Engineers close out regular season with wins

FRESHMAN CENTER RYAN HAGGERTY SKATES with the puck in RPI’s match against Princeton University at the Houston Field House a few weeks ago.

RPI men’s hockey closed out the regular season with a bang as the Engineers defeated Colgate University and Cornell University on the road. Freshman Scott Diebold stopped 49 shots in Rensselaer’s 4-2 victory over the Colgate Raiders on Friday, while senior Patrick Cullen netted the game-winning goal in overtime against the Cornell Big Red on Saturday in a 2-1 decision. The Engineers finish the season 10-21-3 overall, including a 7-12-3 ECAC record.

Following a scoreless first period Friday night in Hamilton, N.Y., the Engineers struck first with freshman Mark McGowan’s second goal of the season, and first of two on the evening. Junior C.J. Lee grabbed the puck from Colgate sophomore goaltender Eric Mihalik behind the net, and connected with McGowan on the shorthanded play at 5:05.

The final five minutes of the frame saw the two teams combine for three additional goals. The Raiders started out with freshman Joe Wilson putting home his own rebound at 15:47 to knot the game at one. Shortly after at 17:43, Colgate took a 2-1 lead off freshman Spiro Goulakos’ third tally of the season. However, with two seconds left in the period, the Engineers found the equalizer with freshman Jacob Laliberte’s fourth goal of the season. Junior Nick Bailen ripped a shot from the point, which Laliberte was able to tip in past Mihalik to make it a 2-2 match.

Rensselaer carried that momentum into the third and final period as Lee scored just 15 seconds into the frame. McGowan skated with the puck behind the net and passed it over to Lee at the opposite circle. Lee was able to corral the pass and snipe the shot past Mihalik for the eventual game-winner. With less than two minutes remaining in the match, Rensselaer was able to add an insurance goal with McGowan’s second of the night, putting the Engineers up 4-2.

Diebold turned aside 49 of 51 Colgate attempts, while Mihalik posted 19 saves. The Raiders, who concluded the regular season with a 17-4-3 overall record and a 11-10-1 conference mark, finish in fourth place in the league standings, and will have a first-round bye in the ECAC Tournament.

The following evening, the Engineers headed to Ithaca, N.Y., to take on No. 13 Cornell. Cullen led Rensselaer with a two-point effort to earn a win in the regular season finale against one of RPI’s most bitter rivals.

Both teams skated through two scoreless periods before Cornell freshman John McCarron knocked home a rebound from the side of the RPI net. Classmate Joel Lowry took the initial shot from the left circle, which was saved by junior goaltender Bryce Merriam, but the rebound came to McCarron who netted his fourth of the season at 8:18.

With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, the Engineers battled back to find the equalizer. Cullen shot the puck out toward the Cornell net, where sophomore Matt Tinordi was able to redirect it past sophomore goaltender Andy Iles. The goal, Tinordi’s fourth of the season, set Rensselaer up for an exciting overtime period.

RPI came out fighting in the extra frame, outshooting the Big Red by a 7-1 margin. With seconds remaining on the clock, sophomore Brock Higgs carried the puck into the offensive zone and connected with Tinordi in the corner. Tinordi then found Cullen alone in the slot, who fired the puck into an open net for the game-winner at 4:41.

Merriam finished with 15 saves in the win—the first for RPI at Lynah Rink since 2009. At the other end of the ice, Iles made 21 stops for the Big Red. Cornell finishes the regular season with a 15-5-5 overall record and a 12-4-6 league mark, and will also have a first-round bye in the ECAC Tournament.

The pair of wins propels RPI to 10th place in the conference, and the Engineers will take on Clarkson University this weekend in a best-of-three series. The winner will move on in the tournament to take on one of the top-four teams in the league. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s games are all set for 7 pm at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, N.Y.