After earning their first win in six games against the Clarkson University Golden Knights on Friday, the Engineers battled out to a 2-1 loss to another ECAC undefeated team, the St. Lawrence University Saints, on Saturday night. The win and loss place RPI 7-4-1 overall and 3-1-0 in the ECAC, while Clarkson falls to 3-7 overall and 0-3 in the league. St. Lawrence improves to 6-4-1 overall and 2-2-0 in ECAC play.
Coming off one of the best starts to league play in years, Rensselaer was fueled from goals off five different skaters in the 5-2 victory over the Golden Knights. Backed by goals from junior defensemen Bryan Brutlag and Jeff Foss in the first and second periods, respectively, to take the early 2-0 lead, the Engineers helped lead Head Coach Seth Appert to his first career win over Clarkson in what proved to be a whole-team effort. “On Friday night, we were hard to play against,” explained junior defenseman Jeff Foss. “We gave them very little time and space to handle the puck, and played with an edge for 60 minutes.”
The game’s first goal came shortly after a four-on-four situation at 6:49, ending with Rensselaer on the power play. Brutlag ripped a shot from the point that sailed through traffic and past Clarkson sophomore netminder Paul Karpowich for his second of the year, with assists going to freshman Brandon Pirri and sophomore Alex Angers-Goulet. The remainder of the period was a defensive battle, with neither team placing on the board.
Unlike the opening frame, both teams opened up an offensive flood with RPI lighting the lamp three times over a 20-minute period and Clarkson coming back with two of its own. Foss tallied his first of the year at 5:01 off a shot from the blueline, with helpers going to senior Paul Kerins and Angers-Goulet. “I don’t score too many, so it felt good to get the first one of the year,” said Foss.
Clarkson responded with its only two goals of the contest within a minute of each other, both on the man advantage. With junior Scott Halpern in the box for high-sticking and senior defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer serving time after a holding call, Golden Knights freshman Adam Pawlick took advantage of the remaining two seconds in the 5-on-3 advantage to net his fourth of the year at 8:57. A fatal error by Rensselaer’s defense tied the game up at two, as junior Brandon DeFazio found the equalizer at 9:42. Freshman defenseman Andrew Himelson slid a pass between two RPI blueliners and straight to a streaking DeFazio before releasing a quick wrist shot that beat sophomore goaltender Allen York for his second goal of the year.
The tie would not stand for long as the Engineers came back with two more in the second, including the eventual game-winner from freshman Marty O’Grady. O’Grady capitalized on a power play situation, burying the puck past Karpowich after passes between Angers-Goulet and sophomore wing Patrick Cullen. Angers-Goulet also earned his third assist of the night on the play, earning him a playmaker for the day. Freshman Jerry D’Amigo padded Rensselaer’s lead with his fourth marker of the season off a shot from the high slot at 15:23. Karpowich left the game following D’Amigo’s tally and was replaced by sophomore Richie LaVeau.
With an undefeated home record on the line, Clarkson stepped up play in the third period, but it would not be enough to overcome the two-goal deficit. Pulling LaVeau with minutes remaining in the game, junior Chase Polacek scored his team-leading eighth goal of the year on a empty net opportunity.
York stopped 25 saves in the win for Rensselaer, the first over the Golden Knights since January 22, 2005. Before exiting the game, Karpowich made 14 saves on 18 shots, while LaVeau stopped seven in relief.
Heading to Appleton Arena in Canton, N.Y. on Saturday night, both the Engineers and Saints held undefeated league records and were out to prove who was top-dog in the ECAC. Despite a strong effort by Rensselaer, St. Lawrence came out ahead in the 2-1 triumph with two third period goals.
Once again RPI opened scoring in the game off Polacek’s ninth of the year. Polacek has netted at least a single goal in the past six games, placing him fifth in the nation for scoring and tied for second in goals scored. Receiving a pass from Pirri at the top of the left faceoff circle, Polacek whipped a wrist shot past senior netminder Kain Tisi for the marker. The goal would prove to be RPI’s only in the physical matchup.
“All I can really say is that the pucks have been bouncing my way right now,” said Polacek who is currently one goal and game away from tying the Engineers’ record for longest goal scoring streak, set by Brad Tapper in 1999. “I am trying to attack scoring areas more this year. I am just shooting and attacking when I can, and am fortunate that some of the shots that didn’t go in in the past are so far this year,” continued Polacek.
Not to be taken lightly, the Saints responded with a 21-3 shot advantage in the second period, but a tremendous effort by York kept the game at a tame 1-0.
Putting the pressure on with a total of 30 shots on net over the final 40 minutes of play, one was bound to beat York as the Saints found the equalizer at 6:05 of the third. Senior defenseman Jeff Caister grabbed junior Nick Pitsikoulis’ rebound and beat York in the upper corner off the power play. Nearly two minutes later, St. Lawrence found the go-ahead goal from senior Mike McKenzie as he cut across the net and deflected a pass from Pitsikoulis past York.
Despite the two miscues from Rensselaer’s defense, St. Lawrence would not add any more on the night. A Saints penalty late in the third, combined with pulling York in favor of the extra skater, gave RPI a 6-on-4 advantage, but the team could not find the equalizer with the final 1:54 remaining in regulation. York finished with 35 saves on the night, while Tisi posted 14. “We played mentally weak on Satuday night,” admitted Foss. “[York] played a stellar game, and because of him the game was only 2-1, and he gave us a chance to tie it up and go for a win towards the end. Overall, it was a poor performance by us. We just have to learn from it and move on to Niagara on Wednesday.”
During Friday’s match, sophomore defenseman Mike Bergin left the game with a concussion. He joins junior Tyler Helfrich and freshman CJ Lee with those sitting in the stands with injuries. With so many players out with injuries, several have stepped in and proved their worth to the team. “When guys get hurt, other guys are more thanp willing to step in and play to their strengths and help us win,” explained Foss. The Niagara University Purple Eagles are currently winless this season, and the non-conference match against the CHA foe should prove helpful in giving the injured and worn-down a break from gameplay.
The Engineers head to Niagara Falls, N.Y. for a rare Wednesday night game this evening against the Purple Eagles, followed by a weekend off in preparation for the RPI Holiday Tournament over Thanksgiving Break. “As far as the Niagara game, it’s going to be a test for us on how well we can respond after we played poorly last Saturday,” said Polacek. “We all know what we did wrong and how we can change it as a team. Niagara is going to come out hard and eager to get their first win of the year in their own rink.” Game time is set for 7 pm.