CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last Saturday against St. Lawrence, Harvard rallied from a 3-0 deficit with three goals in the third period to salvage a tie.
Friday night, Rensselaer took an identical lead into the final frame but refused to yield in a 5-1 victory before 2,776 at Bright Hockey Center.
The Engineers (15-10-4, 9-7-3 ECAC) and Crimson (10-12-4, 9-7-3) are now tied for fourth place in the league.
Rensselaer held an edge in every facet of the game, going 2-for-3 in their power-play chances, playing superb defense, and receiving an excellent game from sophomore goaltender Nathan Marsters, who is now 7-1-2 in his last ten games after hovering around the .500 mark through the first half of the season.
The win was RPI’s sixth in a row and ran its record over its past 11 contests to an impressive 8-1-2.
“We did an outstanding job defensively,” said Engineer coach Dan Fridgen. “We’re doing the little things we need to do to be successful. We’re playing as a team right now and playing very solidly on both ends of the rink.”
Rensselaer blocked 19 shots on the night and offered Harvard very few second-chance opportunities.
“We did a good job of keeping their shots to the outside,” Fridgen said. “[Marsters] was there when we needed him. He did a very solid job between the pipes. He did a great job of making the initial save and any rebounds were cleared.
“We’re not doing anything differently than we did before,” Fridgen continued, alluding to his team’s early-season struggles. “We’re just executing better. And we’re just getting the bounces that we weren’t earlier on.”
The Crimson, meanwhile, slipped to 1-6-1 since its January exam break and 1-11-2 when trailing after two periods of play.
“It’s been a continuation of where we are,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. “We’re not getting the job done, plain and simple. We’re not stopping the puck and we’re not scoring goals. The only way to get out of this thing is to keep working. This is something that we have to overcome.”
Mazzoleni stressed goaltending after the game.
“We have to get better goaltending, we have to,” he said. “You can’t spot teams one or two [goals] and play behind all the time, and that’s what we’re doing. But you’ve got to play your way out of it.”
The Engineers struck first. Freshman defenseman Blake Pickett sent in a shot from the left point that Harvard goaltender Will Crothers stopped, but the rebound came out to Crothers’ left side where RPI junior centerman Nolan Graham was waiting. Graham carried it across the crease and wristed it past a sprawling Crothers to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead at 7:36 of the first period.
The goal was Graham’s first in his last 20 games and marked the 19th time in 26 contests this season in which Harvard’s opponent scored the first goal. RPI has now jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in an identical number of games this season and is 11-5-3 when doing so.
The Engineers took a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by senior centerman Jim Henkel. With Harvard defenseman Blair Barlow in the box for interference, Rensselaer defenseman Scott Basiuk sent in a wrister from above the left faceoff circle that was tipped by sophomore center Conrad Barnes. Crothers made the initial save, but Henkel swept through the slot and pushed it through the goaltender’s legs and past the red line with 14:08 to play in the second.
RPI made it 3-0 on a wrister from the high slot by junior winger Marc Cavosie with 1:06 to go in the second. The power play tally was Cavosie’s league-leading 20th goal overall and 12th in conference play.
Henkel’s second goal of the night-a wrister from the bottom of the left faceoff circle with 11:06 to play in the final stanza-ran the score to 4-0 and chased Crothers from the Harvard net in favor of freshman Dov Grumet-Morris.
The Crimson got on the board with a power play goal at 13:17 of the third, as junior centerman Brett Nowak put home a rebound from classmate Dominic Moore to make it 4-1.
Engineer senior winger Matt Murley added an empty-netter with 2:13 remaining for the final margin of victory.
Marsters finished the game with 32 saves for RPI. Crothers made 12 stops and Grumet-Morris chipped in with three.
With the win, RPI ended Harvard’s three-game series winning streak. Prior to Friday night, the Engineers last topped the Crimson on March 4, 2000.
Rensselaer travels to Brown on Saturday night, while Harvard is set to host Union.