SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — A game can change in an instant. The Rensselaer Engineers and the Union Dutchmen both know that. In game two of their ECAC First Round series, both teams were reminded of that once again.
With the Dutchmen leading 2-1 and on the power play with 8:29 left in the third period, things went … well, crazy.
Ben Barr scored twice shorthanded on that Union power play and gave RPI a 3-2 lead, as the 11th seeded Engineers hung on to sweep the series from the 6th seeded Dutchmen.
Two shorthanded goals on one power play is a feat unto itself, but what was crazy about it was that both goals developed the exact same way.
Nick Economakos was racing for a loose puck in the Union zone when Kris Mayotte came out of his net to try to reach it first. Mayotte got to the puck first and tried to clear it as the two collided, but the puck bounced right to Barr. Barr put it through two Dutchmen to tie the game.
“We wanted to kill it off without them scoring,” said Barr. “Nick got in there and caused havoc and the puck just squirted out to me and I got lucky. I didn’t even see it because there were two guys there and somehow it got in.
Just 50 seconds later, Barr went racing after a loose puck in the Union zone. Mayotte, once again, tried to reach the puck first. Mayotte got there first again, but as he tried to clear it, the puck bounced off of Barr and right back to him, and once again Barr put it through two Dutchmen to give the Engineers the lead and eventual game winner.
“It’s an in-betweeen play there. Either he’s got to come out or I have a full-out breakaway,” said Barr. “I got lucky on that one because he shot it into me. I got my stick there and it’s a 50-50 chance that he comes out, and it just turned out that it went our way tonight.
“I had a bad angle and I had the whole net and I just didn’t want to fire it. Knowing me I would have missed the net so it hit the post and trickled in.”
Said Mayotte, “I thought I had a chance to get out and get to the puck. On the first one I thought I had it and it went right to their second wave. Then the second one I got to it first too, but I put it right in his chest. Bad bounces I guess. But if I had to do it over, I’d make the same play.”
The sequence of events left Union coach Kevin Sneddon dumbfounded.
“We were kind of in disbelief,” said Sneddon. “We talked about the fact that they might try to stretch a guy behind us being down a goal. Everything that had to happen, happened for them to get a goal. I don’t second guess what Kris did as a goaltender because you have to make a split decision. He won the race both times, but he got some unfortunate bounces.”
Said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, “It’s a funny game. You can almost call it a false sense of security when you go on the power play midway through a period with a 2-1 lead and it just goes to show how quickly a game can turn around. We were fortunate to get a couple of bounces.”
The Dutchmen got on the board first on the power play. The previous evening the Dutchmen were 0-for-7 on the power play and it took the fifth power play on Saturday evening for them to capitalize. Nathan Gillies sent the puck on net and it trickled to Nathan Marsters’ right. The puck sat near the goal line before Scott Seney poked it home to give Union the 1-0 lead.
Later in the second period, the Engineers tied it up. Keith McWilliams took a shot from the point that went off of Mayotte and straight to Carson Butterwick. Butterwick put it on his backhand and put it in to tie the game.
The power play benefited the Dutchmen halfway through the third period. Gillies took a shot from the point which was deflected by Kris Goodjohn in the slot. That deflection found its way through Marsters’ five-hole to give the Dutchmen the lead.
“It was another close checking, wide-open type of hockey game,” said Fridgen. “The first period was played pretty evenly, a lot of solid defense was being played and we got ourselves into penalty trouble and they got their power play clicking. Sooner or later, when you give them opportunities, they’re going to come back and get you and that’s what happened.”
“Our power play had been struggling and we got some great offensive chances,” said Sneddon. “It’s just ironic that they got two shorthanded goals.”
Just two minutes later, the craziness ensued and Barr became the latest hero for the Engineers, but not before the Engineers got a scare.
The Dutchmen almost had the equalizer with less than a minute to play. With the extra skater on, the puck came to the left post and tucked under Marsters. The whistle blew and the puck crossed the line, causing referee Dan Murphy to wave it off despite Union protests.
“It hit my stick and I froze and stayed down, and I felt it under my bum, and I was hoping that it wasn’t going in and then the referee waved it off,” said Marsters. “We were all smiling after that.”
“We’ve been in a situation in this building when we were up by one with a minute remaining and funny things happened,” said Fridgen. “It almost happened here and they just missed the equalizer. But we did a great job defending.”
The Dutchmen end the season with a 14-18-4 record and the first home playoff games in the school’s Division I history.
“Nobody in that locker room right now is hanging their heads,” said Sneddon. “We’re going to take the experience and learn from it and grow from it.
“This experience will make us stronger, it won’t defeat us. The guys in that locker room will remember the taste and remember what they need to do in the playoffs come next year.”
The Engineers will now head to Ithaca to take on No. 2 Cornell in the ECAC Quarterfinals.
“This is the kind of hockey that we’ll have to play if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” said Fridgen.