Engineers remain undefeated on season

Rensselaer women’s hockey traveled north over the holiday weekend to a popular destination, Niagara Falls, with one goal in mind—to win. The Engineers succeeded in keeping an undefeated 2-0-2 record, although it was at the cost of sharing victories on the second match of the two-game series with the Niagara University Purple Eagles. The team’s second CHA opponent in as many weeks, RPI took command over the Purple Eagles in a 2-0 shutout in the non-conference matchup on Friday, followed by a 3-3 tie on Saturday. Niagara falls to 1-2-1 overall on the season.

Friday afternoon at Dwyer Arena saw the game-winner netted by freshman Taylor Horton for her first collegiate goal. After both teams skated through a scoreless opening period, Rensselaer took charge to mark the game’s first tally. Horton was able to send a low wrist shot past junior Niagara goaltender Jenni Bauer after receiving a point-to-point pass between senior blueliners Rossli Chace and Laura Gersten at the 11:29 mark of the second.

The game would stay at a nerve-wracking 1-0 lead for the Engineers until late in the third period, when Bauer was pulled in favor for the extra attacker. Senior wing Whitney Naslund took advantage of the open-net opportunity for the insurance goal at 18:57, a mere 30 seconds after Bauer was pulled. Classmate Allison Wright assisted on the play.

Recording her second straight shutout of the season, junior netminder Sonja van der Bliek stopped all 22 shots faced on the night for the win, while Bauer posted 16 saves in the loss. Although the Purple Eagles held a 22-18 advantage in shots, the Engineers prevailed with face-off wins, going 37 for 61. Neither team saw production from special teams, as RPI went 0-9 on the man-advantage, and Niagara finished 0-6.

“Although the game was a bit slow, we managed to out-work [Niagara] in the end. [Van der Bliek] was a key factor as well; she made some key saves that allowed us to come away with the win,” explained junior wing Kendra Dunlop.

Next afternoon’s match saw an entirely different Niagara team take to the ice, rallying from three separate one-goal deficits to knot the game at three. Junior wing Sydney O’Keefe notched her first two goals of the season in the tie for the Engineers.

Each team saw several opportunities to get on the board in the opening two periods of play, although neither squad held the lead for long. Opening the game, O’Keefe netted her first of the night just barely under four minutes into the game off passes from sophomores Jill Vandegrift and Laura Guillemette. It didn’t take much time for the Purple Eagles to respond, as 10 minutes later senior Mary McKinnon put Niagara on the board. On the man-advantage, McKinnon blasted a one-timer past freshman goaltender Shannon Ramelot to tie the game at one. O’Keefe took little time in regaining the lead, notching her second mark of the night just 59 seconds later. Guillemette collected her second point of the night on the play, as sophomore defenseman Sierra Vadner took credit for the goal’s second assist.

The second period saw just as much action as the first, with Niagara once again tying the game a mere 41 seconds into the start of the frame. Freshman Purple Eagle Jenna Hendrikx netted her fourth goal in as many games to tie the game back at two. Five minutes later, Rensselaer regained the lead with Dunlop’s first goal of the season, with an assist by Gersten. “I was coming off the bench on a change and saw an opportunity to jump on the loose puck and beat the defenseman down the ice, and snuck it in over the goalie’s shoulder,” elaborated Dunlop on the goal.

Niagara scored what would be the game’s final goal two minutes later with help from sophomore Erica Owczaeczak, who found the back of the net for her first mark of the year.

Neither team was able to break the tie in the third, forcing a five-minute, sudden death overtime. Although Niagara earned a power play seconds into the extra frame, Rensselaer’s defensive unit was able to hold off the Purple Eagle offensive onslaught to maintain the tie. “We made some small fundamental mistakes that led to goals by them,” said Dunlop of the game. “We just needed to play a little sharper and we would have won the game.”

Ramelot, in her first collegiate start, made 17 saves, while Bauer stopped 21 on the night.

Rensselaer returns home to the Houston Field House this weekend to take on the No. 1 in the nation Mercyhurst College Lakers in a two-game series. Runner-up in last year’s national tournament, the Lakers should provide a challenge for the up-and-coming Engineers squad. Friday’s game begins at 7 pm—which is also the second annual Pack the House night—while Saturday’s puck drop is at 3 pm. “Our team is based on out-working the other team. Mercyhurst being No. 1 or No. 20 doesn’t change the way we’ll play our game and, we will stick to hard work for 120 minutes this weekend,” said Dunlop of the weekend’s difficult match. “We played them last year and came close to winning, so it really is anyone’s game.”