PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rensselaer, fresh off a comeback victory at Harvard, had the spirit and energy on its side as it traveled to Brown for a matchup of top ECAC teams. After a collapse that led to a tie Friday night versus Union, Brown was decidedly lifeless.
And so, putting the two teams together resulted in an impressive win for the Engineers. Rensselaer, behind Nathan Marsters’ 30-save shutout, announced itself as a conference contender in a 4-0 shutout of the league-leading Bears to complete a tough road sweep.
“This weekend was huge,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. “We played hard for all 120 minutes this weekend, starting last night with Harvard. The guys are playing with confidence. After coming back the way we did last night, we had a lot of confidence coming into this one.”
Marsters, a four-year starter who has set all kinds of records at Rensselaer, was flawless in stopping Brown’s sputtering offense cold. Throughout the game he handled Brown’s shots (most from the perimeter), including a notable stop on Brown’s freshman leading scorer Brian Ihnacak from the left circle late in the second.
Brown’s nationally-ranked power play, despite getting :46 of five-on-three time, failed to cash in on Marsters. The unit was off balance all night, and the few shots they pulled the trigger on were either blocked or handled well to minimize rebounds.
“He made all the saves he need to make to win tonight,” Fridgen said about his senior goaltender. “Our defense did a great job clearing the puck. But Nate was on and in a zone tonight.”
After a scoreless first period, Rensselaer got on the board with a goal past the midway point of the second. The Engineers converted on a power play, as Scott Basiuk one-timed pass across the point from Brad Farynuk straight in to make it 1-0.
But Brown, going in to the third down 1-0, had plenty of reasons to be confident. Top-notch goaltender Yann Danis was playing well, and had faced just 13 shots through the first two. The Bears, on the other hand, had put 22 shots on Marsters. But they lacked the scoring touch or second effort to get one in.
And Rensselaer took the game away from them in the third. Kirk McDonald scored his 13th goal of the season on a clean shot from the right side just :41 into the third period. Farynuk also assisted on the goal, which opened the floodgates for a 17-shot period that the Engineers dominated.
RPI got two more goals in a one-minute span to put it away. The first one came from Ben Barr, on a nifty shorthanded passing play. Later, at even strength, Ryan Shields made it 4-0 on another good connection with linemates Oren Eizenman and Kevin Croxton. At that point, the Bears seemed to have conceded the loss and were getting circles skated around them.
Brown started strong, showing no signs of a letdown after Friday’s draining 2-2 tie. But as the game went on more Brown passes misconnected, the Engineers started to win more of the individual battles, and Marsters gained confidence.
“I don’t know what went wrong tonight,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “If I did, I would have fixed it. Both nights this weekend we came out strong in the first, but really let up in the second.
With four games to play in the season for both teams, the ECAC playoff picture is shaping up. Brown still holds the top spot, but only by two points now over Colgate, a team that trounced the Bears twice this season. RPI is in a tie for third with Cornell.