TROY, N.Y. — Jonathan Ornelas did Joe Juneau and the No. 9 Rensselaer jersey proud Saturday night at Houston Field House.
Ornelas, who wears the number that Juneau wore with distinction from 1987-91, scored two third-period breakaway goals to help the Engineers to a 4-1 ECACHL victory over Princeton.
Juneau had his name and No. 9 hung at the west end of the field house in a ceremony during the first intermission.
“[Ornelas] certainly honored the number in fine fashion,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said.
Ornelas may get his name and number up in the rafters some day if he continues to improve like he has during his sophomore season. After collecting five goals and four assists in 34 games last season, Ornelas has eight goals, which leads RPI (6-4-1, 2-1-1 ECACHL), and three assists this year. He is tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals.
“It’s a great coincidence, to honor Juneau and score two goals on his night. Not too bad,” Ornelas said. “I wish we honored him every night.”
Ornelas’ first goal came at a critical time for RPI. Despite outshooting the Tigers (2-4-0, 1-3-0), 21-11, through two periods, the Engineers had just a 1-0 lead. The Tigers came out swarming in the third, and tied it 66 seconds in on Brett Wilson’s goal.
Princeton continued to keep up the pressure, and it had a faceoff in RPI’s left circle just under eight minutes into the period.
But the game changed on that faceoff. Oren Eizenman, who scored RPI’s first goal, won the draw and got the puck to defenseman Ryan Swanson. He then srpung Ornelas on a breakaway.
Ornelas skated down the slot and beat goalie Eric Leroux to his right side at 7:45.
“It took a great draw by Oren,” Ornelas said. ” ‘Swannie’ executed the play perfectly. I touched the guy’s stick, and he missed [the puck] and I was on my own. [Leroux] was giving me the low blocker, so I went there. Luckily, it went in.”
It was a play that RPI tried earlier in the game, and just missed. This time, it worked.
“We kind of laughed when I called it again,” Eizenman said. “After we scored, we looked at each other. It was a little strange that it happened. I think we caught them napping a little bit because no one really expects offense to come from your zone. But offense can come from anywhere.”
Ornelas put the game away with 3:53 left. He picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, and broke in alone on Leroux. This time, Ornelas tired to beat Leroux to his left side.
Leroux got his glove on it. But the puck had enough momentum to trickle over the goal line.
“I was feeling a lot of relief,” Ornelas said. “I was coming down the whole time, thinking I was going to get low blocker again. But he wasn’t giving that to me, so I went low glove. Luckily, it sneaked in.”
Keith McWilliams scored an empty-net goal with 48 seconds left to complete the night’s scoring.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.