TROY, N.Y. — The third time was the charm for Notre Dame, as it captured the 57th Rensselaer Hockey Tournament with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the host Rensselaer Engineers on Saturday night at the Houston Field House.
Sophomore left wing Ryan Thang scored the game-winning goal with 3:20 left in the game to cap a furious Notre Dame comeback, as the Irish rallied from a 3-0 deficit early in the second period to win their fifth consecutive game.
This was Notre Dame’s third appearance in the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament; they also participated in 1988 and 2000, finishing fourth both times.
Notre Dame 3-0 just over five minutes into the second period on Engineer goals by Chase Polacek, Tyler Helfrich and Jonathan Ornelas.
“That was a character comeback for this team tonight,” said head coach Jeff Jackson following the game. “It’s rare to fall three goals behind against a quality team like RPI and then come back to get a win. It really showed good character to chip away to tie it and then win the game in regulation.”
“We played a great first period and a half, but then their strength and their poise took over,” said Engineer head coach Seth Appert.
After being outshot, 11-5, in the first period, Notre Dame dominated play the final two periods, limiting Rensselaer to just seven shots on goal over the final two periods.
The Engineers dominated play through most of the first period, scoring twice in the first eight minutes. It took the Irish close to 14 minutes to get their first shot on goal; RPI took the first eight shots of the contest.
Rensselaer got the scoring started at 3:34 of the first period. Chase Polacek redirected an Andrei Uryadov shot from the point past Notre Dame goaltender Jordan Pearce. Senior Jake Morissette recorded an assist on the goal.
Five minutes later, Helfrich lifted a backhand over Pearce to give the Engineers a 2-0 lead. Matt Angers-Goulet and Polacek each had shots stopped by the Notre Dame goalie before the puck skipped to Hefrich.
On a five-on-three power play, Rensselaer scored at 5:30 of the second period. Polacek, at the right point, found Helfrich just to the left of the cage, who then slid a pass across the crease to senior Jonathan Ornelas who tallied.
The Irish started their comeback at 8:16 of the second period with a power-play goal of their own. Defenseman Kyle Lawson (two assists) moved the puck to Erik Condra in the left corner. Condra found Deeth coming down the slot and the speedy center redirected the pass through Jason Alford’s pads for his second goal of the season and the tournament.
Strong forechecking led to Notre Dame’s second goal just 1:04 later. Evan Rankin and Christiaan Minella forced a turnover and the puck ended up on White’s stick in the slot. The junior center wasted no time, drilling a shot over Alford’s blocker at 9:20 for his second goal of the year, cutting the RPI lead to 3-2.
Notre Dame outshot the Engineers, 12-2, in the final period and it seemed it would be a matter of time before the Irish tied the game.
The Irish took advantage of a power play for the tying goal. With the puck in the Notre Dame zone, goaltender Jordan Pearce moved it up the right side to VeNard. The senior blueliner carried the puck through center and into the Engineer zone. When no one stepped up to stop him, he continued toward the goal, made a move around the defense and fired a low shot that beat Alford at 5:59 to tie the game at 3-3. The goal was VeNard’s third of the season.
The score stayed tied until late in the period when Thang garnered his second game-winning goal of the weekend. Condra, who picked up his 100th career point on the play, moved the puck to Lawson at the right point. Lawson carried the puck deep into the RPI zone and found Thang trailing the play. The sophomore left wing fired from between the circles, beating Alford at 16:40 with his team-best ninth goal of the season, and the Irish had the 4-3 lead.
Rensselaer pulled Alford with 1:44 left in the game in favor of a sixth attacker but the Engineers did not get a shot on goal with the extra man on the ice.
“They are definitely a Top Five team in the country,” said Appert. “No disrespect to Minnesota or Boston College [whom RPI has played this season], but that is the best team that we’ve played all year.”
Thang was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and teammates Erik Condra, Brett Blatchford and Ian Cole were selected to the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by RPI forward Tyler Helfrich and Chase Polacek at forward and goaltender Mathias Lange, who was the winner in Friday’s shootout win over American International.
The in-season tournament win was the second in three tries for the Irish under Jackson.
“Tournaments are a great experience for both the players and the coaches,” said Jackson. “It’s always good to play for something. It gives a team two opponents in two nights with different styles, different officials. It’s a good challenge during the year. It helps make you a better team in the end.”
Notre Dame returns home to face Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Joyce Center. The Engineers travel to Princeton and Quinnipiac next weekend in ECAC Hockey play.
Tim Connor, Perry Laskaris and Jayson Moy contributed to this article.