Engineers split against Ivy League opponents

After bouncing back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Harvard University Crimson on Friday, the Engineers could not back up junior Chase Polacek’s natural hat trick in the second period to come away with the win against the Dartmouth College Big Green on Saturday. The win and loss keep RPI in a tie with St. Lawrence University for fourth place in ECAC with a 16-13-3 overall record and a 9-7-2 league mark. Harvard dropped to 7-15-3 overall and 7-8-3 in ECAC play, while Dartmouth improved to 7-17-1 overall and 5-12-1 within the conference.

With the Engineers down two goals less than two minutes into the game, fans could not have predicted the outcome of Friday’s match against the Crimson. The six-goal period ended with the Engineers tied 3-3.

A mere 18 seconds into the contest, senior Jack Christian netted his first of the year of an unassisted tally to put Harvard up, 1-0. That lead rose to 2-0 when junior Michael Biega collected his sixth goal of the season, with an assist going to freshman Louis Leblanc at the 1:51 mark.

Rensselaer freshman Jerry D’Amigo cut that lead in half with his ninth of the year at 11:05, but was quickly countered by a goal from Harvard’s rookie Alex Fallstrom at 12:44. Junior Bryan Brutlag and Polacek each lit the lamp within nine seconds of each other to close the period, 3-3.

With both teams heading back to the locker rooms after a tiring period, Harvard bounced right back with a goal just four minutes into the frame to regain the lead, 4-3. However, the Engineers were not backing down quite yet as Polacek netted his second of the game at 6:55 for his 20th goal of the season, with assists going to D’Amigo and junior Scott Halpern. Freshman Brandon Pirri buried what proved to be the game-winner less than three minutes later at 9:31 off the power play. Sophomore defenseman Mike Bergin earned an assist on Pirri’s ninth of the season.

After two high-scoring periods, the third remained much tamer with neither team placing on the boards, as sophomore netminder Allen York held on for the Engineers’ win. York blocked 29 saves for the win—including 10 in the third period alone—while juniors Ryan Carroll and Kyle Richter combined for 18 stops on the night.

Foolish errors and a mental breakdown in the third period on Saturday evening cost the Engineers a two-game sweep on the weekend, as the Dartmouth Big Green rallied from a three-goal deficit for the win at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. Despite a three-goal effort from Polacek, Rensselaer could not hold on for the win, settling for the 4-3 loss.

The embarrassing loss to one of the worst teams in the league began with a one-goal deficit to the Big Green. Dartmouth placed on the boards first with a goal with 48 seconds remaining in the opening period. Junior Kyle Reeds won the faceoff back to classmate Andrew Owsiak in the Rensselaer zone. Owsiak drew York out of the net before sending the puck back to Reeds, who went top-shelf for his fifth goal of the year. York was injured on the play, and replaced by freshman Bryce Merriam in net.

Rensselaer came out firing in the second, with Polacek single-handedly bringing the Engineers ahead 3-1. Polacek’s first of the night came at 3:51 after he buried a rebound from D’Amigo. On the 5-on-3 man advantage, Polacek netted the go-ahead goal at 9:49, followed by his third at 11:29. Polacek’s initial shot was blocked by Dartmouth goaltender sophomore Jody O’Neill, but Polacek grabbed the rebound and found an opening for his third of the night, and NCAA-leading 23rd goal of the season.

The two-goal lead heading into the third period was quickly extinguished as the Big Green came back with three unanswered goals in the final frame to win the game, 4-3. Sophomores Paul Lee and Nick Walsh teamed up to cut the deficit to one. Both skaters fought for the puck along the boards, with Lee emerging as the victor. As Lee skated into RPI’s zone, he dropped the puck back to Walsh, who lifted the puck over Merriam’s right shoulder to bring the game to 3-2.

With D’Amigo out of the game with a misconduct and Dartmouth on a five-minute power play, things looked bleak for the Engineers, however, despite several strong chances from the Big Green, Merriam and the rest of the RPI squad kept the game at 3-2. That, however, did not last long as Dartmouth found the equalizer at 17:22 as sophomore Troy Mattilia lifted the puck over Merriam for his first goal of the season. Less than a minute later, the Big Green found the go-ahead goal off sophomore Jim Gaudet’s fifth of the season.

Rensselaer could not counter with a goal of its own in the final minute of play, succumbing to the Big Green by a score of 4-3. Merriam and York combined for 35 saves in the loss, while O’Neill blocked 27 of RPI’s 30 attempts.

The Engineers return home to the Houston Field House for the final two regular home games of the season. Friday night RPI takes on Quinnipiac University at 7 pm, followed by the Big Red Freakout! against Princeton University on Saturday, beginning also at 7 pm. Saturday’s match also marks Senior Night, where seniors Paul Kerins, Garett Vassel, Erik Burgdoerfer, Peter Merth, and Christian Jensen will be honored for their contributions to the program for the past four seasons.

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