TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer led 4-1 with 12:29 to go in the third, and 5-2 with 3:27 to go — meaning, of course, that the game was over.
Somebody forgot to tell Princeton, as the Tigers scored twice in a span of 1:16, but couldn’t get the tying goal as the Engineers held off the Tigers in game one of the ECAC first-round playoff series between the two.
After Rensselaer’s Nick Economakos tapped in a loose puck from the crease on the power play, the Tigers got two goals from Darrell Powe and Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer to narrow the lead to 5-4. But the Tigers could not get the tying goal in the last 2:12 of the game.
“We played a heck of a third period,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “If we brought that effort and execution in the first two periods of the game it might have been a different game.”
“They kept working and working and I said last week that they will keep working, and it was obvious that a few of us did not play the full 60 minutes,” said Engineer coach Dan Fridgen. “We let up a little bit and they got a couple there in the end which certainly made it interesting.”
The Engineers held a 4-1 lead at one point after Kevin Croxton scored. Croxton found a rebound of a Scott Basiuk point shot and put it past Eric Leroux. But Princeton got that goal back less than three minutes later when Patrick Neundorfer found a loose puck at the top of the crease as the Tigers crashed the net in front of Nathan Marsters.
Earlier, the Engineers scored twice to start the game. Ryan Shields scored on a tip in front just beyond Leroux’s reach. Then Croxton scored on the power play in the second period on a backdoor play.
Sebastian Borza scored to pull Princeton within one as his slapshot hit the netting and bounced out, leading to a short delay for it to be verified that the puck actually was in the net.
The Engineers got that goal back as Brad Farynuk’s point shot on the power play was tipped into the net by Princeton’s Daryl Marcoux, to give RPI a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
Then the third period came and Princeton’s rally fell just short.
“We did get a little bit too lackadaisical and complacent and a couple of penalties that took the wind out of our sails,” said Fridgen. “And then there were a couple of shots that seemed to handcuff Nate.”
“A couple of RPI goals were just garbage for RPI to tap in, but that’s the defensemen’s responsibility,” said Quesnelle. “A couple of times we didn’t and it ended up in the back of our net.”
The Engineers wound up 3-6 on the power play while Princeton didn’t score on three opportunities.
“I thought our power play did a good job tonight, but our five-on-five play could have been better,” said Fridgen. “We’re going to need that in order to match their intensity that they finished the game with.”
“We need to build on it and not take penalties like we did tonight,” said Quesnelle. “We can’t be taking those kind of penalties that catch up to you. We have to be more disciplined.”
RPI has now won six of eight while Princeton is 0-14-2 in it’s last 16 games.
The two teams meet in game two on Saturday. If RPI wins, it will travel to Dartmouth for the quarterfinals. If Princeton wins, there will a third contest Sunday.