TROY, N.Y. — For one period, 16th-ranked Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute looked like the second-ranked team in the country Saturday, not Miami University. The Engineers dominated, and had a 3-1 lead.
There were still 40 minutes left to play, however, and that was more than enough time for the second-ranked RedHawks to find their game.
Carter Camper had two goals and two assists, and Justin Mercier broke a 3-3 tie with a short-handed goal in the third as the RedHawks scored the final six goals of the game, five in the third period, to roll to a 7-3 non-league hockey victory over the Engineers at Houston Field House.
It was a disappointing loss for the Engineers (8-6-3), who had plenty of energy and jump in the opening 20 minutes.
“Give them credit, they turned it up in the second and third,” RPI captain Jake Morissette said. “We didn’t respond very well. We didn’t play as aggressive and compete like we did in the first.”
It certainly was a tale of two games.
Seth Klerer, Bryan Brutlag and Matt Angers-Goulet scored in the first for the Engineers and RPI held a 10-4 shot advantage. Alec Martinez scored the only goal for Miami (15-2).
“They had a lot of energy in the first period,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “They executed some really nice plays.”
The tide turned 40 seconds into the second period. With RPI on the power play, Camper put in the rebound of a Ryan Jones shot past goalie Jordan Alford.
“One of our objectives going into a game is if you can be a plus in the first or last minute of each period, it really gives your team an advantage,” Blasi said. “It puts the opposing team at a disadvantage. I thought that was a big goal.”
Even though the Engineers still had a one-goal lead, the RedHawks were taking control of the game. The Engineers fired 10 shots on goal in the first. They used up all their ammunition because they managed just one in the second, and five in the third.
“What happened was they are the best team in the country,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “We did very good in the first. We made plays, we were aggressive [and] we used our speed. They decided that they wanted the puck in the second and third.”
The RedHawks scored their five third-period goals in a 9:07 span. It started with Camper’s tying goal at 9:40. He tipped in a high-slot drive by Mitch Ganzak.
The game-winner came shorthanded 3:02 later. Jarod Palmer led a two-on-one rush down the left wing with Mercier on his right and RPI defenseman Peter Merth back. Palmer passed the puck to Mercier, who put a backhander past Alford.
It got worse with 5:16 left. Alford gave the puck away to Pat Cannone behind the net. Cannone passed it in front to Jones, who put it in the net before Alford could get back.
“Jordan and Mathias [Lange] have been great all year,” Appert said. “That was not a strong effort from [Alford]. There were probably three or four goals that you would say were of the weak variety. But I know that Jordan will respond.”
Alford’s night ended 34 seconds later when Palmer scored. Third-string goalie Will Neubert replaced him and faced one shot. Cannone scored on it with 1:13 left.
“That is the physically strongest team that I’ve seen in college hockey in some years,” Appert said. “They compete for pucks like none other. Guys have to look inside because there were too many guys in the second and third that didn’t want the game to be that hard. They wanted it to be easy.
“That’s part of being young. That’s where our upperclassmen have to be stronger, more competitive and tougher in situations. You can’t expect to lead the way in that tough of a game.”
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.