back there as a veteran presence has helped to a degree. His 2.82 goals against and a .904 save percentage are very average but the team in front of him is just not very good so his numbers are going to look worse. He held Quinnipiac to just two goals the last time these two teams met back in Hamden in mid November.  

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