The Engineers crashed and burned their way out of the ECAC hockey playoffs over break, getting blown out by Harvard in both of the two games they played. All season long, RPI had been heavily reliant on stellar goaltending from senior Jason Kasdorf. That dependency came back to haunt the Engineers when Kasdorf injured his groin during a pre-game skate on the morning before the first game. According to RPI coach Seth Appert, there was no contact that led to the injury, and it was just an unlucky freak accident.
With Kasdorf playing at less than 100 percent, the Engineers handed out goals to Harvard like candy on Friday, March 11. Kasdorf held Harvard to just one goal on 93 shots in the teams’ two regular season meetings, but gave up four goals before the second period of game one was over. With Kasdorf obviously unable to perform at full strength, freshman goalie Cam Hackett entered the game with the Engineers in a 4-0 hole. With 1:54 left in the second period, RPI senior Milos Bubela continued his hot streak by scoring his 13th goal of the season while the Engineers were shorthanded. The goal gave RPI a bit of a spark heading into the final period of the game.
The Engineers’ senior defenseman Phil Hampton found the back of the net with 4:49 gone from the third, but that was all RPI could muster. Harvard responded with a goal from forward Sean Malone at 9:32. The Engineers were outshot 43 to 27, and they dropped game one 5-2.
While game one was painful to watch, game two on Saturday, March 12, was an absolute embarrassment. Hackett started the game over Kasdorf, who decided that he was too hurt to play well. Early in the regular season, Hackett gave up four goals on 45 shots when RPI played Harvard at a tournament at the University of Notre Dame, and unfortunately, this was a sign of things to come. With the Engineers’ playoff hopes on the line, Hackett collapsed under the pressure, letting in a catastrophic eight goals on 39 shots.
The game started off promising, with the two teams tied at 2-2 after the first period came to a close. Junior forward Riley Bourbonnais and freshman forward Jesper Öhrvall tallied goals for the Engineers, while forward Jake Horton and defenseman Viktor Dombrovskiy scored for Harvard.
As the second period rolled around, RPI’s wheels began to fall off. Hackett let in two goals on 11 shots, and Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen stopped all 13 shots he faced. The Engineers left the period down by two, a hard, but not impossible deficit to overcome.
Instead of rising to the challenge in the third period, the Engineers imploded. Hackett blew past “sieve” and headed straight into “giant, gaping hole” territory. Harvard forward and ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Jimmy Vessey put the puck past Hackett with just 15 seconds gone from the period. Three more Harvard goals followed, and suddenly the scoreboard read 8-2. The Engineers actually outshot Harvard 39 to 38, but in the end it was the goalies that made the difference. RPI did not take the rout well, with the team throwing numerous cheap shots towards the end of the game, including an especially dirty hit on Vessey.