TROY, N.Y. — The Rensselaer Engineers got out to an early lead and never trailed as they defeated the Colgate Red Raiders, 3-2, Friday evening.
The Engineers (3-2-0, 1-1-0 ECAC) got two goals from Nolan Graham, the second the game-winner in the third period on an odd play.
With the Engineers leading 2-1, Graham came down and dumped the puck into the zone. With Graham attempting to chase the puck down and Red Raider captain Cory Murphy all over him, the puck bounced off the end boards and right into the two players. Before one could bat an eye, Graham had somehow poked it past Colgate goaltender Jason LeFevre.
“We just had a little bit of a mental lapse and we didn’t stay intense; the puck bounced to their guy and he just threw it into the net,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan. “That’s the difference in this league between a win and a loss, and it’s very frustrating. And it’s not always young guys — we’re making some young mistakes on defense — but that particular instance it wasn’t.”
The Engineers took the 3-1 lead, but Colgate (1-4-2, 0-1-0 ECAC) came back on the power play 1:02 later when Chad MacDonald swatted a rebound past Engineer goaltender Kevin Kurk.
But the Red Raiders couldn’t come any closer. Even with two more power-play opportunities to try to tie the game, Colgate couldn’t get one by Kurk.
Despite giving up two power-play goals, Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen was pleased with the improvement on the penalty kill after allowing four power-play markers to Union last weekend.
“I thought our penalty kill was a lot better,” he said. “If you’re going to take penalties and you’re going to kill them off, then that’s the situation and you correct it, so I was happy to see that. We just have to be a little better knowing what time of the game it is, and a couple of [Rensselaer players] are inexperienced. We just have to get better at that.
“It’s amazing from a coaching perspective, sometimes you think it’s going to happen the way you’ve always done it, and I think as a coaching staff we needed to do a better job teaching what we were looking for and … what the opposition wants to do.”
The Engineers peppered LeFevre with 18 shots on goal in the first, but could only put one home, when Graham took a feed from Matt Murley from behind the net. Graham’s first shot was saved, but he tucked his own rebound past LeFevre for the 1-0 lead.
Colgate just survived that first period and the barrage of shots that the Engineers let off.
“We were a little flat in the first and Jason kept us in the game,” said Vaughan. “That’s been one of our problems this year, we’ve had bad first periods for whatever reason. But we had a great second and we got ourselves back in it.”
Indeed, the Red Raiders got back in it, but not before the Engineers made it 2-0.
On the power play, things went helter-skelter as a point shot went into a mass of bodies in front of the net. A scramble ensued and with 11 players in front of the net, the lone man uncovered was defenseman Jim Vickers. Vickers found the puck, paused five feet from the goalmouth and waited for LeFevre to stay down, then picked his spot and rifled home his first collegiate goal.
The Red Raiders got within one when Mike O’Malley took a feed from behind the net from Bryan Long and punched it past Kurk, but the Engineers regained the two-goal lead in the third and held on to win their first ECAC game of the season.
“We came out real strong and we did a good job from the drop of the puck for the full 60 minutes,” said Fridgen. “Everybody was going, and everybody fulfilled their roles real well.
“We did a good job with the little things. Getting the faceoffs, jumping to the puck, and we did a good job getting on it with the forecheck and creating some turnovers. Some guys made some real big plays, and scored some real big goals.
“It was an exciting game. I just hope they’re not all like that,” Fridgen joked.
“It’s a matter of staying focused for 60 minutes and if you let your guard down for one second in this league that’s the difference in the game, and that’s what happened tonight,” said Vaughan. “Their third goal was just a letdown on our part, and that’s the difference.”
Colgate will travel to take on ECAC leader Union Saturday evening, while the Engineers will host Cornell.
“It’s nice to go to bed knowing that you got a victory,” said Fridgen. “But when you wake up you know you’re going into battle again.”