PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For the second consecutive night, the Brown Bears and Rensselaer Engineers traded goals in back-and-forth action. And for the second straight night, a late miscue collapsed the Engineers’ hope for a series-extending win.
Saturday, just as on Friday, Brown took advantage of those Engineer errors, winning 4-3 in overtime and sweeping its playoff series with RPI.
The game winner came at 5:33 of overtime off the stick of Bears’ freshman forward Chris Poli, who had two goals in the series-opening win. Poli was the beneficiary of intense forechecking pressure by linemate Rugo Santini, who forced a turnover off a failed clearing attempt. That turnover fell into Poli’s lap when he was already within close range of RPI netminder Andrew Martin.
“Rugo did a great job, as he’s been doing all year, of getting in on the defenseman and getting a body on him,” Poli said. “Luckily the puck just squirted out to me, and I was in a good enough position that when the puck got to me that and the forward kinda gave me the near post, and I just threw it over [Martin's] shoulder.”
Even with the forced turnover, though, Poli made a difficult shot on a tough angle, according to Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen.
“[Poli] made a great shot, he put it upstairs, there wasn’t much room there but he found the room,” Fridgen said.
Poli’s game-winning goal ended RPI’s season, but it may not have been the emotional low point of the game. That dubious distinction came at 10:51 of the third period after sustained Brown pressure in the RPI end had both teams a little slow on their skates.
Brown defenseman Gerry Burke received the puck, held it in the high slot, made a nifty move around an onrushing RPI forward, and then wristed a shot through traffic that beat Martin clean. But it wasn’t so much the goal itself as the one it negated that made the situation so important.
Burke’s goal erased Rensselaer’s only lead of the series; the Engineers had grabbed their first lead of the series earlier in the third period, the result of two quick goals in little more than a minute.
The first came off of sustained pressure in the Brown end. RPI had the puck behind Brown goalie Adam D’Alba’s net but the Engineers’ forwards were contained and being pressed up against the boards by Brown’s defensemen.
RPI kept grinding it out, attempting to push the puck loose and start a rotation. Eventually Kirk MacDonald got a little space, pushed off from the boards and circled tightly around the net on D’Alba’s left side. He fired a quick shot which was saved, but D’Alba couldn’t corral the rebound and MacDonald flicked the puck up and over D’Alba’s far shoulder to tie the score at 2-2 with 8:24 gone by in the third.
Sixty-eight seconds later RPI pulled ahead, this time as a result of a failed clearing attempt from Brown. The puck took an odd bounce off the boards and squirted further down into the Brown zone, where Engineer forward Kevin Croxton gathered the puck along the end line and looped around in front of D’Alba. Croxton delayed his shot, freezing D’Alba before finally firing and giving the Engineers their short-lived lead.
“I was a little disappointed with the two quick goals in the third,” Brown coach Roger Grillo admitted. “But I thought the guys battled back well.”
Grillo’s counterpart, Fridgen agreed, saying, “Give [Brown] credit — they kept battling and they got some timely goals when they needed them.”
Indeed, Rensselaer only held the lead for 1:19 before Burke’s goal. But that was somewhat fitting in a series that saw each team alternate goals.
Brown’s series sweep advances the Bears to the quarterfinals of the ECACHL tournament; they will travel to either Colgate or Vermont next weekend depending upon the outcome of the Yale-Dartmouth contest on Sunday.