WEST POINT, N.Y. — The Commissioners’ Cup Series got off to a rousing start at Army’s Tate Rink on Saturday, as the host Black Knights faced Rensselaer in a hard-fought, wide-open game that featured high-quality scoring chances for both teams. In the end, though, a pair of power-play goals in the second made the difference for the Engineers, as Rensselaer gave the ECAC two points in the Cup series with a 5-1 win.
“We got better as the game went along,” said Engineers head coach Dan Fridgen, who tied the school record for wins with his 186th victory at the helm in Troy. “I wasn’t really impressed with the first period, but I thought we recovered well, and from the second period on, really played our game and put some numbers up on the board.”
On tying former Engineers coach Mike Addessa on the all-time wins list, Fridgen said, “I just feel real fortunate to have the opportunity to coach at a school rich in academic and athletic tradition. It’s a tribute to the guys who are in the program currently, and have been in it in the past.”
“Our goal was certainly to try and be in this game going into the third period,” Army head coach Brian Riley said. “Even though we were down 3-1, we felt with the power play starting us off, we were in the game.”
After a 1-1 first period, a short RPI power play early in the second yielded the go-ahead goal for the Engineers. RPI cycled the puck to Kevin MacDonald in the slot, and the junior from Victoria, B.C., beat Army sophomore Treye Kettwick, who started the game in net due to the injury of junior keeper Brad Roberts during Friday’s 3-3 tie with Bentley.
“We were in a tough situation losing Brad Roberts last night,” Riley said, “but the one positive for us was that Treye Kettwick was able to step up. He’s going to have to be the guy for us for the next month or so.”
Another power play led to another goal for the visitors, as sophomore Oren Eizenman jammed home a rebound from Scott Romfo for a 3-1 Engineer lead.
“You’ve got to work your special teams,” Fridgen said of his team’s power-play success, “because they’re a big part of the game right now.”
Army’s lot didn’t get much better in the third, as MacDonald went upstairs for his second tally of the evening on an assist from Keith McWilliams at the 6:15 mark, and another power play led to Eizenman’s second goal, as the Toronto native chipped the puck in from an awkward angle to give the Engineers a 5-1 lead.
The Knights were able to prevent any additional scoring, but the damage had been done, and RPI left with the win.
The Black Knights’ early 1-0 lead came when freshman Robb Ross jammed home a Luke Flicek rebound. The Engineers equalized late in the period on a wraparound goal from senior Cody Wojdyla, who slipped the puck inside the far post to tie the game heading into the first intermission.
RPI goalie Andrew Martin made 17 saves for the win, while Kettwick made 26 saves in the losing effort.
On the Commissioners’ Cup win, MacDonald said, “We definitely wanted to represent the ECAC well, and go out and get some points for the league. I think that some of the other conferences are dogging us a little bit, and we want to go out and prove that we’re just as good as the other conferences. I think that with the Commissioners’ Cup, we can probably show that in the standings a little bit.”
The Engineers will return to Houston Field House next weekend, as they host Massachusetts-Lowell and Mercyhurst next Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Knights, meanwhile, will head north to take on two more ECACHL foes in Cornell and Colgate.
Elliot Olshansky is an assistant editor for CollegeSports.com.