TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute proved to itself, and maybe the rest of ECAC Hockey, that Kyle Richter is vulnerable after all. The 19th-ranked Engineers became the first team to score four goals on the league’s top goalie this season, pulling out a 4-2 victory over the 13th-ranked Crimson at Houston Field House.
The win ended the Engineers’ three-game losing streak to the Crimson. All of those losses came against Richter, who allowed just two goals and made 64 saves. In the last meeting Nov. 9 at Harvard, Richter shut out RPI.
Richter entered the game leading the league and nation with a 1.10 goals-against average and .964 save percentage. His three shutouts are tied for first in the league, and second in the country, with RPI’s Jordan Alford and Clarkson’s David Leggio.
Prior to Tuesday, the most goals Richter this season was three against Yale Nov. 28. So, solving Richter and beating Harvard (5-3-1 ECAC, 6-3-1 overall) in one felled swoop was huge for RPI (3-2-2, 8-5-3).
“That’s been three games that, going back to last year, that Richter and Harvard have really dominated us,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “As good as we played at Harvard earlier this season, we couldn’t penetrate their goal, we couldn’t get to the net and we couldn’t solve Richter. They are a great defensive team, and extremely well coached.”
For a time in the first period, the Engineers were frustrated by not converting great scoring chances. Paul Kerins hit the post twice within 34 seconds. Matt Angers-Goulet thought he had a goal with 6:59 left when his shot was going across the goal line. But, after conferring with the goal judge, referee Dan Murphy ruled that Richter got his stick on it before it completely crossed the line.
RPI could have been deflated when Michael Biega scored a power-play goal with 1:59 left in the first. But 20 seconds later, Christian Jensen blasted a drive from the right point past a screened Richter.
“It was important not just to get that one back, but to come back with a strong couple of shifts after that, and keep coming aggressive,” RPI captain Jake Morissette said. “We felt like we weren’t playing badly when they got the first one.”
The Engineers carried the momentum over into the second period. Tyler Helfrich made a nice pass from the left circle to Chase Polacek, who was driving to the net. Polacek redirected the puck past Richter at 7:56.
Morissette made it a two-goal lead just over 5 1/2 minutes later when he fired a wrist shot from just inside the left circle over Richter’s glove. It got a little hairy for the Engineers 25 seconds into the third period. Jimmy Fraser won a faceoff in RPI’s right circle. He slid it over to Dave Watters on his left, and he got the puck past goalie Mathias Lange.
“I thought the goal they got was a lucky-bounce goal,” Appert said. “Credit to them, they won the faceoff, but it was a bouncy puck that ricochetted into the top corner.”
That play almost worked less than two minutes later. This time, Watters hit the crossbar.
Harvard had some other chances after that, but not as good as Watters’ two opportunities. Lange made 34 saves, 13 of them in the third.
“They didn’t penetrate,” Appert said. “We protected out middle well. Mathias was outstanding all night long. But I liked how aggressive we stayed. We stayed physical. We tried to make plays.”
And the Engineers got a big goal with 8:22 left. Andrei Uryadov made a great pass from behind the net to an open Jonathan Ornelas in the slot. Ornelas one-timed the puck over Richter’s right shoulder.
“We’re disappointed in what we gave up defensively,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “The goals that we gave up, to me, were breakdowns and very avoidable. Give them credit for executing good offensive plays, but we were in position to defend and didn’t.”
NOTEBOOK The four goals were the most scored by RPI against Harvard since Jan. 3, 2004, a 4-1 Engineers’ win at Houston Field House. …Harvard freshman defenseman Chris Huxley, who backed out of a verbal commitment to attend RPI after Dan Fridgen resigned as coach after the 2005-06 season, was booed every time he touched the puck.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.