TROY, N.Y. — Coming off diametrically different games — Harvard’s a come-from-behind third-period offensive explosion at Union and Rensselaer’s a frustrating 1-0 shutout at the hands of the nation’s best goaltender, Brown’s Yann Danis — the Engineers and the Crimson came out with opposite results.
Saturday it was Rensselaer’s turn on offense and Harvard’s turn to search in vain for the back of the net, as the Engineers took advantage of power plays and Harvard turnovers en route to a 4-1 win.
Rensselaer scored first, capitalizing on a crucial Harvard turnover deep in the zone. Defenseman Peter Hafner was robbed of the puck by Rensselaer’s Cody Wojdyla behind the Crimson’s net. Wojdyla came off the boards and fed a pass into the middle of the ice, which deflected off of linemate Kirk MacDonald’s stick and onto the blade of Conrad Barnes.
Barnes got off a quick shot from between the circles that Harvard goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris couldn’t catch up with, and the Engineers had a 1-0 lead at 6:16 of the first.
Both teams’ power plays were in the midst of a deep sleep coming into the game — Harvard was an anemic 2-for-25 over its last six games while up a man, and a struggling power play was the primary culprit in Rensselaer’s loss to Brown as the team failed to convert on eight opportunities against the Bears.
The Engineers’ special teams re-emerged from hibernation first; with Harvard’s Ryan Lannon in the box for hooking at 1:46 of the second period, Rensselaer went up on its fourth power play of the game.
Set up in the Harvard zone, co-captain Scott Basiuk directed a shot on net that Grumet-Morris easily stopped, and he directed the rebound to his right towards Hafner. Hafner’s attempted clear went straight into Kevin Croxton, and Croxton shot the puck clear past Grumet-Morris to give the Engineers the two-goal edge.
The Crimson’s power play answered at 12:49 of the second. Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni sent his second power-play unit out to start the advantage, and that group responded with a quick goal.
Working the puck along the top, Hafner passed along the blue line to Charlie Johnson, who quickly fed the puck down low to Kevin Du, parked on Rensselaer goaltender Nathan Marsters’ right. Du centered to Dennis Packard, but his point-blank shot from atop the crease was denied. Amidst traffic, the rebound squirted out to Marsters’ left where Dan Murphy got his stick on the puck and poked the rebound home.
“We had good puck movement [on the power play],” Murphy said. “I didn’t really do anything, I was just in front of the net and tapped it in.”
Murphy’s second goal of the season cut the Engineer advantage to 2-1, but Rensselaer came back quickly.
Rensselaer added to its lead in the second, a direct result of a great check by Lannon, who came up into the neutral zone and leveled MacDonald. Lannon couldn’t maintain control of the puck and it was poked through into the Harvard end by Wojdyla.
That created a two-on-one because Lannon had moved up from his spot on right defense and right wing Tyler Kolarik hadn’t yet gotten into position to back him up; MacDonald and Barnes skated in, with Harvard’s All-American defender Noah Welch the only Crimson man back. Barnes passed to MacDonald, who wristed a hard shot over Grumet-Morris’s left shoulder that hit the post and went in.
The Engineers added an insurance goal with under three minutes to play when Tommy Green stripped Harvard defenseman Blair Barlow deep in the Crimson end and put a point-blank shot by Grumet-Morris.
The night was a frustrating one for Harvard on offense in addition its defensive miscues; a night removed from putting 50 shots on Union netminder Kris Mayotte, the Crimson only managed 22 on Marsters — a large part of the team’s offensive struggles, according to captain Kenny Smith.
“[Against Union], we got a lot of traffic to the net,” he said. “We had it only in spurts tonight; you can’t have it half of the time, you can’t have it a quarter of the time, you’ve got to have it all the time.”
For his part, though, Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen felt that traffic in front was a key for the Engineers.
“We were a little sharper … getting pucks to the net,” he said. “We finally got a couple of scrappy goals, which we haven’t done in the last three games.”
Both teams are involved in crucial series in the upcoming weekend. Rensselaer plays a home-and-home with Union and Harvard hosts Cornell and Colgate at the Bright Hockey Center.