PRINCETON, N.J. — It was a tale of two power plays on Sunday afternoon at Hobey Baker Rink. Rensselaer’s clicked, Princeton’s struggled, and in the end it was the visiting Engineers who took a 4-1 victory before 2,112 fans in a nationally-televised contest.
Freshman forward Jerry D’Amigo returned from his gold medal-winning stint with the U.S. National Junior Team to help power RPI (12-10-1, 5-4-0 ECAC) with a goal and two assists. Mike Bergin, Marty O’Grady and Chase Polacek also scored on the power play as the Engineers finished four-for-eight with the man-advantage.
“I will say our power play had success tonight because we competed,” said RPI coach Seth Appert. “They weren’t all gorgeous goals, but we maintained possession, cycled, wore them down and capitalized.”
Princeton (6-10-3, 3-8-1 ECAC) came up empty in seven power-play attempts of its own, and got its lone goal from Mike Kramer early in the third period after RPI had moved out to a 3-0 lead. The Tigers outshot their guests, 31-19, while Zane Kalemba finished with 15 saves in his first appearance since Dec. 29 against Maine.
The two teams combined for 17 minor penalties on the day.
“In a game like that, it’s tough to get any flow going,” said Kramer afterwards. “We got the worse end of the penalty situation, and it’s tough to play a strong game when you’re down the majority of the time.”
D’Amigo, who made his return to the RPI lineup after his heroics at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan earlier in the week, got the Engineers going at 14:17 of the first period. Brandon Pirri’s shot from above the right circle was blocked, but D’Amigo was in front to put home the loose puck for his sixth goal of the season.
“Our guys welcomed me back with open arms and congratulated me,” said D’Amigo, who sat out Friday’s win at Quinnipiac. “It was good putting back on the jersey, and good to get a few points.”
The score remained static until the 7:08 mark of the second stanza. RPI’s Bergin skated towards the right circle in the Princeton zone and then wristed a high shot through a screen and over Kalemba’s glove for his third tally this year. The Tigers themselves launched 14 shots on goal in the period, but RPI netminder Allen York was equal to the task en route to a 30-save afternoon.
“Princeton always outshoots you, and if you give up bad rebounds they can make you pay,” said Appert, himself a former Ferris State goaltender. “Allen did a good job, and our forwards also did a good job backchecking and clearing anything dangerous.”
The Engineers made it a three-goal lead early in the third session on yet another power play. This time it was O’Grady, who shoveled in the rebound of a shot from the right point by Bryan Brutlag that bounced off Kalemba’s pad at 1:27.
“Our power play was obviously a big part of our wins against Quinnipiac and Michigan,” said Appert. “Paul Kerins is our front guy, and he wins battles down low and makes a big difference.”
Kerins was on ice for RPI’s first two goals, and assisted on the second.
Princeton responded less than four minutes after O’Grady’s goal. Mark Magnowski collected the puck in the right corner of the RPI zone, and sent it into the high slot, where Kramer one-timed it in on York’s glove side at 5:23 for his seventh score of the campaign.
“We tried to get pucks to the net and create some havoc,” said Kramer. “The penalties set us back.”
The Tigers were set back one last time as RPI top scorer Polacek closed out the scoring at 17:13. Standing in the left circle, he rifled home D’Amigo’s cross-ice feed for his team-best 15th goal and ninth this winter with the man advantage, setting off one last roar from the RPI faithful in attendance.
“We had a little crowd cheering for us today,” said D’Amigo, who also heard a few “USA” chants from Rensselaer backers. “It was nice to come back.”
RPI now hosts league-leading Union on Saturday night. Princeton heads into its exam break and will resume play on January 25 against Connecticut, when it also hopes to get some of its sizable injured contingent of skaters back.
“All three of our captains are out, and we’ve also got guys in the lineup who are banged up,” said Kramer. “We need to rest up and maintain our conditioning, have some flow in practice, and get ready for when the puck drops the next game.”