The men's college hockey season is officially underway, and two Capital Region rivals took the ice against one another in an exhibition battle for local bragging rights.

In both programs' respective first games since March of 2020, it was the Engineers who prevailed by a 5-2 total at Messa Rink at Achilles Center in Schenectady. The Dutchmen struck first, but that opening goal was followed by three straight by the Engineers, who survived a second period powerplay goal to prevail by a three-goal margin.

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It was Union sophomore forward Tyler Watkins breaking the tie just after six minutes into the first period. Despite the sophomore status, Watkins was skating in his first career game for the Dutchmen, having missed his freshman season due to COVID-19. Watkins' goal, however, was followed by not one, not two but three goals consecutively on the side of the RPI Engineers.

Dartmouth College transfer Shane Sellar scored for RPI to tie the game, his first point in what would become a three-point (two-goal, one-assist) season-opening performance. Sellar's goal would be followed by goals from Ture Linden with just 46 seconds remaining in the first period, and from Jakub Lacka in period number two. Union would respond on the powerplay just before the half-way point of the game thanks to a goal from Nic Petruolo, but RPI had yet another answer. Jake Gagnon would score with under a minute remaining in the middle of the frame, and Sellar's second of the game would put it out of reach with just seconds remaining in the third.

This game was much closer than the 5-2 margin would suggest, which explains why both Union and RPI were tied in the ECAC hockey preseason coaches' poll. Union allowed three goals with under minute remaining in the first, second and third periods respectively. The first one gave RPI their first lead, the second one quelled any moment the team had after pulling within one goal, and the third put the game completely out of reach.

The Engineers, meanwhile, were opportunistic in their offense, and received great performances from veteran defenders like Simon Kjellberg throughout the game. If goaltender Linden Marshall can fill the void left behind by departing netminder Owen Savory, RPI may have a really strong squad on their hands.

The RPI Engineers open up their home schedule this Friday against Bowling Green, while Union hits the road to battle non-conference opponent New Hampshire, also on Friday.

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