RPI men’s hockey sweeps competition

Juniors Bryce Merriam, Marty O’Grady, earn ECAC honors for contributions

SOPHOMORE BROCK HIGGS SKATES with the puck during the Festivus Holiday Tournament held in Lake Placid, N.Y., in early December. Although the Engineers fell to Union College in the match, Rensselaer has rebounded in the recent weeks.

After a rough start to the season, the men’s hockey team finally found its groove shortly after the semester break. The Engineers are currently on a two-game winning streak following a 3-0 shutout of Brown University on Friday and a 2-1 toppling of Yale University on Saturday. Prior to last weekend, Rensselaer had only mustered four wins since October, but now sits with a 6-17-1 overall record, including a 3-8-1 conference mark.

Junior goaltender Bryce Merriam emerged the star in Friday’s matchup as the Bethel Park, Pa., native stopped all 36 shots faced enroute to his second shutout of the season. Offensively, junior defenseman Nick Bailen paced the team with a goal and an assist.

Bailen’s goal, which proved to be the eventual game-winner, came 1:39 into the second period as his shot from the high slot hit the crossbar and landed in the back of Brown’s cage. Less than three minutes later, junior Marty O’Grady gave the Engineers a 2-0 advantage after burying a rebound off a deflection by sophomore Brock Higgs.

The final period saw freshman Zach Schroeder direct a loose puck into the empty net for a 3-0 lead. Merriam stopped 14 shots in the second period and 16 more in the third frame to earn his second career shutout. At the other end of the rink, Brown sophomore goaltender Marco De Filippo made 30 stops.

Rensselaer held that momentum heading to New Haven, Conn., to face off against the Yale Bulldogs. O’Grady netted both of RPI’s goals as Merriam once again backstopped the visitors to a 2-1 victory.

The first of O’Grady’s goals came early in the third period as the forward collected a drop pass from sophomore CJ Lee in the Bulldogs’ zone. O’Grady ripped the shot past junior goaltender Jeff Malcolm to give Rensselaer a 1-0 lead at 5:45. Just over three minutes later, O’Grady struck again as he picked up a loose puck on the Yale crease and flipped the biscuit over Malcolm.

With two minutes remaining in regulation, the Bulldogs pulled Malcolm in favor of the extra skater. The tactic worked, as senior Kevin Limbert managed to sneak the puck through Merriam’s legs to pull Yale within one. However, Rensselaer’s strong defense and Merriam’s impressive skills kept the Bulldogs from finding the equalizer, giving the Engineers the win.

Merriam stopped 45 shots, including 18 in the third period, to earn the victory. Malcolm made 16 stops for the Bulldogs, who fall to 8-9-2 overall on the season, including a 5-6-1 ECAC record.

Following the games, Merriam and O’Grady were tabbed with league weekly honors. O’Grady, who scored three of RPI’s five goals on the weekend, was named as the ECAC Player of the Week. Through 19 games, O’Grady has four goals and four assists. Merriam, who shut out Brown on Friday night and helped the Engineers to another victory on Saturday, was selected as the conference’s Goaltender of the Week.

The Engineers return to the Houston Field House this weekend for a North Country matchup. Rensselaer takes on St. Lawrence University on Friday night, and will host Clarkson University on Saturday. Both games are slated to begin at 7 pm.