ALBANY, N.Y. — For the record, Union extended its unbeaten streak against Rensselaer to five games on Saturday in the first round of the Governor’s Cup at Pepsi Arena.
But for the Engineers, a tie against the Dutchmen never felt so sweet. Goalie Jordan Alford stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout, and Seth Klerer scored the only goal, helping the Engineers advance to the Championship Game of the tournament.
The Engineers (1-1-2), who haven’t beaten the Dutchmen since a 3-1 victory Jan. 10, 2004, advance to the championship game today against Colgate, which beat Quinnipiac in the opener, 3-2, also in a shootout. The final will be at 5 p.m., while the consolation game between Union and Quinnipiac starts at 2 p.m.
Because the shootout is not recognized by the NCAA to decide the outcome of a game, the game will go down as a 3-3 tie. But that doesn’t matter in the least to the Engineers.
“It feels good to move onto the championship game. That’s the thing,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “Obviously, it goes down as a tie. . . . We wanted to move on. It’s big to play in championship games.” Union coach Nate Leaman wished that the game could have gone on longer and be decided in sudden-death overtime, no matter how many extra periods it would take.
“It is tough to lose in a shootout,” Leaman said. “I think it’s a crappy way, personally, to end a college hockey game. But it had to be that way with the game times [today]. It was no different than the first game.
“Above all, this [the ECACHL] is a heck of a hockey league. I’ve been here four years. That was one of the best hockey games I’ve been involved with, with a league team.”
Alford stopped Jason Walters, Augie DiMarzo, Olivier Bouchard, T.J. Fox and Chris Potts. Each time, Alford has his mask on top of his head. As each Union player started toward him, Alford would put the mask down with a shake of his head.
“It was kind of calming, [like] the music playing,” Alford said. “It helps me relax a little.”
Appert was pleased with how relaxed Alford was after a somewhat shaky 65 minutes. Alford made 22 saves.
“I think Jordan battled the puck a little bit in the game,” Appert said. “He was fighting it a little bit. They were doing a good job going to the net. He had trouble controlling his rebounds. Then he controlled every rebound perfectly in the shootout. He did a great job and maintaining his composure in the shootout.”
Klerer, who scored the tying goal at 5:39 of the third period, was the first RPI shooter in the shootout. He beat goalie Justin Mrazek past his glove side.
“I just tried to come with some speed, and see what he was giving me,” Klerer said. “I saw a little room underneath his glove, and I shot it there.” Mrazek, who made 30 saves, was thought he was see some moves from Klerer. “I kind of expected him to deke, Mrazek said. “It looked like he was going to deke a little bit. He made a quick release, and it was a nice goal.”
The Dutchmen took a 1-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game. Matt Cook came off the bench, and almost no one took notice of him as he skated to the RPI net. Josh Coyle, who was behind the net, did spot Cook. Coyle fed a pass to Cook, who one-timed it past Alford.
Paul Kerins tied it for the Engineers with his first collegiate goal. It was a nifty one, too.
Kerins skated past Union defenseman Mike Schreiber, and cut from the left wing to the right. He appeared to have gone too far when he arrived at the goal line to the right of the net. But Kerins sent a backhander that eluded the left skate of Mrazek and got past him with no more than a half-inch between the skate and the right post.
“It was a great goal,” Appert said. “Paul Kerins made an outstanding move. He saw an opening, and took advantage of it with a really slick fake. Then as he was getting tangled up, he had the presence of mind to kind throw it from the goal line.”
RPI broke the tie with six minutes in the second period. With a delayed penalty on Union, the Engineers jammed the front of the net. Mrazek stopped a shot by Tommy Green, but Kurt Colling put in the rebound.
The Dutchmen tied it less than two minutes later on the power play. Bouchard took a cross-ice pass from Walters along the left-wing boards and fired it past Alford.
Coyle gave Union the lead on a power-play goal with 6.2 seconds left in the second. The goal was set up by DiMarzo, who took a crunching check along the RPI right-wing boards just as he gave Coyle the puck.
“That was a good breakout,” Coyle said. “Augie took a nice hit at the blue line. We crashed the net hard. It was a good line goal.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.