Engineers grab Bulldogs by the collar in Freakout dogfight
The Engineers buried three goals past Yale in the first period en route to a 4‒2 victory in front of a frenzied Houston Field House for the 45th annual Big Red Freakout. Lauri Sertti led the way for Rensselaer with a goal and three assists, including both of Jakob Lee’s goals. RPI improves to 12‒17‒1 on the season and currently sits in ninth place in the ECAC, three points behind the Union Dutchmen.
The 4,000 spectators at the Field House emanated an energy that flowed into the Engineers. For the first time since their four-game winning streak to start the season, RPI tyrannized their opponents.
Less than three minutes after the opening puck drop, Yale’s Reilly Connors latched onto Altti Nykänen’s jersey, drawing a holding penalty and giving the Engineers an early chance to take the lead. After nearly three quarters of the ensuing power play had expired, Sertti received a pass from fellow defenseman Mason Klee across the blue line. Noticing that a Yale penalty killer had overextended, Sertti darted the puck to Lee all alone in the right faceoff circle. Lee lifted a shot over a sliding Bulldog and into the top shelf to put Rensselaer ahead.
The Engineers continued oppressing the Bulldogs, maintaining pressure in the Yale defensive zone. Four and a half minutes after Lee opened the scoring, he netted his second goal of the night. Sertti dished the puck back to TJ Walsh along the left boards. With Lee screening goaltender Luke Pearson, Walsh ripped a shot aimed wide of the left post. Lee reached out his stick, magically redirecting the puck through a narrow window at the near post to double the RPI lead.
Yale began digging their way back into the game in the last half of the first period, but an interference penalty on Bulldog Kieran O’Hearn with 0:16.2 left on the clock opened the door once again for Rensselaer. After Lee won the resulting faceoff, the Engineers worked the puck counterclockwise around the offensive zone before Klee teed up Sertti at the top of the left faceoff circle. Sertti unleashed a one-time slap shot that rocketed under Pearson’s glove and stung the back of the net, slamming the door shut on the Bulldogs nine seconds into the power play.
Rensselaer sustained their tenacity in the offensive zone in the following period, banging on the door to extend the lead even further. Five minutes into the period RPI’s Dylan Davies was assessed major and game misconduct penalties for socking Yale’s Henry Wagner in the jaw with the shaft of his stick, resulting in his ejection and a five-minute power play for the Bulldogs.
Despite their apparent weakened position, the Engineers still applied heavy pressure to Yale while short-handed. After RPI killed off three minutes of the penalty, Sertti intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and took the puck down the right flank of the Yale zone. Sertti executed a between-the-legs toe drag to round the Bulldogs’ defense, enabling him to backhand the puck into the slot. Danny Ciccarello swept the puck through Pearson’s five-hole for his first collegiate goal, putting the Engineers up 4‒0 and capping off a spectacular play. The rest of the period was scoreless.
Yale picked up a goal less than six minutes into the final period. After Watson saved a Bulldog’s shot, the rebound bounced off an Engineer’s shoulder and landed behind the RPI goaltender. RPI scrambled to clear the puck away, but Ryan Carmichael managed to push the puck over the goal line to end the shutout. After the goal, RPI captain Kyle Hallbauer earned a minor for cross-checking, granting the Bulldogs a power play. Lee joined Hallbauer in the penalty box fifty seconds later after a controversial hooking call, giving Yale a two-man advantage for a little over a minute.
Ten seconds later Yale’s Niklas Allain dangerously crushed a partially bent over Klee into the boards, the Engineer shaken up after the hit. Klee pleaded his case for the potential missed boarding call after the next whistle to referee Cameron Lynch, but Lynch instead assessed Klee with a ten-minute misconduct. Klee headed into the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury and did not return. Although the number of skaters on the ice remained unchanged, the third penalty in the span of two minutes drained the Engineers of their intensity. As a result, Yale’s Quinton Ong slipped a shot five-hole on Watson just before Hallbauer’s penalty expired to bring the lead back to two goals. The Engineers killed off the rest of Lee’s penalty and Yale could not score another—the game ended 4‒2.
The win improves RPI’s ECAC record to 7‒11‒0. As it stands, the Engineers will travel to Schenectady to take on rivals Union in the first round of the playoffs.