TROY, N.Y. — Turnabout is fair play.
Last season, Rensselaer defeated Harvard, 2-0, to gain home ice in the ECAC playoffs and sent Harvard on the road. Fast forward a year, and the Crimson defeated the Engineers 1-0 Friday evening to virtually assure itself home ice, while seemingly sending the Engineers to a date with a road playoff series.
The only goal of the game was scored by Brett Nowak in his first game back from injury, while Oliver Jonas made 27 saves to lead the Crimson into a third-place tie in the ECAC with Cornell.
“I think we’ll take this any day, and I’m pretty excited,” said Jonas. “I think we may have home ice now, so you can tell that everyone was excited after the game.”
Nowak tallied the only goal of the game when he took a pass from the blue line and raced in. With the Engineer defensemen backing off, Nowak snapped one that went over the right shoulder of Nathan Marsters.
From there Jonas made it stand — but not without some heartstopping moments.
The Crimson were on a five-on-three advantage, but Jim Henkel stole the puck and came in alone on Jonas in the third period. Henkel deked Jonas and slid the puck towards him; somehow Jonas flopped over to make the save.
“It looked like he had me beaten and I just sort of stuck my hand out there,” said Jonas. “I got lucky, obviously, but that’s it.”
“Oh my goodness, he made quite the save on that one,” said Engineer coach Dan Fridgen. “Down and out and he just threw the arm out there and it caught it. Talk about snake-bitten. What can I say?”
“Dominik Hasek,” said Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni. “He’s European and he likes that, and that’s not the first time he’s made a save like that. It’s to his credit that he doesn’t give up on a play like that. He knew he was down and out and he continued to battle.”
As the game wound down, the Engineers got a five-on-three advantage, but even with the two extra attackers they couldn’t put it by Jonas as the Crimson (12-13-1, 11-7-1 ECAC) moved into third place, putting five points between themselves and the Engineers.
“He’s only had a couple of off nights and he’s allowed us to be in the hunt for home ice,” said Mazzoleni. “He made some big saves and I thought their goaltender was good as well. I thought it was a pretty darn even game.”
The Engineers (14-13-2, 8-9-2 ECAC) will host Brown on Saturday and are now tied for sixth place in the ECAC with Yale and stand four points out of the last home ice playoff spot with three games to go and have lost four of their last five.
“You just have to work your way out of it,” said Fridgen. “They got a goal off a broken play, I don’t think it was a good goal to give up, but they got it. Hey, that’s the difference in the game. We had a lot of time to capitalize and give Jonas credit, he kept us off the board. We had real good opportunities.”
The Crimson will travel to Union on Saturday, and with a five-point cushion on home ice, it looks like games will be played at the Bright Hockey Center two weeks from now.
“Our team has battled adversity,” said Mazzoleni. “This has not been an easy thing for us as we are going through a transition. We knew coming in here tonight what this game meant for them and us, and we had to bring our game, because we knew they were going to bring their ‘A’ game.”