Engineers slay Golden Knights in overtime duel
Max Smolinski scored an overtime winner to defeat the Clarkson Golden Knights 3‒2, snapping Rensselaer’s three-game losing streak. The Engineers also defeated the St. Lawrence Saints the following night with an overtime winner from Sutter Muzzatti to take a 4‒3 victory. RPI takes on Union in the Mayor’s Cup on January 28.
After Rensselaer’s Brendan Budy won the opening faceoff, Austin Heidemann quickly entered the Clarkson zone and fired a backhand shot into goaltender Ethan Haider’s glove. The Golden Knights bore down on RPI as the period progressed, creating several promising opportunities that tested Jack Watson in the RPI net. Towards the end of the period, the Engineers applied heavy pressure to Clarkson, stifling their offensive buildups. The two teams headed into the first intermission scoreless, with the Golden Knights leading shots on goal 6‒5.
Clarkson took the lead less than five minutes into the second period when Tristan Sarsland sniped a wrist shot into the top-right corner. The Engineers responded 34 seconds later. Altti Nykänen prevented a Clarkson clearance from leaving the offensive zone, gaining the puck in the left faceoff circle. After the turnover, Haider positioned himself too close to his near post and left a gap for Nykänen to bury his second goal of the season.
RPI’s aggression following Nykänen’s goal created several chances in the Clarkson zone, including a shot from Budy that squeezed past Haider and was cleared off the line by a diving Golden Knight. With 19 seconds remaining in the period, Clarkson regained their lead. A turnover along the boards in the Rensselaer zone gifted the Golden Knights a quick rush. Mathieu Gosselin darted a pass to the low slot for Ryan Taylor, who buried the puck past Watson for Clarkson’s go-ahead goal.
Three minutes into the third period, the Golden Knights went on the power play after a goaltender interference penalty on Muzzatti. Within seven seconds, Clarkson’s Alex Campbell attempted to slip the puck around Watson and hit the post. The pressure piled on the Engineers after a questionable boarding call against Lauri Sertti, granting Clarkson a 5-on-3 power play; the Engineers killed off the two penalties. They went on a power play of their own after Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup received major and game misconduct penalties for contact to the head, resulting in his ejection.
Thirty seconds into the major, Muzzatti received a pass from Smolinski in the neutral zone. He first transferred the puck from his forehand to his backhand, controlling the puck with one arm to get past the first Golden Knight. He quickly switched back to his forehand to enter the offensive zone, then skillfully transferred to his backhand, narrowly keeping the puck from going back over the blue line to prevent the offside call. Muzzatti’s silky mitts allowed him to dish the puck to Heidemann on the right wing. Heidamann then rifled the puck past Haider to cap off one of the best goals of the year, tying the game 2‒2.
Both teams came inches from scoring in the dying minutes of the third period, but it ended tied and the teams prepared for overtime. RPI’s only other ECAC matchup that went into overtime was a home loss against Harvard. Clarkson had yet to play an overtime period.
RPI Coach Dave Smith sent his team back onto the ice with an unorthodox composition: two defensemen and one forward. The strategy was recently employed by the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators in December, neither of them victorious. RPI methodically kept possession of the puck, preventing Clarkson from having any opportunity to score. Rather than giving the Golden Knights the puck, the Engineers skated back toward their goal to regroup and make necessary line changes. Like sharks circling their prey, the Engineers scanned for possible weaknesses in the Clarkson defense. Halfway into overtime, John Beaton feinted a pass back to Sertti along the boards, causing the Golden Knights to drift away. Beaton spun behind the net, Smolinski cut to the inside. Beaton saucered a pass in front of goal and Haider attempted to poke it away. Haider missed, his overcommitment enabling Smolinski to one-time the overtime winner past the Clarkson goaltender.
The following night, the Engineers took on the St. Lawrence Saints. The Saints took a 1‒0 lead in the second period, but five third-period goals tied the game at 3‒3 and required an overtime period. The Engineers employed the same strategy as the Clarkson game, dominating possession of the puck. Less than two minutes into overtime, Smolinski zipped a puck across the offensive zone to Muzzatti, who bulleted the winner past St. Lawrence goaltender Emil Zetterquist.
RPI sits in ninth place, tied on points with Union and two points from Brown in eighth. The Engineers’ next game is the Mayor’s Cup against the Dutchmen at MVP Arena on January 28. Click here for the box score from the Clarkson game and here for the St. Lawrence game.