The Engineers had their second to last home stand of the regular season this past weekend, picking up one win and one loss. RPI grabbed win number six of the season with a strong team performance against Colgate University on Friday, February 3. The next night, it looked like the Engineers might pull out an upset win over 16th ranked Cornell University. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, as the Engineers imploded late in the game and ended up losing 4-3 in regulation.
Friday night was Military Appreciation Night at the Houston Field House, and as a result there were some exciting pregame surprises. A member of the United States military rappelled down from a catwalk in front of the Engineers’ bench, and then a K9 named EX performed the ceremonial pregame puck drop with the help of Officer Rob Smith. The fun didn’t stop there, as the Engineers showed their appreciation for the military members in attendance by coming out with guns blazing to start the first period. Just 3:43 gone from the game, sophomore Brady Wiffen dropped the puck back for junior Lou Nanne, who promptly buried it into the back of Colgate’s net.
With 1:16 gone from the second period, Colgate Raider Evan Peterson managed to tie the game with the first of his two second period goals. However, the Engineers fought back and finished the second period ahead 3-2, thanks to two goals from sophomore Evan Tironese.
RPI never looked back, adding to their lead in the third period. Rensselaer junior Viktor Liljegren started off his three-point weekend with a goal at 14:36 of the third. Colgate pulled their goalie, Charlie Finn, late in the period, and the Engineers capitalized. Senior Riley Bourbonnais found the back of the open net, tallying his fourth goal in four games. He also had two assists on the night. RPI sophomore goaltender Chase Perry played brilliantly in the 5-2 win over Colgate, making 40 saves in the game including 18 in just the third period.
Saturday night was Whiteout Night for the Engineers, although judging by the mostly red-colored crowd, not many fans knew that ahead of time. The first period was a frenzied, hard fought battle between RPI and Cornell, with two goals from each team in the opening twenty minutes of action. Liljegren wasted no time getting RPI on the board, scoring just 25 seconds into the game. Freshman Will Reilly added the second goal for the Engineers, which was the first goal of his collegiate career. Cornell answered each RPI goal with one of their own, so the second period started in a 2-2 gridlock.
After a wild first period, Liljegren scored the only goal of the second period at 8:54, which broke the stalemate and put the Engineers ahead 3-2 for the start of the third. The Houston Field House crowd was rocking, and hopes were high for an upset over 16th ranked Cornell. Unfortunately, while the Engineers played well for the first two periods, they fell apart for the third.
As the saying goes, “offense is the best defense,” and RPI largely stopped playing offense to finish out the game. The Engineers only managed to produce three shots on goal in the third period, and they also committed four penalties. By the time Cornell Bear Matt Buckles tied the game with 7:20 left, the momentum shift in the Houston Field House was palpable. When a five minute major penalty was called on Bourbonnais for hitting from behind with 2:43 left in the game, you could feel the sense of dread rolling off RPI fans in attendance. Cornell Bear Yanni Kaldis capitalized on the opportunity, making his first collegiate goal a game winner with 25 seconds left in regulation. It was quite the heartbreaking finish.
Despite the disappointing final score, RPI sophomore goalie Chase Perry once again played beautifully for the Engineers. RPI was outshot 45 to 24 by Cornell, and Perry recorded a career high 41 saves in response.
RPI is back on the ice next Friday and Saturday, with away games at Dartmouth College and Princeton University, respectively.