PRINCETON, N.J. — Junior Patrick Neundorfer scored the game-winning goal five minutes into the third period as Princeton edged Rensselaer 3-2 in the Tigers’ first win at Hobey Baker Rink this season.
Princeton ended a two-game skid as goalie B.J. Sklapsky made 18 saves for his first career collegiate win.
“[Sklapsky] made a couple big saves on the power play,” said Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky. “He’s been working hard since the start of the year. I’m very happy for him.”
Things weren’t going well for Princeton early in the third period. With the Tigers ahead 2-1, Grant Goeckner-Zoeller had a prime opportunity to give his team a two-goal lead with two chances in front of the net, but was stoned by RPI goalie Andrew Martin.
Under a minute later, the Engineers took the puck back down the ice and defenseman Keith MCWilliams shot the puck over Sklapsky’s shoulder to tie the game at 2 at 16:35.
But 1:47 later, the Tigers’ power play came through, as has been their strength all season. The rebound from a Luc Paquin shot from the point was picked up by Neundorfer, who scored from the right side of the net. It was Neundorfer’s sixth goal of the season and fifth power-play goal.
RPI remained optimistic despite the loss.
“Overall I thought it was a real good effort,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. “We just have to be a little smarter with our play. … We’re looking to get back on the winning track and start playing the game for 60 full minutes instead of having lapses here and there.”
The Tigers dominated the first period, outshooting the Engineers 13-3. Princeton opened up the scoring at 14:28 when Dustin Sproat received a Goeckner-Zoeller pass from behind the net and shot the puck past Martin.
The Sproat/Neundorfer/Goeckner-Zoeller line starred for the Princeton offense again. The line has scored 17 of Princeton’s 28 goals this season.
“We are clicking. It’s fun to play with Dustin and Grant,” Neundorfer said. “They’re both great players, very skilled.”
“They’re three extremely intelligent individuals, and when you get three intelligent athletes together, good things happen,” Gadowsky said of the three forwards. “That’s the case for them. They’re very smart players and they fit together well.”
Princeton made it 2-0 when Kevin Westgarth passed the puck to Neil Stevenson-Moore, who skated straight in on goal and beat Martin at 18:02.
The Tigers almost made it 3-0 when Mark Masters shot the puck past Martin, but the goal was disallowed because it was scored after the period expired.
In the second period, RPI cut Princeton’s lead in half at 4:09. MCWilliams blasted a shot from the point that soared through a sea of players and into the net.
For the rest of the period RPI and Princeton wrestled for control of the game. At one point, with six minutes to go, the Tigers dodged a bullet when Paquin passed the puck right to Engineer Tommy Green, positioned right in front of Sklapsky, but Green’s shot went over the net.
A minute later, the crowd was in a buzz as, during a goal-mouth scramble, Goeckner-Zoeller had the opportunity to put the puck in a wide-open net, but Martin stuck out his leg at the last moment to keep the score 2-1.
“Andrew Martin played big the whole weekend, and that’s great. We need that,” MCWilliams said.
But it wasn’t enough to win tonight.
“You have to play 60 minutes. We kind of took the first period off,” MCWilliams said.
“Every game counts, and everyone is aware of what’s going on in the standings, but I think we still have time to get heading in the right direction,” he said. “We’re not counting points yet. We need to beat everybody.”
RPI returns home to play Robert Morris on Friday while Princeton will finish its three-game home stand on Tuesday against Yale.