ALBANY, N.Y. — Dan Peace watched Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s first four games from the stands. First-year RPI coach Seth Appert gave the junior forward the opportunity to play in Sunday’s Governor’s Cup championship game against Colgate.
It turned out to be a wise decision.
Peace scored an incredible goal with 48.9 seconds left in regulation, giving the Engineers a 2-1 victory over the Raiders in the penalty-filled final at Pepsi Arena. RPI (2-1-2) becomes the first champion of the Governor’s Cup. It is the Engineers’ first tourney title since they won their own holiday tournament in 2001.
“For us, as a program, this is big,” Appert said. “This is a big confidence booster. None of the seniors in our program have won a championship of any kind. I’m really pleased for our players.”
Peace was the most unlikeliest of heroes. Not only was it his first game, the fact that the fourth-line right wing was out on the ice in the final minute was a testimony to his hard work in practices.
“We dress our players based how they play in practice,” Appert said. “Dan Peace had a good week of practice. His intensity level has been high. He’s been a great teammate. It’s not easy not playing all the time. He continues to be a great teammate and supportive, even when he wasn’t in the lineup.
“There was a lot of penalties being called. He was a very, very good penalty killer, and an intelligent hockey player. As the game wore on, Tyler [Eaves] and Dan, along with Kevin Broad, their other linemate, continued to play a very smart, a very sound, very confident hockey [game]. They earned more ice time as the game went on.”
The play to the winning goal started when Broad sent a pass to Eaves, who skated down the left wing into the Colgate zone. Eaves fired a rising slap shot from the left circle that hit Colgate goalie Mark Dekanich above his chest. The force of the shot knocked Dekanich, last season’s Ken Dryden Award winner as the ECACHL’s top goalie, off balance.
“It was the end of my shift,” Eaves said. “I was just trying to get it deep. I had a little room, so I decided to put it on net.”
The puck then squirted behind Dekanich and into the crease. As he reached back to retrieve the puck, Eaves crashed the net.
The puck was still in the crease when Peace went sliding by. As he was going past the end line on his stomach, Peace reached around and swatted the puck over the goal line for his third career goal and second game-winner.
“It was a bit of a one-on-three. I was following the play a little bit,” Peace said. “They were getting tired as the game wore on, so I was going try and outskate them toward the net. Tyler fired a real hard slap shot. I think it was going upper blocker side. It surprised him a bit, and he bobbled it. I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time.”
“That was definitely the highlight of my career at RPI. Hopefully, there will be more to come.”
It was the only even-strength goal of the game. Referee Peter Feola called 26 penalties. The teams combined for 24 power-play attempts, but only managed one goal each on those chances. Colgate’s Tom Riley scored one on a one-man advantage late in the first period. RPI’s Oren Eizenman tied it 31 seconds into the second period during a five-on-three situation.
It was a difficult way for Colgate (3-3-1) to see its 8-0-1 streak against RPI end.
“It stings for us since it’s the Championship,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “We’re disappointed. We came here to win, and it didn’t happen. You have to tip your hat to RPI. They’re playing the game with a lot of passion.”
Two RPI players were named to the all-tournament team. Forward Seth Klerer, who assisted on Eizenman’s goal and had a goal in regulation and one more in the Engineers’ 4-3 shootout victory over Union on Saturday, made the team. He was joined by goalie Mathias Lange, who made 20 saves against Colgate.
The other forwards on the team are Union’s Josh Coyle and Colgate’s Peter Bogdanich. The defensemen are Colgate’s Nick St. Pierre and Quinnipiac’s Reid Cashman.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.