PRINCETON, N.J. — Kevin Broad used his head, both figuratively and literally, to help keep Rensselaer’s hopes of an ECAC tournament first-round bye alive.
Broad was credited with a goal that bounced off of his facemask late in the first period that snapped a 1-1 tie, and then made heads-up nice play that set up Ryan Shields’ early third-period goal to lift the Engineers to a 5-1 victory Friday over Princeton at Hobey Baker Rink.
In snapping a two-game losing streak, RPI (18-13-2, 12-8-1 ECAC) is still in the hunt for the bye. The best the Engineers can finish now is fourth, which is the final bye spot, and the worst is fifth, where they are at now. They are a point behind fourth-place Brown, which fell to Dartmouth, 3-0.
RPI will finish fourth if it wins tonight at Yale, and Brown loses to Vermont or Cornell loses to Clarkson.
But finishing fifth wouldn’t be too bad for the Engineers. They would face the last-place Tigers (5-21-2, 5-14-2) in the first round next weekend at Houston Field House. Princeton clinched last place when it 11th-place Vermont beat Harvard, 6-4.
“We’re definitely feeling better after the win tonight,” Broad said. “What everybody else does is out of our control. But we knew coming into this weekend that if won both games, that was all we can do and hope for the best elsewhere.”
Broad’s play was a major factor in putting RPI into that position. After RPI’s Kevin Croxton and Princeton’s Kevin Westgarth traded goals 18 seconds apart early in the first period, Broad got the game-winner with 2:14 left in the first without ever using his stick.
“We always tell them, if you have to put it in with your head, you have to,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “You’ve got to be hungry around the net, no matter what.”
After goalie Eric Leroux made a save on a Nick Economakos shot, there was a battle for the rebound. Ben Barr took a poke at it, and then it hit Broad’s facemask. Tigers defenseman B.J. Mackasey tried to clear it out, but the puck hit his skate, rolled off Leroux’s arm and into the net.
“It was a good job by Nick to keep the puck in at the blue line and causing the turnover,” Broad said. “After that, it was just a scramble. He threw it on net. Benny took a whack at it, it hit me in the visor and somebody on their team kicked it in. It was a scrambly goal, but we need those kind of goals at this time of year.”
Broad made a smart play as the Engineers were changing lines and helped them take a two-goal lead 1:35 into the third period. Broad had control of the puck in the Princeton zone. He skated behind the net, skated out the left side and eventually ended up at the bottom of the right circle. He fired a shot on Leroux, who stopped it. But Leroux kicked the rebound to Ryan Shields, who was alone to the left of the net. Shields put it past Leroux.
“It was a great play by him,” Shields said. “I just went to the net. I set a pick for him up high, went to the net and the puck was just sitting there. I had an open net, and just put it through [Leroux's] legs.”
Notebook: Brad Farynuk and Kirk MacDonald also scored for RPI in the third…Engineers goalie Nathan Marsters made 31 saves.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.