For the second time in as many weeks, Cornell fell into a 3-0 deficit in the first period. Friday, however, the Big Red climbed back to force overtime and an eventual draw against visiting Rensselaer.
The Big Red crept back into the game with a goal in the second stanza and two in the third.
“It took a lot of pride for our guys to get back in it, but I’m disappointed to go down early like that” Cornell bench boss Mike Schafer said. “First period we didn’t move our feet at all, we were tentative. We have to be ready to play at a high level right off the bat and execute. Not just work, but execute.”
RPI capitalized on three first-period power plays to take an early lead. Playing five-on-four midway through the first, sophomore Seth Klerer wove through traffic and delivered a quick backhand past the glove of Cornell goalie Troy Davenport.
Minutes later and playing with a two-man advantage, Klerer camped on the corner and stuffed home a Jake Luthi pass, scoring his fifth goal of the season. Only 18 seconds later with a man-advantage, Kurt Colling ended a scramble in front of the Cornell net, for what turned out to be RPI’s final goal of the night.
“Our power play executed well; they made some very good mental adjustments. It showed how they’re becoming students of the game,” first-year RPI head coach Seth Appert said.
Goalie Jordan Alford and the Engineers’ defense played strong in the first, limiting Cornell to four shots on four power plays.
“Give credit on the penalty kill to Alford, because that’s where good penalty killing starts, but also our young defensemen. In their first game in this type of environment, they really held their composure well,” Appert added.
Things started to turn for the Big Red at the start of the second period. Playing a man up from an RPI penalty which carried over from the first period, a feisty Cornell power play attacked the net and Mitch Carefoot stuffed a rebound past Alford.
Seconds before the goal was scored, Luthi committed a holding the stick penalty and as his penalty was being released, freshman Paul Kerins was called for roughing. All in all, the Engineers were called for eight penalties, including a game misconduct for senior leader Oren Eizenman, who finished the night with two assists.
“What happens when you get eight penalty kills in the second period is you get tired. You have to work harder. You get stuck on the ice and you can’t get the fresh troops out there,” Appert said.
The fatigue allowed Cornell to get back into the game, attempting nearly three times as many shots as RPI in the third period. The Engineers only managed two shots on goal the entire stanza. Those two shots were saved by freshman Ben Scrivens, who replaced Davenport midway through the second, when Davenport came off the ice due to a leg bruise.
Schafer was unsure whether Davenport would play Saturday.
Senior Byron Bitz brought the Big Red within a goal six minutes into the third period when he scored on a two-on-one, receiving a pass from freshman Colin Greening.
Cornell was stopped by Alford and his defense on three consecutive power plays in the middle of the third, as the Big Red only managed three shots on net during that stretch. But playing at even strength, Raymond Sawada and teammate Topher Scott worked a scramble in front of the net and Sawada scored Cornell’s third goal of the night.
“Topher put it on the net and it was a battle. We just whacked away until it went in,” Sawada said of the equalizer.
The goal forced overtime, where each team had quality scoring chances, but neither could win the game. RPI carried a penalty over from the end of the third, giving Cornell an early power play. The Big Red fired several promising shots at Alford, but to no avail. Similarly, Scrivens made two clutch saves for the Big Red in the extra period to keep the game deadlocked.
The Big Red are now 7-3-1, 4-2-1 ECAC, and face off at home against league opponent Union Saturday night. The result was the Engineers’ fifth tie of the year, bringing their record to 4-3-5, 1-0-2 ECAC. They travel to Colgate Saturday to face off against the Raiders in Hamilton, N.Y.