Colgate raids Engineers in Freakout
The Engineers fell to the Colgate Raiders 3‒2 in the 44th annual Big Red Freakout. Jack Watson ’25 made 28 saves in the loss. With four games left in the season, Rensselaer is five points behind Cornell in fourth place, the last place for a first-round bye in the playoffs, and a point above Princeton in eighth, the last place for home-ice advantage.
The Raiders would control the majority of the offense, starting off the game with a couple of breakaways that goaltender Jack Watson ’25 shut down. Rensselaer needed time to heat up. After a while, devastating hits from the Engineers amped up the crowd and the vitalized crowd energized the players in return.
Colgate would temporarily silence the fans after scoring the first goal of the contest. The puck was tied up in the corner, but Raider Matt Verboon managed to get the puck to Paul McAvoy in the left faceoff circle. McAvoy ripped a shot top-shelf, beating Watson and putting the Raiders into the lead.
The Engineers would hold firm and claw back. With less than two minutes remaining in the first period, RPI defenseman Jack Agnew ’24 cannoned a shot from the blue line. The shot deflected off of a Raider in front of goal and Colgate netminder Mitch Benson lost sight of it. The puck trickled five-hole on Benson and over the goal line to equalize the game at 1‒1. The teams would take that score into the first intermission.
However, the Raiders would score again after less than two minutes. Great defending from RPI’s Jake Johnson ’22 kept Alex Young from getting a shot on goal. However, Young fell to the ice, crashing into Watson in the net. Play continued as the puck was left behind and Colton Young was there to bury the shot.
The officials’ ruling was controversial. According to rule 73.1 of the NCAA hockey rule book: “Goals should be disallowed only if an attacking player, either by positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend the goal. If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player and causes contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.” It is true that Johnson had made contact with Alex Young prior to the incident, however it was unlikely to have been the cause of Young’s contact with Watson. Colgate received the goal, regaining their lead.
The Raiders would continue to dominate after retaking the lead, ultimately tallying 15 shots in the period. Colgate’s offense bombarded the RPI goal with shots, but Watson was in unbelievable form. He made several impressive saves, including a crucial breakaway save while the Engineers were short-handed.
With so much pressure, the RPI defense would give in. Colgate would score their third goal with less than two minutes remaining in the period. Raider Ross Mitton skated up the right flank and sent a bullet pass across the ice to his teammate Levi Glasman in the slot. Glasman reached out his stick and redirected the puck hurtling off the left post and in. The Engineers headed into the final period trailing by two goals.
In the third period, RPI looked determined, yet frustrated. Colgate had thwarted every attack and desperation was starting to set in. The Engineers threw everything they had at Benson. With 13:51 remaining, a backhand shot from Johnson went right into Benson’s bread basket, and Jakob Lee crashed the net to poke in a potential rebound. The puck was loose, but the Colgate defense did not take kindly to Lee poking at their goaltender and one of them put Lee in a headlock as tensions escalated.
RPI continued their offensive persistence and would reduce the Raiders’ lead to just one. Davies carried the puck around the back of the Colgate goal and passed it off to Mason Klee ’22. Klee sent the puck towards the doorstep for Leppanen to try to tuck home. A Raider intercepted the pass and tried to calmly push it away from danger. Due to the weight of Klee’s pass and the angle of the Raider’s stick blade, the puck hopped into the air. Caught by surprise, Benson could only watch as the puck sailed over his left shoulder and into the net. Both of the Engineers’ goals had been “puck luck” and they had nine minutes to get another.
The raised stakes increased the intensity of play, causing tensions to boil over. Colton Young crashed the net after his initial shot was saved, barreled into the defenseless Watson, knocking off his mask. Rule 45.1 of the NCAA hockey rule book states, “Any contact directly with the player’s head and neck area must be penalized with a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification.” There was no video review to determine whether the play constituted the criteria of a penalty for contact to the head; Young was given a minor for goaltender interference.
The Engineers would put heavy pressure on the Raiders. Jakub Lacka positioned himself in front of goal to screen Benson. Defenseman Tommy Bergsland fought to move Lacka, but his stick slammed into Lacka’s jaw and he fell to the ice. Bergsland was given major and game misconduct penalties for contact to the head, putting RPI on a power play for the rest of the game. The Engineers did everything in their power, but failed to tie it up.
With only nine points separating fourth place from tenth, RPI’s seeding for the playoffs is still in contention. The Engineers still have to play the bottom three teams in the ECAC, as well as third place Harvard.