TROY, N.Y. — A day that RPI hoped would never come came in the first round of the 55th annual Rensselaer Holiday Hockey Tournament.
Holy Cross put a 3-2 win on the board over the Engineers to advance to the championship game of the tournament. In the process, the Engineers will fail to win their own tournament for the fourth consecutive year, the first time that an Engineer class will not win its own tournament.
Holy Cross got 33 saves from Tony Quesada, survived a 14 second span in which the Engineers scored twice, and got two three-on-one goals in the third period to win the game.
Holy Cross took a 2-0 lead 10:23 into the third period when a three-on-one developed after an Engineer miscue in the neutral zone. The odd-man rush didn’t look like it was going to do much, but the puck was batted around, and Cal St. Denis managed to get his stick on it. The little momentum that it had pushed the puck past Engineer goalie Mathias Lange.
It took the Engineers 1:33 to answer that goal. Keith McWilliams pinched in from his defensive position and put a shot towards the goal that a screened Quesada could not see, and it was quickly 2-1.
Just 14 seconds later, off the ensuing faceoff, Oren Eizenman won the puck, and Brad Farynuk quickly tossed the pass up ice to Kevin Croxton. Croxton managed to avoid his defender and shifted from the forehand to the backhand and surprised Quesada with the backhanded shot for the goal.
Holy Cross quickly called a timeout and responded 3:35 later with another three-on-one goal. As the Engineers were coming up the right wing through neutral ice, the puck bounced off the leg of Jon Landry and right to James Sixsmith. Sixsmith, Landry and Dale Reinhardt came down the ice, and Sixsmith’s quick pass to Reinhardt was converted over the shoulder of Lange for the 3-2 lead.
That would hold up as Quesada made several saves in the final minutes to seal the win and advancement.
“I told the guys that we had worked really hard to get to that point,” said Crusader head coach Paul Pearl. “I told them to just keep on playing because we had done so well. What we didn’t want to have happen was to have a little flurry ruin what we had done.”
“Two three-on-ones, two shots, two goals, that’s pretty much it,” said Engineer head coach Dan Fridgen. “Other than that I thought we did a pretty good job battling back and capitalizing, but a couple of turnovers with guys stepping up when they should have been playing contain. That was the difference. They only had two other shots in the third period.”
The Crusaders scored the first goal of the game in the second period when Sixsmith tried to clear the puck and, in doing so, sent it off of Jake Luthi. Sixsmith had the puck bounce right past him, blew by Luthi and took off down the ice. His first shot was saved by Lange, but his second effort to punch the puck with the stick was successful as he poked it past Lange.
This came after the Engineers were unsuccessful on a five-minute major power play given to them when Kai Magnussen was given a major for hitting from behind and a game disqualification.
The Engineers couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity.
“If we could have capitalized early on that, then things could have been different,” said Fridgen. “The way the bench went after MCWilliams scored, it was a turning point.”
“It was huge,” said Pearl about the penalty kill. “We made some good stops and Quesada made some good saves. To get through that was a big confidence booster for us, and then we got that great goal from Sixsmith.”
The Engineers will face Providence at 4:00 p.m. E.T. in the consolation game, while Holy Cross will face Nebraska-Omaha in the championship game.