After men’s hockey fell flat in game two of its best-of-three series at Clarkson University, they faced elimination in the series finale. Their response? Three goals in the first period to put the Golden Knights away early.
Friday night, the Engineers skated onto the ice at Cheel Arena to face the Clarkson Golden Knights in the first round of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, having not defeated Clarkson in the two most recent regular seasons. The game started slowly for the Engineer offense; through the first period, they managed just six shots on goal, all of which were saved by Clarkson goalie Greg Lewis. On the RPI side, junior goalie Jason Kasdorf made 12 saves in the opening period to keep the game scoreless.
Early in the second period, Clarkson right wing Pat Megannety started the scoring to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead. The Engineers responded quickly: with nine minutes gone by in the second period, junior forward Milos Bubela scored the tying goal, assisted by senior forward Zach Schroeder and senior defender Luke Curadi.
With 18:35 remaining, junior forward Mark Miller slipped the puck past Lewis, assisted by freshman defender Bradley Bell, to give the Engineers a 2-1 lead. After several Kasdorf saves allowed RPI to retain its slim lead, Bubela found the net again to put the Engineers up by two.
Following the third Rensselaer goal, Clarkson pulled Lewis to add an extra skater in hopes of scoring. The Engineers held the Golden Knights at bay until the 19:49 mark, when Clarkson center Brett Gervais scored. The goal wasn’t enough, though, as RPI held on for a 3-2 opening game victory.
The Golden Knights dominated game two, scoring at least once in the opening five minutes of every period. Kasdorf was pulled after saving 24 of 28 shots on goal through 40:26. In the post-game interview, Head Coach Seth Appert stated his reasoning for pulling Kasdorf: “It was a physical game, and I thought the officials were losing control of it, or lost control of it. And I just… save his legs, get him out of there, prevent anything unforeseen from happening because there were a lot of borderline plays out there.” Indeed, there were 16 penalties called, eight against each team, with nine of the penalties called in the third period. Throughout the game, each team committed two counts each of hitting after the whistle, and each team committed three counts each of roughing. Clarkson goalie Steve Perry stopped all 24 of the shots which came his way. Clarkson forward Joe Zarbo scored twice and two others potted a goal and an assist. The game ended with Clarkson winning 5-0.
RPI came out of the gates hot in game three. Miller scored with 7:45 gone by in the opening period, assisted by senior center Mark McGowan to give the Engineers the lead. Then, the Engineers won the faceoff and Schroeder scored to give Rensselaer a 2-0 lead after 20 seconds of play. The second goal was assisted by Bubela and freshman forward Viktor Liljegren.
Later in the first period, sophomore forward Jimmy DeVito scored a third Rensselaer goal, assisted by sophomore forwards Riley Bourbonnais and Jake Wood. Perry was pulled in favor of Lewis after saving just seven of the 10 shots that went on Clarkson’s net. In relief, Lewis saved all ten of the shots he faced.
After Clarkson pulled their goalie with 6:32 remaining in the third, Clarkson attempted 13 shots and stopped RPI from scoring an empty netter. With less than three minutes remaining in the game, Zarbo scored to put Clarkson on the board, but it was much too late. With 1:55 remaining in the game, Zarbo was called for tripping and subsequently stormed out of the arena, knowing that the penalty spelled the end of his team’s season. The game ended in a 3-1 victory for the Engineers. Kasdorf made a dramatic improvement from game two by stopping 33 of 34 shots under elimination game pressure.
By defeating Clarkson, the Engineers advance to face the ECAC Hockey No. 2 seeded St. Lawrence Saints in the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament this weekend.