TROY, N.Y. — Years from now, when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute freshman forward Tyler Helfrich recalls how he scored his first collegiate goal, he will say thus: “A real nice goal. It was not garbage at all.”
That would be stretching the truth.
Helfrich’s first goal of the season was a controversial, yet winning one Saturday. He batted in a rebound of a Jake Morissette shot, avoiding a possible high-stick violation, and giving the Engineers a 1-0 overtime win over Sacred Heart at Houston Field House.
The play began when Peter Merth’s shot from the top of the slot was blocked. The puck caromed to Morissette in the mid-slot. He took a shot that was stopped by goalie Stefan Drew’s blocker.
Then, the puck fluttered in the air above the crease. Helfrich saw it and, as it was coming down, started to bat at it. He made connection, and the puck went into the net 1:56 into OT, sending the sellout crowd of 5,049 into a frenzy.
The question was whether or not Helfrich’s stick was above the crossbar when he hit the puck. If it was, the goal would have been disallowed.
But referee Alex Dell was to the left of the net. Without hesitation, he ruled it a clean goal. It ended the Engineers’ two-game losing streak against the Pioneers.
“It was definitely below the crossbar,” Helfrich said. “For half a second there, I wanted to jump right at it. But I wanted to wait to make sure there wasn’t controversy. Obviously, there was.”
Several Sacred Heart players argued the call. However, without video replay to aid Dell, the call stood.
“It’s hard to say,” Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah said. “They’re not reviewing goals at this level. It’s the bounce of the puck sometimes.”
After the game, RPI coach Seth Appert looked at the goal on tape.
“When [Helfrich] hit it, it was well beneath the bar,” Appert said. “It was probably eight to 10 inches underneath the bar by the time he hit. It looked maybe high because of where it started from, but give Alex Dell credit. It was a quick play on a transition. He was on the goal line right next to the play when it went in. That’s a referee working hard to get in the right position to make the call.”
Helfrich is RPI’s top freshman scorer with four points. He had three assists, two of which came on opening night against Bentley on Oct. 9.
“It’s the first of many [goals], we hope, for young Mr. Helfrich,” Appert said. “Tyler creates so much offense for us. Usually, he creates it for other people. He passes the puck so well, and creates time and space for his teammates.”
While the Engineers (3-2) won their second straight, their power play continues to have problems. They had six power plays, and had only six shots on goal. RPI is 1-for-24 with the man advantage.
“Putrid,” Appert said of the power play. “We’re well below the Mendoza Line. We’re struggling on the power play right now.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.