LOWELL, Mass. — Rensselaer junior Andrew Martin made 24 saves in his first appearance in net this season, while sophomore Kirk MacDonald buried the game-winner at 9:35 of the second as the Engineers outmaneuvered UMass Lowell Friday evening at the Tsongas Arena in front of 2,373 fans.
“It was a hard fought battle,” said Engineer bench boss Dan Fridgen. “The first period was pretty even, and in the second period I thought we raised our level of competition and picked up a couple of goals. We were able to carry that into the third period, and I thought we did a good job in the third as well. Andrew played well for us, and we got a couple of key goals for him.”
Both teams vied for control of the contest early on, with the Engineers out-shooting the River Hawks seven to three at one point. Each team generated opportunities in the frame to put their squad in the driver’s seat, but neither could find the back of the net. The best chance of the period went to UML late in the period, however sophomore Elias Godoy’s pass into the slot was just out of reach of classmate Mark Pandolfo for a one-time opportunity. Rensselaer went into the locker room with the advantage on the shot chart, 10-6, but the game remained scoreless after one.
The Engineers finally broke the scoreless tie early in the second period at 2:34. After a pass from freshman Oren Eizenman from behind the net deflected off a UML skater, sophomore Kevin Croxton collected the puck down low on the left side and slid it along the ice to give RPI a 1-0 advantage.
Rensselaer added a goal to its lead midway through the period off of MacDonald’s fifth goal of the season. MacDonald found the puck at his feet after UML netminder Paul Mammola inadvertently pushed it to him in an attempt to get it away from the center of the goal. With Mammola in a prone position, MacDonald lifted the puck high over the sophomore netminder at 9:35.
UMass Lowell began to pressure the Engineers late in the period. Setting up multiple great back-door plays, the River Hawks were unable to put the puck in the net as shots sailed wide or into Martin’s pads.
The River Hawks staved off their third shutout of the season at 15:37. Sophomore Erik Johansson feathered a shot at net from the left point that Martin saved cleanly. The puck, however, made its way out of his glove and squirted along the ice to sophomore Danny O’Brien on the right side low. O’Brien quickly pounced on the puck and put it past Martin before he knew where it was, cutting the Engineer lead to one. For O’Brien, it was his second goal in as many games.
UML opted for the extra attacker in the latter seconds of the game, however could not find the equalizer. Martin made a total of 24 saves in net for RPI in his first appearance of the season, while Mammola stopped 20 shots in his second start of the season. Rensselaer’s special teams paved the way for the win, going 1-for-2 on the power-play, while killing off five penalties.
“Rensselaer is to be commended for a terrific road game that they played here,” said UML head coach Blaise MacDonald. “From the drop of the puck, I thought they defended well, transitioned well, and kept the game simple.”
“We on the other hand, had one of our most lackluster performances of the season, contributed mostly to how poorly our defensemen played as a whole. We struggled coming out of our own zone, defending, making plays. When your defense plays like that, you essentially have no chance. Paul Mammola and Danny O’Brien were our only few bright spots on the evening.”
Tomorrow Rensselaer (7-3-2, 2-1-1 ECAC) travels to No. 4 New Hampshire, while UMass Lowell (6-5-3, 4-3-1 HE) will look to start a new streak as they travel to face St. Lawrence next Friday. Both games are slated for a 7:00 p.m. start.