NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Twenty minutes into the last regular season game for RPI and Yale, fans at Ingalls Rink figured they were in for a tightly matched, low scoring college hockey game. With both teams getting a number of quality scoring chances and both goalies coming up with big saves to stop them, the Engineers and Bulldogs went into the locker room with the score locked at 0-0.
But with the Engineers coming out of intermission to score twice within the span of 16 seconds, any semblance of a close game was soon erased. Oren Eizenman recorded two goals and two assists and Kevin Croxton added two scores and one helper as the Engineers scored six goals in the final two periods to shut Yale out 6-0 at Ingalls Rink. It was the first time RPI has blanked the Elis in New Haven.
“It was one of those situations where you get a couple and then just keep rolling,” said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. “I was happy to see that each line was building off the shift of the line ahead.”
The two successive scores two minutes into the second period visibly deflated the Bulldogs, who had come out in the first period eager to forget about Friday night’s abysmal effort against Union. The Elis dominated play for much of the early going, and Yale goalie Josh Gartner made 14 saves in the first, including several improbable stops.
“They came out with good energy and enthusiasm in the first period,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor.
On the other end, Nathan Marsters was equally strong in net in the opening period and beyond, earning the 34-save shutout and the first star of the game.
“[Gartner] made some awesome saves, but with every goalie if you keep shooting it sneaks through eventually,” said Eizenman, whose attempt two minutes into the second did just that. “Our goalie made some key saves too and it’s really good to see that and build off of it.”
The tandem of Eizenman and Croxton were responsible for four of RPI’s six goals, and the linemates worked off each other quite well throughout the game. Croxton assisted Eizenman’s first goal, while both of Croxton’s tallies were set up by Eizenman.
“We’ve been together for quite a few games, and we’ve been getting some chemistry going and learning where we are on the ice,” Croxton said. “It was really clicking tonight.”
The loss was Yale’s fifth in a row and seventh of its last eight, prompting forward Christian Jensen to compare the team’s current situation with their early season woes.
“This is the second time we’ve hit rock bottom,” he said. “The first time we started a win streak, but right now it’s as terrible as it’s ever been. I hope it’s a fluke.”
Following Eizenman and Croxton’s goals early in the second period, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on a number of power-play opportunities throughout the rest of the frame. While they were able to kill off an RPI 5-on-3, Yale’s inability to clear the puck from their defensive zone was evident.The Elis picked up their offense somewhat near the end of the second, with Nate Murphy streaking in for a number of opportunities. Just under the 5-minute mark, the senior stole the puck in RPI’s zone and unleashed a quality shot that pinged off the left post.
Two minutes later, Christian Jensen and Vin Hellemeyer connected on another shot that hit metal.
“They rang a couple off the post and at that point frustration really sets in,” Fridgen said.
RPI dealt the Elis another blow with just 1:16 to play in the period when Croxton scored his second of the game with a backhanded high shot to give RPI the 3-0 lead entering the second intermission.
The Engineers came out of the locker room with as much vigor as they had going in, needing only 30 seconds to wrist the puck past Gartner for the 4-0 lead. Under three minutes later, RPI had pushed its lead to 5-0 when Matt McNeely notched his 6th goal of the season.
Yale elected to replace Gartner with Peter Dobrowolski, a senior who has seen limited action in his career but was honored as part of Senior Night. Dobrowolski performed well for the Elis, stopping 10 shots in just over 17 minutes before Eizenman was able to score his second of the game with 1:02 to play to give RPI their 6-0 lead.
The Engineers entered the night with a chance to capture the fourth spot in the ECAC and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, which begin next week. While they finished in a tie for fourth in the league, they finish fifth overall with tiebreakers and will host a first-round series against last-place Princeton.
“I think we’ve certainly come a long way,” Fridgen said. “The preseason polls, both coaches and media, had us finishing 10th or 11th, and we found ourselves going into this weekend with an opportunity to get that fourth spot. These guys really did a great job.”
The Elis, who had already clinched a home berth before the weekend began, ended up 7th overall and will host St. Lawrence for a best-of-three series.