College Hockey:
Super Sophs Carry Rensselaer To First Tourney Title Since ’98

MVP Kurk, Game-Winner Shields Lead Engineers Past Minutemen

— Two sophomores lit it up at the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament Saturday as Rensselaer took the title with a 3-2 win over UMass-Amherst.

Ryan Shields scored the game-winning goal after tying the game in the third period, and Kevin Kurk picked up a second win in net and the tournament MVP award with a 32-save performance, on the heels of his relief win in the first round.

Shields won it in overtime after a bouncing puck came to Ben Barr. Barr sent it to Shields, who from the goal line managed to trickle it past UMass goaltender Mike Johnson to win the Engineers’ first title in a tournament they hosted since 1998.

“We came in three-on-two and I got the shot and Barr was there for the rebound and it just came out to me and I was just at the side of the net,” said Shields.

“We went a long, long way last night, but not once did we ever consider fatigue being a factor,” said Engineer coach Dan Fridgen. “I was prepared to roll four lines and that’s what we did through four periods. We had some guys step up big and come through for us. For the second night in a row, we had a freshman score his first collegiate goal.”

The Engineers got on the board first in the second period when Blake Pickett intercepted a pass in his own zone and took it up the ice. Pickett split the defense and scored his first collegiate goal by putting it past Mike Johnson.

“Who would have thought Blake would take it down from his own zone?” said Fridgen. “They parted like the Red Sea. For a freshman to see that, I could see his eyes light up from the red line, and to finish it off like he did…”

The Minutemen tied it up on the power play as Tim Turner took a centering pass from Martin Miljko and put one between the legs of Kevin Kurk. They then took the lead when Samuli Jalkanen found Greg Mauldin in front and hit him with the pass. Mauldin one-timed it past Kurk for the 2-1 edge.

Just 53 seconds into the third period the Engineers tied it again. Ben Barr took the puck behind the net and with Johnson out of position, put it in front to Ryan Shields, who banged it home for the game-tying goal.

Kurk relieved Marsters midway through the second period in Friday’s win over Quinnipiac, and in 120-plus minutes in the tournament, only allowed two goals in picking up MVP honors.

“It was a shock getting put in there yesterday, but I just wanted to go in there and not let the guys down,” said Kurk. “I just had to do my job. I usually don’t get too many awards, so this is special.

“I haven’t been feeling well this weekend, so I was concerned that I wouldn’t last yesterday or today. Just a lot of Pepto-Bismol and liquids kept me going.”

“He came up big; we put him in situations where we left him out to dry and he made some great saves,” said Fridgen. “Our team feeds off that and he gives some inspiration to the bench.”

That means the Engineers can now relish their first tournament title in three seasons.

“We’ve been there before and we’ve been behind, so we said going out between the second and third periods we were going to get one early,” said Fridgen. “You never think it’s going to happen, but we got the early one on a nice play and we carried it over to the overtime.

“Hey, we’ve been there before too.”

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