TROY, NY — The Princeton Tigers by all rights should have beaten or at worst tied the host Rensselaer Engineers in both team’s ECACHL opener. Despite tying the game with 40 seconds left, the Tigers couldn’t leave Troy with a point as Seth Klerer got his own rebound with 12 seconds left in overtime and the Engineers stole two points with a 4-3 overtime win.
“They completely outplayed us and outexectued us. They were better prepared and as coaches we’ll take the blame for it,” said Engineer head coach Seth Appert.
“We had a good week of practice and we thought we were prepared, but we slipped there after a good start and as the game wore on. We were lucky to get out of there with a win.”
“They found a way to win it. RPI found a way to win it and we didn’t,” said Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky. “If we tie that game, I think we’re feeling pretty good. Take away those 12 seconds and yes, we’re feeling real good about ourselves for coming back.”
After the Tigers pressured the Engineers for most of the overtime, getting off five shots, the Engineers had one last push. Oren Eizenman took the puck deep and fed it out front to Klerer. Klerer’s first shot was saved by Zane Kalemba, but the rebound came right back to him and he put it past Kalemba for the goal.
The game was put into overtime by Kevin Westgarth. Westgarth scored the goal in a similar fashion to Klerer. With under two minutes to play, Princeton went on the power play and pulled Kalemba for the extra attacker.
Jody Pederson’s point shot was saved by Jordan Alford, and the rebound came to Westgarth. His first shot was saved, but the rebound was put past a sliding Alford for the 3-3 tie with just 40 seconds left in the third.
That capped a comeback for the Tigers after being down 3-1. The comeback started when Kyle Hagel scored on the power play in the second period.
Hagel took a rebound shot and put it past a mad scramble.
In the meantime, the comeback of the Tigers in the last 35 minutes of regulation saw the Tigers outshoot the Engineers 29-6, meaning that Alford was forced to see a lot of rubber during the game.
“Jordan was outstanding,” said Appert. “He made spectacular saves and he made them earn their goals. He was very important in a game that he made great plays in a game where we didn’t play that well.”
“He stopped two great breakaways and he made some difficult saves,” said Gadowsky. “He seemed very in control and often there was a lot of frantic play and I thought he was excellent.”
The Tigers got the first goal of the game on a very odd play. Cam French was directly behind the net and his shot deflected off of an Engineer and bounced towards the back of Alford. As Alford turned to get the puck, he tried to backhand it and it went off of his glove and right into the net.
But the Engineers came back with two goals in the first period to take a 2-1 lead. Andrei Uryadov took a rebound from in front of the net to score the first goal and then Kirk MacDonald tipped a Peter Merth point shot on the power play over the shoulder of Kalemba.
Jake Morissette added Rensselaer’s third goal when he found a loose puck to Kalemba’s left and tucked it home.
After that the Tigers took over and Jordan Alford, despite allowing two goals, was the difference for the rest of the game.
“The positive is that teams that believe in each other and believe in what we’re trying to do find ways to win games where they don’t play that well,” said Appert.
“Today was one of those games. Tonight we made a few plays at the right time and we got some good goaltending and that’s the right cure for the way we played.”
“Being down 3-1 and tying it late, that was a positive. I think we’re very happy with the performance, but not the result,” said Gadowsky.
The Tigers (0-2-1, 0-1-0 ECACHL) will travel to Union on Saturday evening while the Engineers (3-1-2, 1-0-0 ECACHL) will host Quinnipiac.
This was the fourth annual Black Friday at Rensselaer, the traditional ECACHL home opener where the Engineers wear one-time black sweaters. The sweaters are auctioned off during the game and given off the players’ backs to the winning bidders or raffle ticket holders right after the game.
The Engineers are now 4-0 in Black Friday games, defeating Quinnipiac, Vermont, Clarkson and now Princeton.