This past weekend, the Engineers began their quest for an ECAC Hockey championship with a best-of-three home stand against Brown University. The Engineers made quick work of the Brown Bears, disposing of them in just two games.
At their first night of action on Friday at the Houston Field House, RPI got off to an efficient start, scoring on just their second shot with 7:37 gone from the game. Freshman defenseman Meirs Moore received a drop pass from sophomore forward Kenny Gillespie and worked his way to the bottom of the left faceoff circle. Moore fired off a gorgeous shot from a bad angle, and Brown sieve Tim Ernst could only watch as the puck found the top right corner of the net.
The second period brought about a quick end to RPI’s lead, when Brown forward Max Willman deflected a shot from forward Charlie Corcoran past senior goalie Jason Kasdorf at 2:57. The two teams entered into a stalemate as both goalies began playing staunch defense.
With one minute left in the second period, chants for “D.P. Moe’s” rang out as the crowd’s desire for free tacos grew stronger with every passing second. Sophomore defenseman Mike Prapavessis heeded the call, taking a pass from junior forward Riley Bourbonnais on the right side and streaking directly in front of the net. Prapavessis was left completely undefended on his one-man mission to feed the hungry masses, and he unleashed a shot that destiny promptly guided into the back of the net. The Engineers left the ice with a one goal lead and a high approval rating from the fans.
With 2:51 gone from the third period, RPI found themselves on a power play. They took full advantage of the opportunity, with sophomore defenseman Jared Wilson blasting a one-timer past Ernst from the top of the right faceoff circle. The Bears responded with a power play goal of their own at 7:04, as Corcoran beat Kasdorf from down low on the left side of the net. Brown bombarded Kasdorf with shots for the remainder of the game, but he held strong. The Engineers headed out of game one leading the series 1-0.
The second game on Saturday night brought about anything but a bold start for the Engineers. While Brown looked like a team fighting for their life, RPI looked like a team that could not recall how to play hockey. Nobody suffered from this bout of amnesia more than Kasdorf, who had an abysmal first period. With 5:43 gone from the game, the Bears went on the power play. They made the man advantage count as forward Sam Lafferty scored on a long shot at 7:25. Kasdorf never even saw the puck because of the traffic in front of the crease.
The open season on RPI’s net continued, with Brown forward Nick Lappin scoring on a rebound from defenseman Mark Naclerio’s backhand at 10:14. The Bears were not done yet. At 19:32, Willman found himself all alone directly in front of the net, thanks to a quirky faceoff. He dropped the puck off to forward Tyler Bird, who promptly beat Kasdorf from point-blank range. By the time the first period mercifully ended, the Engineers were in a 3-0 hole with no momentum, and the atmosphere in the Houston Field House was as lively as a funeral.
RPI coach Seth Appert must have channeled his inner Herb Brooks during the intermission, because the Engineers roared into the second period with an energy not seen earlier in the game. Senior forward Milos Bubela took it upon himself to be the hero we all deserved, scoring with a blistering wrist shot from the right side just 30 seconds into the period. Bubela didn’t stop there, as he followed up his goal with another at 8:04 with help from sophomore forward Viktor Liljegren and junior forward Jimmy DeVito. Kasdorf also contributed to the turnaround, as he began to stop everything that came his way.
The Engineers entered the third period with momentum firmly on their side and unfinished business to take care of. With a little over nine minutes gone from the third period, Wilson blasted a long shot from the right point. The puck was deflected by Bubela just in front of the crease, and it slid right to Bourbonnais. He wasted no time blasting the puck past Ernst, who was woefully out of position from reacting to Wilson’s shot. The crowd, which was once lifeless, was now electric.
The game remained tied with less than two minutes left and looked like it would be headed to overtime. However, with 1:42 remaining in the game, Wilson stuck a nail in the Bears’ coffin. Engineers forward Jake Wood stole the puck from Brown deep in the offensive zone and made a beautiful pass up to Wilson, who was near the blue line. He fired off a slap shot that sent the puck towards the net on a frozen rope, and Ernst simply couldn’t react fast enough. RPI’s epic comeback was complete, and Brown saw their season come to a grinding halt.
The Engineers will now play a best-of-three series at Harvard University for the quarterfinals of ECAC hockey playoffs. The games will take place on March 11, 12, and 13 at 7 pm; however, game three will only happen if neither team sweeps the first two games.