RPI ties Cornell Friday, bounces back to demolish Colgate Saturday

JUNIOR FORWARD MATT NEAL ESCAPES an attempt to steal the puck from a Colgate University player during the Engineers’ 6-2 victory Saturday, November, 9. RPI advanced to 6-2-2 following this win and their 3-3 tie against Cornell on Friday.

The Engineers kicked off their weekend by playing Cornell on Friday. Cornell came into the Houston Field House ranked No. 15, providing the Engineers a big opportunity to play against a top ranked team in the nation. After giving up a goal in the first period, the Engineers came back with a strong second period, netting two goals. The first came just over a minute into the period when senior Guy Leboeuf netted a shorthanded goal with assists from junior Mark McGowan and sophomore Mike Zalewski. Junior Ryan Haggerty would find the back of the net for his 11 goal of the season 15:30 through the period to give RPI the lead. Haggerty was assisted by sophomore Chris Bradley and senior Bo Dolan. Junior Matt Neal opened the scoring in the third period for the Engineers by finding the back of the net 7:59 into the period with the assist again coming from Zalewski. Cornell would answer late in the game, scoring with less than two minutes to play to pull within one. During the play, RPI was called for boarding, giving Cornell a power play for the remainder of the game. After calling a timeout, Cornell’s power play was able to find a goal with only 30 seconds left to play. The following overtime would yield no goals for either team and the game ended in a 3-3 tie. When asked for comment, Engineers’ Seth Appert said “We probably made three mistakes in a row, and all of a sudden it just changed that quick.” Appert was clearly frustrated with the tie saying it was “not acceptable” and that the team has “got to come very determined tomorrow to change that.”

Appert’s message must have been heard loud and clear by the Engineers as they returned to the Field House Saturday to beat up on Colgate 6-2. After a slow first five minutes of play, the Engineers found their groove and began to take control of the play by setting the tone with a strong forecheck that they would continue all night, pestering Colgate in their own end. RPI also played very well in their end of the ice, as was evidenced by their first goal of the night. A strong defensive play by taking away passing lanes allowed RPI to come up with a takeaway and break out quickly. The Engineers were able to catch the Colgate defense trying to change allowing sophomore Phil Hampton to move the puck to senior Matt Tinordi who found a breaking senior BrockHiggs entering Colgate’s zone. Higgs got behind the defense and fooled the goalie with some quick skating to pocket a wraparound goal 6:55 into the period. Mid-way through the period, the first of many penalties the crowd found questionable would be issued to Rensselaer. RPI was called for boarding in its own end after a hit in the corner left a player from Colgate lying on the ice. The correct penalty was called, but issuing a five minute major raised a lot of eyebrows at the Field House. The Engineers went on to have the kind of penalty kill every fan and coach wants to see. Once again, the Engineers took away passing lanes and sacrificed their bodies blocking five shots led by Higgs. RPI was able to get a few odd man rushes despite being shorthanded as well as a shorthanded goal. Leboeuf would beat the Colgate netminder from his own blue line as the puck took a funny hop into the net. The assists would be credited to Brock Higgs and McGowan. After finishing up the penalty kill as the aggressor, Rensselaer had all the momentum going for them. Despite a period that only saw nine total shots, four of which came from RPI, the Engineers were able to take control by playing hard and fast, pressuring Colgate on the forecheck and not allowing them to get anything going in front of Engineers’ goalie junior Scott Diebold.

Riding their momentum into the second period, the Engineers scored 1:46 into the second as McGowan tucked away a rebound from junior Curtis Leonard. Junior Zach Schroeder had the secondary assist on the play. After allowing three goals on seven shots through just under 22 minutes, Colgate goalie Charlie Finn was replaced by Spencer Finney. The second questionable penalty call would come 6:14 through the second period when RPI was issued a 5 minute major and game misconduct for kneeing, causing the ever-vocal fans at the Field House to reign down boos toward the referees. After the hit, Colgate player Tylor Spink was able to skate away as Colgate got ready for their second 5 minute power play. Only three minutes into the power play, it would be Spink who would end up scoring for Colgate. Although there was knee to knee contact on the play, it argued it was incidental and should have drawn a minor penalty at most. Spink was clearly not severely injured if at all on the play as is evidenced by his quick-enough recovery to come back and score a goal. Only 49 seconds after the kneeing major ended, the Engineers were issued another 5 minute major and game misconduct for roughing: contact to the head. As Colgate tried to enter Rensselaer’s zone, the player was squeezed into the boards at the blue line in what looked to be a relatively routine play. However, the referee did not hesitate at all in putting his hand in the air to give out another 15 penalty minutes to the red and white. As the replay came across the jumbotron, everyone in the Field House could clearly see that the Colgate player ducked into the hit and RPI’s player was already in a hitting motion when he did so. Again, there was head contact but fans say nothing that should have warranted a third five minute major and second ejection for the Engineers. It was at this point that many of those in attendance had had enough and begun to yell expletive chants toward the referees. The Engineers would again respond to the adversity by killing off the penalty with a big contribution coming from junior goalie Scott Diebold as he went post to post to rob Colgate on a one timer with a spectacular glove save. That save kept the game at 3-1. The entire game could have changed if Colgate would have been able to pull to 3-2. The tumultuous period would end with two more penalties as the Engineers were called for tripping at 18:28 and Colgate was called for roughing at 19:14. Despite having 37 penalty minutes through the first two periods (17 of which caused the Engineers to be shorthanded, the other twenty coming from misconducts), RPI was able to end the second with a 3-1 lead.

The third period began with boos for the referees and both teams returning to full strength. After only 1:21, Colgate would be called for elbowing on a play that looked very similar to the one for which RPI was issued a major and misconduct for in the second period. However, the call was only a two minute minor and nothing came of the power play for the Engineers. At the 4:21 mark, Haggerty scored the Engineers fourth goal as he was fed in the slot from Zalewski who had worked hard to drive down the wing into Colgate’s zone. Shortly after, juniorJacob Laliberte bounced a rebound off of the Colgate goalie’s back after McGowan did a good job to knock down a puck that had come off of freshman Jimmy DeVito’s stick forcing Colgate to take a time out. At 5:50 RPI would get two more penalty minutes for tripping. The Engineers got another power play opportunity with eight minutes left in the game as Colgate was called for slashing. Only eight seconds into the power play, Haggerty would be assisted by junior Matt Neal and Laliberte to score his second goal of the night and 13th of the season. One minute and four seconds following Haggerty’s goal, Colgate would get its second goal of the night off of a breakaway opportunity. Colgate changed their goalie again after Spencer Finney allowed three goals on six shots. Eric Mihalik came into the game after Colgate scored their second goal to finish the remaining 6:48 of the game. The game would not be completed until RPI was again called for kneeing with just under two minutes left to play; a penalty which they were able to kill off.

The stat line for a game described as bizarre can itself only be described as bizarre. Colgate outshot the Engineers 17-14 only netting two goals. RPI’s six goals on 17 shots gave them a 35 percent shooting percentage. The Engineers took 8 penalties for 41 minutes but Colgate was only able to score once on seven power plays. RPI went one for three on the power play and added a shorthanded goal. After the game, Appert said “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” Appert said that the RPI defense and penalty killers deserve an extra nod as they weathered a never-ending storm by blocking shots and playing tight team defense in front of the net. The fact that Colgate was only allowed 17 shots on goal with how often they had an extra man speaks volumes of the defensive effort put forth by the entire RPI team.

The Engineers next play The Dutchmen of Union College in two games this weekend. On Friday, the Engineers travel to Schenectady to play the unranked Dutchmen before returning home to play them again at the Field House. Union is 4-3-2 and is coming off of a 5-3 loss to Colgate this past Friday and a 3-0 win over Cornell on Saturday.