After a stellar start to the new season, Rensselaer women’s ice hockey has hit its first snag of the year. Following a two-game sweep by No. 1 Mercyhurst College last weekend, the Engineers continued on their slide dropping to non-conference opponent Syracuse University this weekend. Friday afternoon’s match ended 3-2 in overtime, while Saturday’s game concluded with a final score of 4-3. RPI now sits 2-4-2 on the year, while the Orange increased their record to 3-4-1 overall, with both teams looking to begin conference play this upcoming weekend.
“We knew what Syracuse was capable of and we’ve learned from experience to never underestimate a team,” explained junior wing Sydney O’Keefe. “So I don’t think that contributed to the outcome of last weekend’s games at all.”
Friday’s game wasn’t RPI’s best outing of the year. Although the Engineers placed on the boards first, Syracuse quickly rebounded and stole the lead from an unsuspecting Rensselaer squad. Senior wing Allysen Weidner notched her first goal of the year at 9:55 of the first period to give RPI the lead. On the man advantage, sophomore center Alisa Harrison won the faceoff back to rookie defenseman Janessa Haller, who rocketed a shot from the point. Syracuse goaltender Lucy Schoedel made the initial save, but Weidner was waiting at the doorstep and knocked the rebound in to put the Engineers up 1-0.
Both teams evenly battled to a scoreless bout until 16:10 of the second when the Syracuse Orange found the equalizer. Just as sophomore Janelle Malcolm exited the penalty box after serving time for a hooking call, she intercepted a pass on the way to her respective bench and quickly broke into Rensselaer’s zone. Junior goaltender Sonja van der Bliek was able to stop Malcolm’s shot, but knocked the puck out to Jessica Sorensen who buried the rebound.
Each team would add one more mark in the third period, tying the game up at two, with Syracuse striking first at 6:23. Lisa Mullan collected a pass from Kelly Dimmen on the far boards and beat a stick-less van der Bliek on the five-hole for her first goal of the season. With two minutes remaining in regulation, the Engineers were able to knot the game at two and keep the Orange off the boards to send the game into overtime. Senior Whitney Naslund tallied her third goal of the year, with the helper going to classmate Laura Gersten. While on the power play, Gersten carried the puck into Syracuse’s zone, but just as she released her shot, Mullen was there to redirect the puck to the near circle, where Naslund was patiently waiting. Naslund quickly sent a wrist shot over Schoedel’s shoulder for the equalizer.
The five-minute, sudden-death overtime saw the best of both teams come out to play to determine the victor. Although Rensselaer put forth a valiant effort, it would be Syracuse to finish out on top. Malcolm netted the game-winner two minutes into the extra frame to seal the win for the Orange. After receiving a pass from Taylor Metcalfe, Malcolm snuck a writster under van der Bliek’s glove, taking the game 3-2.
Game two of the weekend series fared no better for the Engineers. After holding a 2-1 lead entering the third period, RPI took a five-minute major which Syracuse capitalized on, netting three straight goals to win the game. Special teams got a workout in this match; all seven goals were scored on the man advantage.
Like the afternoon earlier, Rensselaer took the early lead, tallying the first goal of the game in the first period. Following point-to-point passes between the defensive pairing of sophomores Katie Daniels and Amanda Castignetti, Daniels ripped a shot on net that was redirected past Schoedel by O’Keefe at 4:41 for her third goal of the season. “We were on the power play, and [when] the puck went back to [Daniels], she put it on net and I was there to tip it in,” elaborated O’Keefe of her goal.
The Orange tied the game up at 14:26 of the second as captain Julie Rising converted on a shot from the low slot, sending the puck past van der Bliek. With the game knotted up at one, both teams battled through the period to take the lead. Rensselaer had several opportunities, especially in the final minutes of the frame. With less than two minutes remaining before the break, the Engineers blasted several shots on net, including one that precariously balanced the puck on the goal line. Before any RPI players could swoop in to send it over the line, a Syracuse defender cleared the biscuit from the dangerous situation. The Engineers did not give up, however, and their persistence paid off, with RPI netting the go-ahead goal at 19:26. Gersten rifled a shot from the point, which was redirected past Schoedel by freshman left wing Taylor Horton for her second of the year. Fellow rookie Andie Le Donne also assisted on the play.
In the final seconds of the period, however, the Engineers discipline let down as two players earned penalties at the 20 minute mark. Senior Allison Wright was tagged with a cross-checking penalty, good for two minutes in the penalty box, while classmate Allysen Weidner was tagged with a five-minute major for kicking and a game disqualification. “The penalties certainly stole momentum we had gained in the second, but we had a lot of trouble executing our penalty kill correctly, and that is what led to those three goals in the early minutes of the third,” said Daniels.
The five-on-three penalty kill hurt the Rensselaer squad, as the Orange netted three goals in the five-minute span. Goals from freshmen Isabel Menard, Kelsey Welch and Jessica Sorensen put Syracuse up 4-2, a lead the Engineers were unable to cut down.
Like the end of the second frame, RPI did not give up the game easily, placing a barrage of shots on Schoedel. With 4:44 left to play, Gersten blasted a shot on net that was nearly deflected past the goaltender, but was frozen on the play. Ten seconds later, Naslund fought to send the puck over the goal line, but a premature whistle by the referee rendered the goal unallowable, keeping the score at 4-2. The effort was not without reward, as RPI was able to get one more mark on the board in the final minute of regulation. On the man advantage and with van der Bliek pulled, creating a 6-on-4 opportunity, Wright tallied her first goal of the season after Rensselaer swarmed the opposing net and the resulting chaos sent the puck to the back of the cage. RPI would pull van der Bliek once again with 49 seconds left in the game, but Rensselaer could not find the equalizer.
Van der Bliek finished the afternoon with 16 saves, while Schoedel on the other end of the ice made 21 stops.
“It was good to see our power play producing,” said Daniels of the game. “[O’Keefe’s] goal was good for us, it’s always good to get the first goal in a game and get things flowing, and the second goal came after their scoring flurry in the third and helped us swing the momentum back in our favor and gave us the opportunity to battle for the game in the final minutes.”
The Engineers return to the ice this weekend in the opening of ECAC play. Friday evening, Rensselaer takes on the Princeton University Tigers, while Saturday it faces the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. “We’re a hard-working team. It’s just going to take some tweaking here and there to focus our efforts and come out with the wins,” said O’Keefe. “We’re excited to turn over a new leaf with league play, and we’re getting ready to put all this potential we have into something tangible.”
It should be a difficult weekend of play as the Tigers will be out for revenge, since the Engineers dished them an early exit from the ECAC playoffs last season. Friday’s game begins at 7 pm, while Saturday’s puck drop is at 4 pm. “Princeton will certaintly be looking for revenge,” predicted Daniels. “However, our team has been working very hard since the start of the season and we’ll be gunning not only to beat them, but also to redeem ourselves from our less-than-satisfactory performance this past weekend.”