RPI opens home action with two tough losses

FRESHMAN FORWARD DREW MELANSON SKATES through the Bentley defense with the puck in RPI’s Friday, October 24 loss at the Houston Field House.

This past weekend, RPI men’s hockey hosted the Bentley University Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Association for a two-game series. Games were played on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25. Both games ended in defeat for the Engineers, who simply couldn’t keep a potent Falcon offense at bay.

Friday’s game marked the first home game of the regular season for the Engineers. The excitement was tangible in the Houston Field House before the puck drop as several thousand fans piled into their seats to get a first look at the 2014 men’s hockey team. But, for all the excitement, the opening period ended the same way it began, 0-0.

RPI came out of the gates energetically to open the second period, maintaining possession of the puck in the Bentley zone for a significant amount of time. But, this disparity didn’t result in any legitimate scoring opportunities for the Engineers. On the other end, Bentley made efficient work of its offensive possessions, firing shots at junior goalie Jason Kasdorf almost every time it entered the RPI zone. After three Kasdorf saves, a shot from Bentley right wing Kyle Schmidt found the back of the net with seven minutes and 35 seconds gone by in the second period.

The second part of the game’s middle frame was characterized by defensive prowess, as both teams killed power plays late in the second period. For RPI, two power plays only seemed to further illustrate how much the Engineer offense was struggling. Only late in the second power play did the Engineers find an open look in front of the Bentley goal. But, this too was unfruitful as the puck was knocked away by a Bentley defender.

Kasdorf made three crucial saves on the Bentley power play to keep Rensselaer within one. Then, at the two-minute mark in the second period, the RPI offense awoke for a sudden, tying strike. Freshman forward Drew Melanson made a timely pass to a cutting freshman forward Lou Nanne on the left wing in front of the Falcon net. Then, Nanne corralled the puck and blazed a shot past Bentley goalie Gabe Antoni to tie the score. Senior defender Luke Curadi was also credited with the assist for the goal, which was Nanne’s first at RPI.

Bentley killed another RPI power play at 8:37 in the third period and scored on a breakaway 32 seconds later to move back on top, 2-1 with 10 minutes and 51 seconds remaining in the contest. Bentley then controlled the tempo of the game for the next four minutes, rattling off two shots before receiving a power play with 7:34 remaining on a senior defender Curtis Leonard slashing penalty. Just over a minute later, Bentley forward Will Suter took the RPI defense by surprise as he gathered a loose puck against the boards and slipped a top-shelf shot past Kasdorf to pad the Bentley advantage to 3-1.

For just a brief moment, Bentley seemed to have the game firmly in hand. But just 13 seconds later, Nanne scored his second goal of the evening, assisted by junior forward Mark Miller and Melanson, to put Rensselaer back within one.

In the final minutes, the Engineers fought valiantly to tie the score, but were turned away on all seven of their shots by Antoni and the Bentley defense. With 1:56 remaining, RPI pulled Kasdorf to get a one-man advantage in hopes of tying the score. Shots by freshman defender Mike Prapavessis and freshman forward Viktor Liljegren were knocked away. Then, Bentley cleared the puck into the RPI zone and forward Max French deflected a shot past an Engineer defender into the empty net to give Bentley a 4-2 lead. With the RPI goal still empty, Bentley took the puck away and Schmidt eased the puck into the Rensselaer net to give Bentley a 5-2 victory in the opening game of the series.

In Saturday’s game, Bentley forward Ryan McMurphy scored a power play goal with 4:05 remaining in the first period for what would eventually be the game-winning goal as the Falcons defeated the Engineers 4-0. Bentley forward Derek Bacon tallied three assists.

Forward Andrew McDonald scored shorthanded later in the first period while forward Alex Kubiak and defender Matt Maher each scored goals in the second session.

RPI outshot visiting Bentley 19-16 in the game, but Bentley goalie Blake Dougherty made 19 saves. Senior goalie Scott Diebold started the second game of the back-to-back against the Falcons and saved 12 of 16 shots he faced.

Following Saturday’s game, the Engineers fall to 1-5 on the young season while the Falcons improve to 3-2. Next Friday night, RPI will host rival Union College for what will be the first game between the two schools since the heated Mayor’s Cup game last spring. They will then make the short drive to Union to take on the Dutchmen again the following night.