TROY, N.Y. — It was a lot harder than it should have been, but RPI won’t be finishing last in its own hockey tournament for the third straight year. The Engineers reached the championship round of the 54th annual Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Tournament, getting past a stubborn Robert Morris squad, 2-0, Friday at Houston Field House.
RPI (7-6-1), who got power-play goals from Brad Farynuk and Kevin Broad and a 17-save effort by goalie Jordan Alford for his first career shutout, will face Air Force in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. The Falcons beat Sacred Heart, 3-2, in overtime in the opener. Robert Morris and Sacred Heart play in the 4 p.m. consolation game.
The Engineers are in the finals for the first time since 2002, when they won the tournament. But they had to get by the game Colonials (2-9-1), who are in their inaugural year of Division I hockey.
“When you think about it in life, you don’t play for too many championships,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “Here, we get an opportunity to play in a championship in our own tournament, [and] to make up for a couple where we let it slide away on us.”
The Colonials, whose lineup featured 18 freshmen, one sophomore and one junior, weren’t scared by the veteran Engineers. In fact, they outshot RPI, 7-6, in the third period.
“We played extremely hard. That’s how we play,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “We work until you can’t work any more. We give a lot of effort. We played hard, but you don’t win many games when you don’t score any goals.
“We’re a Division I hockey [team], why should we be intimidated? We want to go out and show the world that we’re a good hockey team. I think we’re opening a lot of eyes. Granted, we’re only 2-9-1, but we play so hard.”
The Engineers were impressed.
“I’ll give those guys a lot of credit,” Farynuk said. “I thought they’re a lot better than a lot of teams we’ve played this season. You definitely have to respect them. If a team takes them lightly, they’re not afraid to step in there and win a 3-1, 3-2 hockey game.”
Farynuk got RPI’s first goal with 5:30 left in the first period. With goalie Jamie Flury screened, Farynuk took a shot from the slot that hit the left post and caromed into the net.
“The puck was rolling a bit, and I just sort of looked up and found the lane,” Farynuk said. “I just fired it there. Sometimes, you’ve got to shoot when you can. It’s not always where you want to. It worked out for the best.”
Broad was in perfect position when Flury kicked Keith McWilliams’ high-slot drive late in the second period. The puck came to Broad at the right of the net, and he lifted it over Flury.
“Right place, right time I guess,” Broad said. “It was the end of a long shift. Our defensemen did a good job of keeping the puck in at the blue line. We just kept the pressure on them. I got pushed to the side of the net, and luckily, the rebound came to me.
“I didn’t have much room. I wanted to get it on net, and get a greasy goal. That’s what we got out of it.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.