Engineers begin conference play with tie, loss

Just when it looked like the women’s hockey team had caught a break, something came along to snag its progress. After a strong start to the season, the Engineers have remained winless in their last six matches. Despite holding the Princeton University Tigers to a 2-2 tie on Friday, Rensselaer dropped the weekend’s second game by a score of 6-1 to the Quinnipiac University Bobcats. With the tie and the loss, RPI now sits 2-5-3 overall on the year and 0-1-1 in the ECAC, while Princeton is now 1-1-1 and the Bobcats improved to 4-3-1 with a perfect 2-0-0 in conference play.

Although traditionally Princeton and Rensselaer haven’t been thought of as rivals, the last meeting between the two teams has set up a different relationship for the ECAC squads. In the teams’ previous meeting, RPI knocked the Tigers out of the ECAC quarterfinals in a two-game sweep, defeating Princeton 2-1 after two overtime periods and 1-0 the following afternoon. For one of the top teams in the league and an NCAA favorite to be eliminated so early on by a complete underdog, one can imagine Princeton would be out for revenge.

Leading the way for RPI in Friday’s match against the Tigers were juniors Kendra Dunlop, who registered a goal and an assist on the night, and goaltender Sonja van der Bliek, who stopped 23 chances by the Ivy League foe.

Both Princeton and Rensselaer exchanged goals in an offensive first period that saw them light the lamp a total of four times. The Tigers struck first as freshman Kelly Cooke netted her third of the season less than five minutes after the opening faceoff. The Engineers responded 10 minutes later as sophomore Jill Vandegrift knocked the puck just under the far upper corner and past freshman Princeton goaltender Cassie Seguin for her first of the year.

With three minutes left to play in the opening frame, RPI and Princeton would each add one more tally within 31 seconds of each other. On the power play, Princeton took the brief lead as sophomore Julie Johnson won the faceoff back to senior Maddie Endicott, who then rifled a shot from the point for the goal. Senior Tiger Melanie Wallace would then take a hooking call, giving Rensselaer the man advantage and the opportunity to find the equalizer. Freshman Engineer Janessa Haller blasted a shot from the point that could not solve Seguin, but rebounded out to Dunlop, who took two swipes at the puck before finally hitting it out of midair and sending it to the back of the cage. Junior Sydeny O’Keefe also earned an assist on the play.

The remainder of the game became a battle of goaltenders as neither van der Bliek nor Seguin would allow another goal in the remaining 45 minutes of play. Van der Bliek held strong for the Engineers, stopping nine shots in the first period, 10 in the second, three in the third, and one in the extra frame. Seguin finished the night with a total of 19 saves, including five in the first, seven in the second, six in the third, and one during overtime.

Saturday fared much worse for the Engineers as the Quinnipiac Bobcats steamrolled RPI in a 6-1 rout. Freshman Bobcat Heather Hughes tallied four points on the night—including her first career hat trick—in the win.

The Bobcats came out firing, netting four goals in the first period alone. Four minutes into the contest, Quinnipiac found itself on the boards off a power play goal from sophomore Bethany Dymarczyk. That lead quickly grew to two as Hughes posted her first of the afternoon at 4:29. Hughes added her second midway through the period off a pass from Dymarczyk, also on the power play, as senior Janine Duffy made it a 4-0 advantage at 18:56, closing out scoring for the period.

Quinnipiac gave the score keepers a rest in the second period as both teams skated through a scoreless middle frame. Rensselaer wasn’t about to be shut out, however, as freshman Taylor Horton netted the Engineers’ only goal of the night at 16:25 of the third. Senior Allysen Weidner found Horton in the slot, who then blasted the puck between the pads of freshman Quinnipiac goaltender Victoria Vigilanti. The brief outburst from RPI would not be enough to cut the deficit any further as the Bobcats added two more goals to close the period—including an empty net goal by Hughes at 17:00 to complete the hat trick, and a second empty netter by sophomore Stacey Kmill.

Vigilanti made 29 saves for the Bobcats in the win, while van der Bliek took the loss, stopping only four shots in the first 10:50 of play before giving way to freshman Shannon Ramelot, who made 14 saves in the remainder of the contest.

Rensselaer looks to redeem itself this weekend in the second round of conference play. On Friday, the Engineers take on the Colgate University Raiders at home at 2:30 pm, followed by a match against the Cornell University Big Red on Saturday also at 2:30 pm.