Starting the weekend prior to Thanksgiving break, the RPI women’s hockey team entered one of its most difficult stretches of the season. November 20 and 21 saw the Engineers host reigning national-champions the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers, while this weekend brought Syracuse University to the Houston Field House. Rensselaer kept it close in game one against the Badgers, nearly pulling off the upset in a 4-3 loss, but ran out of steam in game two which saw Wisconsin put up eight goals to RPI’s two. The Engineers’ matchup with the Syracuse Orange had a similar result, with the visitors coming out on top in a 4-3 win in the first match, but this time Rensselaer followed with a 2-1 victory. RPI now sits 4-10-4 on the season, while Syracuse is 6-10-0. Wisconsin remains nearly perfect with a 15-1-0 mark.
The Engineers’ first match of the weekend was a far cry from last year’s combined 13-0 loss to the Badgers in Madison, Wisc. Freshman Eleeza Cox put the Engineers on the scoreboard first with her fifth goal of the season at 5:26 of the opening stanza. However, visiting Wisconsin knotted the game at one at 14:15 after senior Carolyne Prevost banged home a pass from classmate Brooke Ammerman.
Prevost returned the favor midway through the second period as she passed the puck to Ammerman while on a 2-0 breakaway to take a 2-1 lead. A pair of power play goals helped put the Engineers on top just minutes later. Senior captain Alisa Harrison fired a shot on net with freshman Taylor Mahoney snagging the rebound. Although Wisconsin sophomore goaltender Alex Rigsby blocked both shots, senior Jill Vandegrift found the loose puck in the scramble and flipped it to the back of the net.
Sophomore Jordan Smelker gave the Engineers a 3-2 lead nearly five minutes later at 18:28. Senior Sierra Vadner made a point-to-point pass to junior Andie Le Donne, who then made a cross-ice pass over to Smelker on the left circle. Smelker’s shot ricocheted off the left post and behind Rigsby.
That lead didn’t last for long, however, as the Badgers took advantage of a Rensselaer penalty to find the equalizer early in the third period. Senior captain and Olympic silver medalist Hillary Knight connected with junior Brianna Decker at the top of the right circle. Decker, a U.S. national team member herself and Wisconsin’s leading scorer, one-timed the shot past freshman goaltender Kelly O’Brien at 4:38. Freshman Blayre Turnbull buried the eventual game-winner jump moments later at 5:20 for her fifth goal of the season.
Rensselaer had several strong chances to knot the game up late in the match, but couldn’t hit the net. Rigsby denied Junior Taylor Horton with 2:36 left on the clock, and despite pulling O’Brien with 1:11 in regulation, the Engineers couldn’t solve the strong Wisconsin defense.
O’Brien posted a whopping 34 stops, while Rigsby earned the win with 23 saves.
The next afternoon turned ugly for the Engineers as the well-conditioned Wisconsin women’s hockey team simply outskated and overpowered RPI. The Badgers put 42 shots on net, with eight of them slipping past the duo of freshman goaltender Brianna Piper and O’Brien.
Knight and Decker opened the game with goals at 7:59 and 9:49 of the first period, respectively. However, the Engineers battled back to bring the match within one. Vadner’s shot from the point was redirected past Rigsby by freshman Ali Svoboda at 13:13. Prevost collected her 10th goal of the season at 18:51 to give the Badgers a 3-1 advantage to close out the first period—one that saw both teams post 11 shots on net.
Ammerman netted her first of two on the afternoon to start the second frame, giving Wisconsin a 4-1 lead. Seconds later at 1:53, Cox scored her second goal of the weekend to pull the Engineers within two. Smelker connected with Cox as she beat Rigsby to collect her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
That would be the most offense out of Rensselaer on the day as the Badgers exploded for four more goals to seal the win. Both Prevost and Ammerman netted their second goals of the game at 9:39 and 11:19, respectively, to give Wisconsin a 6-2 advantage. Decker closed out the third and earned the hat trick after scoring at 9:58 and 14:53, bringing the final score to 8-2, Wisconsin.
Piper, who played the first 40 minutes of the game, posted 21 saves while allowing six to hit the back of the net. O’Brien made 13 stops in relief, while also allowing two goals. Rigsby blocked 27 shots for the Badgers—her 13th win of the season.
The next weekend proved to play out better for the Engineers. Despite falling to the Syracuse Orange in a 4-3 decision on Friday evening, Rensselaer bounced back for the victory on Saturday.
Vandegrift put the Engineers on the scoreboard first after converting on her own rebound. Freshman defender Kathryn Schilter’s shot from the point was deflected by Vandegrift, but saved by sophomore goaltender Jessica Drinkwater. Vandegrift, however, backhanded the rebound over Drinkwater for her fourth of the season.
Despite the early lead, the Orange pulled ahead with three goals in the second period. Junior Holly Carrie-Mattimore knotted the game 3:23 into the frame after deflecting a pass from sophomore Caitlin Roach past O’Brien. Freshman Julie Knerr gave Syracuse