PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rensselaer freshman goaltender Nathan Marsters had 32 saves in route to a tough 4-1 win in Brown’s Meehan Auditorium on Friday.
Brown surprised RPI, coming out strong in a scoreless first period, but the Engineers rebounded with two goals apiece in the second and third frames for the win.
The turning point in the game came in the second period. After Brown had knotted the game up at a goal a piece in the second, sophomore forward Keith Kirley, who netted Brown’s only goal just minutes earlier, took a five-minute major for the Bears. RPI capitalized three minutes into the penalty with the game-winning goal.
Junior defenseman Jim Vickers walked in from the left side and beat Brown’s Brian Eklund high stick side for a 2-1 lead. The Bears had battled hard to kill off the first few minutes of the penalty, but Eklund could do nothing about the screened shot from the left circle.
“Losing Keith didn’t help,” Brown coach Roger Grillo said. “Not only did that call give them the game winner, it also messed up our lines and power play. Keith is a key offensive player for us.”
Brown had several chances to jump out on top in the first period. After fiercly killing a penalty early on, the Bears worked for several opportunities down low that weren’t converted. Marsters made several of his ten saves that period on just two or three flurries in front of his net.
“They came out really quickly on us,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “We were really sluggish. I thought we picked it up defensively in the second.”
Rensselaer’s Nolan Graham opened up the scoring 2:26 into the second on the power play. After Eklund made several great saves, the puck kept finding another Engineer’s stick until Graham put it in the empty net.
“I was trying to control the rebounds,” Eklund said. “After their second or third shot went off my glove I lost sight of it, next thing I knew the puck was in the cage.”
Kirley evened it up at 1 just minutes later. The sophomore forward took the puck down the right wing, controlled it all the way around the net, and finally came out from the left boards and beat Marsters with a slap shot from the high slot.
The Bears then seemed to have a great deal of momentum, but Kirley’s costly hitting-from-behind penalty, which he took on the power play, took a lot of the fight out of their paws. After Vickers made it 2-1, Brown seemed deflated for the rest of the second.
“I have to give some credit to Brown,” Marsters said. “They came out really strong in the third.”
Brown came out with 13 shots in the third and Marsters was up to the task for each one of them. Midway through the third, Brown appeared to tie it up at 2 on the power play, but Brown’s entire bench was stunned by a high-sticking call, as Jon Zielinski batted the puck into the RPI net.
“You have to get some breaks out there sometimes to win,” Marsters said. “I had one hit my stick, another hit the crossbar, and that goal called back, all in the third.”
Minutes later, RPI junior forward Jim Henkel added an insurance goal to make it 3-1. After freshman forward Mikael Hammarstrom walked the puck out from the right corner, Eklund sprawled right to make the initial save. In doing so, the net was left wide open to the right for Henkel to slam it home.
Engineers leading scorer Matt Murley added an empty netter with just seconds left, to go with his two assists that came earlier in the night. Murley has 27 points on the season.
“We’ll have to come out with our ‘A’ game against Harvard tomorrow night,” Marsters said. “You can’t come out playing like we did in the first tonight and expect to win very often.”
“We took a step in the right direction tonight,” Grillo said. “It was a lot better than our effort on Tuesday at UMass. We just need some breaks, and things will start turning around for us.”