Men's hockey rises to No. 18 in INCH polls

With the 1985 National Championship team in town, expectations were set high for the Engineers this past weekend. Rensselaer delivered in the two-game set against North Country rivals, tying the St. Lawrence University Saints 3-3 on Friday, followed by a 2-1 win over Clarkson University on Saturday. The tie and win place RPI fifth among ECAC teams, with a 15-12-3 overall record and 8-6-2 within the conference, as well as ranking 18th in the nation in the Inside College Hockey polls. St. Lawrence, who is 16th in the INCH polls, sits in fourth place in the league with a 14-9-5 overall record and a 8-4-3 ECAC mark. The Golden Knights sit at the bottom of the ECAC barrel with a dismal 5-20-3 overall record and just one conference win, posting a 1-13-2 ECAC record.

While Saturday night received the most press for the return of the 1985 team, Friday night also held its fair share of events as proceeds from the game’s ticket sales were donated to the Hannah’s Hope Fund. Hannah, a young girl suffering from Giant Axonal Neuropathy, was on hand to drop the opening puck as the foundation looks to raise funds to support GAN research and case studies. An extremely rare disease, it affects less than 200,000 people in the United States.

Rensselaer came from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to tie the Saints, 3-3. Senior Paul Kerins knotted the game up at three after deflecting a shot from junior defenseman Jeff Foss from the blue line past Saints senior goaltender Kain Tisi at 13:15.

Bringing the game to that point, RPI hit the scoreboard first with two goals in the first period of play. Freshman Marty O’Grady netted his eighth of the year after grabbing a pass and putting a shot on net. Classmate Brandon Pirri nabbed the deflection, but could not solve Tisi and the puck shot back out to O’Grady in the bottom of the left circle. O’Grady was able to capitalize on the second chance, burying a backhand shot against Tisi.

The lead was quickly shot as the Saints came back to tie the game nearly five minutes later. With both teams down a man to penalties, senior Saint Derek Keller skated into the zone and beat sophomore Allen York for his eighth of the season. The Engineers were not out of the game; however, as sophomore Alex Angers-Goulet regained the lead for the home-standing team as he buried a loose puck just outside of St. Lawrence’s crease. Junior Bryan Brutlag earned the sole assist on the play after carrying the puck into the zone.

Once again St. Lawrence tied the game, and skated away with the lead in the second period after two quick goals to start the frame. Junior Aaron Bogosian netted a power play goal just under a minute after puck drop from the bottom of the right faceoff circle, followed by a tally from senior Mike McKenzie less than three minutes later. Neither team placed on the boards for the remainder of the period as RPI returned to the locker room down 3-2.

Kerin’s goal proved to be the last of the game as both teams skated to a 3-3 deadlock following a five-minute sudden-death overtime period. The game ended with a bang, however, with several Engineers and Saints engaging in a fight in the final minutes of the third period, resulting in game misconducts for both squads.

“We had a six-seven minute mental breakdown in the secondperiod that took away from our momentum. We have to continue to focus on playing the right way for 60 minutes. Not to take anything away from the St. Lawrence team, they are disciplined and work very hard,” explained Vassel.

York finished with 26 saves on the night, while at the other end of the rink Tisi made 19 stops.

“St. Lawrence is a great team, a nationally ranked team pretty recently, but I felt that we were the better team,” said Brutlag. “We played great most of the game except for a 8–10 minute span where they scored their goals and had momentum. So I think if we could have eliminated that, the result would have been much different.”

Saturday’s game was jam-packed with special events, as the 1985 squad was recognized on-ice during the first intermission with replica jerseys mimicking those from 25 years ago, as well as all other Rensselaer hockey alumni in town during the second break. Following the game, more replica jerseys were auctioned off, and several members of the National Championship team were on hand for an autograph session.

With RPI coming off a tough tie and Clarkson embarrassed by a 9-2 loss to Union College the night before, a game also broadcast nationally, both teams were prepared to redeem themselves and battle for the win.

Like the night before, RPI opened scoring as sophomore defenseman Mike Bergin recorded his fourth goal of the season at 9:01 of the first period. On the power play, junior Chase Polacek raced into the zone, driving hard to the net, but had his shot deflected into the high slot. Bergin, waiting on the blue line, rushed in from the right point to bury a slap shot past sophomore goaltender Paul Karpowich. Freshman Jerry D’Amigo also earned an assist on the play.

Opening the second period, Brutlag buried the eventual game-winner off a solid individual effort from the defenseman-turned-forward. Brutlag grabbed a pass from senior Peter Merth and maneuvered his way to the net before netting a backhanded goal against Karpowich for his sixth goal of the year. “It’s great to score a goal, especially at home in front of that crowd, and especially when it turns out to be the game winner,” said Brutlag. “I don’t score many goals, but this one I think I’ll remember.”

As far as the transition from the blueline to the face off dot, Brutlag feels he made the move smoothly. “I think that my strengths as a player really enable me to be an effective forward. The transition was not too bad. I feel like when I am playing forward there is less to worry about than as a defenseman, and I have the ability to be a little more creative with the puck. I have a lot of work to do still, but I feel like my play has been improving.”

Clarkson cut the deficit to one with a goal at 16:16 of the second period. The puck ricocheted up to the point to sophomore Corey Tamblyn, whose low shot skimmed the ice and snuck inside the right post.

Despite many opportunities through the remainder of the game, neither team placed on the boards. Clarkson pulled Karpowich in favor of the extra skater with just over a minute remaining in the game, but could not capitalize on the man advantage as RPI skated to a complete sweep of the Golden Knights this season.

York stopped 17 shots on the night, including 12 in the second period alone, while Karpowich saved 33 of 35 attempts by the Engineers.

“We were mature in the sense that we continued to play a team game, and not dwell on the fact that we were only winning the game by a goal,” said Vassel of the win. “We collectively realized that we had to come away with a win, and it didn’t matter what the spread was. It would have been foolish on our part if we thought the game was going to come easy for us, especially after hearing that Union won the night before by a margin of nine. A ‘W’ went in our win column just the same as it did for Union the night before.”

Rensselaer hits the road to take on Ivy League rivals Harvard College and Dartmouth College this weekend. Friday’s game against the Crimson is set to begin at 7 pm, while Saturday’s match versus the Big Green is also slated to start at 7 pm. Earlier this season, RPI skated to a 3-3 tie with Harvard and a 2-1 victory over Dartmouth at the Houston Field House. With a new spot in the national polls and home-ice advantage—or even a first round bye in the playoffs—on the line, these two game this weekend will be crucial wins for a revamped Engineers squad. “We are gearing up to come away with four points this weekend,” said Vassel. “That is our focus now. Game to game. Two points at a time. We again have to remain focused, and not feel like we can just show up and grab a win. Every team in this league comes hard.”