PRINCETON, N.J. — The shots on goal for the second period Friday night stood at 17-4 in favor of Princeton. However, one of Rensselaer’s shots went in the net; none of the Tigers’ did. If there ever was a stat that showed the difference in direction for two programs, that was it.
The Engineers (13-10-4, 7-7-3 ECAC) capitalized on virtually every Princeton mistake and despite a spirited effort, Princeton (7-16-1, 6-10-1) could not solve goaltender RPI goaltender Nathan Marsters often enough, losing 5-3 at Hobey Baker Rink in front of a crowd of 1,733.
“We make a mistake and it’s in the back of the net,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “At the other end, we could generate all the chances in the world, but have nothing to show for it. It gets frustrating.”
Princeton outshot RPI 40-19 on the game, but by the game’s halfway mark trailed 3-1 and never drew closer than two goals.
After Josh Roberts gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead 23 seconds into the game, Engineer sniper Marc Cavosie established the pattern for the game at 3:44. Two Princeton defensemen were ragging the puck back-and-forth behind the net, attempting to start a breakout. Matt Murley timed his intercept perfectly and turned around to hit a wide-open Cavosie darting into the slot for the one-timer goal.
Later in the period, Engineer forward Conrad Barnes picked off a pass in the neutral zone in the waning seconds of a Princeton power play and beat Tiger goaltender Dave Stathos through the five-hole for a 2-1 lead.
“We did a good job in the first period,” said RPI senior winger Andy McPherson. “They picked it up in the second period, but we hung in there.”
Princeton intensified its physical play to slow down the swifter RPI attackers in the second period and established a good forecheck, cycling to maintain puck possession, ultimately resulting in 17 shots. However, only a few of those shots proved difficult for Marsters as the Engineer defense did a good job forcing the Tigers to shoot from the perimeter, and then nullified almost every rebound.
“The shots indicate that they turned up the heat,” said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. “However, we did a god job positioning ourselves, taking the right angles, and there weren’t many Grade A quality chances.”
The game was not without a tinge of controversy. For the second straight week, Princeton had a goal disallowed. Shortly after scoring its first goal, it looked like winger Ryan Kraliz had given his squad a 2-0 lead, knocking home the rebound of a Steve Slaton shovel shot. However, referee John Mellanson ruled that Kraliz kicked the puck past Marsters.
Three minutes into the third period, Engineer center Mikael Hammarstrom lofted a pass to McPherson on a two-on-one that McPherson swatted out of midair past Stathos. It looked like the puck may have gone off McPherson’s leg instead of his stick, but the goal stood, giving RPI a 4-1 lead.
McPherson, naturally, disputed the charge.
“It was straight blade,” said the winger tongue-in-cheekly. “It may have looked it went off my body because I had to bend down, but it was straight blade.”
Quesnelle did not complain about McPherson’s goal, but did lament his team’s misfortune about the first-period call.
“If we had gone up 2-0 in the first period, who knows? It might have been an entirely different game,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”
Neil Stevenson-Moore made the game 4-2 at 6:57 of the third period, but Murley restored the three-goal lead at 9:13, making a gorgeous move to get to the net and beat Stathos. Senior Brad Parsons added a little tension to the game’s final minutes by drawing Princeton to within two again on a rebound at 15:11.
For the game, Stathos made 13 saves. After giving up the fifth Rensselaer goal, he was replaced by junior Nate Nomeland, who was successful on the only shot he faced. Marsters made 37 saves for the Engineers on the night.