TROY, N.Y. — Against teams other than ECAC foe Rensselaer, Princeton is 0-14 this season. Plus, the Tigers lost three games during a recent exhibition tour of England.
But against the Engineers, the Tigers are 2-0.
Backed by two goals from Patrick Neundorfer and another solid effort by goalie Trevor Clay, Princeton won for just the second time this season, taking a 4-3 decision over RPI in the consolation game of the HSBC/Rensselaer Holiday Tournament on Sunday at Houston Field House.
“I don’t know if it’s magic against RPI but it has a lot to do with playing aggressive and competing,” Princeton coach Len Quesnelle said.
RPI (7-11-1), which has lost three straight, finished last in its tournament for the first time since 1995.
“I was hoping to use this tournament as a springboard for the second third of the season,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “We completely missed the board. We’ll see how deep of a hole this is.”
The Tigers (2-14), who dropped a 7-0 decision to Wayne State in Saturday’s first round, beat the Engineers, 4-3, on Nov. 16 in New Jersey. Clay had 45 saves in that game.
Clay had another outstanding performance, stopping 41 shots.
“Obviously, they’ve got confidence against us,” Fridgen said. “That certainly showed because they were a totally different team than the one I saw the previous night.”
For just the sixth time this season, RPI scored the game’s first goal. Kevin Croxton got his seventh goal of the season, a power-play tally, at 15:56 of the first period.
RPI’s lead lasted only 51 seconds. Neil Stevenson-Moore beat goalie Nathan Marsters on a wraparound.
“First shifts after goals are huge shifts,” said Croxton, who scored his second goal of the game 2:56 into the third. “We haven’t had that shifts a lot of times this year.”
The Tigers broke the tie 22 seconds later. Neundorfer skated down the right wing and beat Marsters with a shot from the right circle.
Neundorfer gave Princeton a two-goal lead 2:45 into the second period. Ben Barr’s goal with 7:38 left in the second cut into Princeton’s lead and gave RPI some life. The Engineers were given an opportunity to tie the score when Princeton’s Jesse Masear went off for holding.
Instead, it was the Tigers who took advantage. Scott Prime outhustled RPI defenseman Alexander Valentin for a loose puck in the RPI zone. Prime then passed it over to Mike Patton, who fired it past Marsters for a shorthanded goal at 14:48 of the second.
“I thought it was a slow-paced game to start,” Fridgen said. “It picked up, but we didn’t elevate our play until we were behind the eight-ball.”
Quesnelle hopes this win sparks his club in the second half of the season. The Tigers’ next game will be Friday against Ohio State at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena.
“I think we can build momentum from this,” Quesnelle said. “There’s a ton of positives to take away from the game.”
The Engineers also return to action Friday when they host Minnesota-Duluth.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.