TROY, NY — It was a difficult weekend in Capital Country.
Yale outplayed the No. 10 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for the majority of Saturday night’s game, but struggled to put the puck past Engineer goalie Allen York. RPI, meanwhile, capitalized on three of its first four power plays and rolled to a a 5–2 victory in front of a sell-out crowd that chanted “Overrated” as the last seconds of the game ticked down.
“They can chant what they want,” winger Broc Little ’11 said. “The truth is we didn’t get any points this weekend and the ECAC race is just getting tighter. Once the sting of this loss goes away, we have to get back to basics and win some games.”
The defeat marked the first time Yale has lost consecutive conference games in three years, and will undoubtedly drop the Bulldogs out of the #1 spot in the nation. They had held the top spot since a weekend sweep of the same two opponents eight weeks ago at Ingalls Rink.
In those home games against Union and RPI, Yale’s offense clicked and the Elis scored nine goals in two games. This time around, Yale managed just four goals, all of which came on power plays.
The Bulldogs — who had been badly outplayed for the first 40 minutes of their game against Union — passed better and created more shots all night against RPI.
“It was night and day from yesterday,” Little said. “We just didn’t get the goals.”
But the Engineers did not allow the quick counterattacks and odd man rushes that characterize the Eli offense. Yale was reduced to low percentage shots, and found itself stymied by York — who finished with 38 saves on 40 shots — on its better opportunities.
RPI struggled even more than the Bulldogs to generate an attack. The Engineers were outshot 13–6 and 16–3 in the first two periods, but made the most of their opportunities. They came to life on the power play, and beat Ryan Rondeau ’11 — who was replaced by Nick Maricic ’13 in the third period — four times on just ten shots.
“[The Engineers] were very effective. They got shots through, and they went in,” Head Coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “They didn’t get very [many opportunities] five-on-five.”
The Bulldogs came out hard, after struggling from the get-go against Union on Friday. But 1:44 into the first period, defenseman Nick Jaskowiak ’12 headed off the ice after hooking RPI winger Greg Burgdoerfer as he zeroed in on Rondeau.
It took almost the entire power play, but the Engineers made Yale pay. Engineer winger Patrick Cullen’s shot just 10 seconds before Jaskowiak’s penalty ended found its way through traffic in front of the net and past the Yale goalie. Down 1–0, Yale came back firing, but its best chance on goal clanged off the crossbar.
The second period saw Yale pepper York with shots. But York stood strong on every shot but one, when Denny Kearney ’11 knotted the game at one with a deflection off of a hard shot by Captain Jimmy Martin ’11. Seven minutes remained in the period and — with the raucous crowd at RPI’s annual Big Red Freakout! momentarily silenced — it seemed Yale might be able to capture its first lead of the weekend.
The Engineers seized the momentum back fewer than five minutes later when defenseman Colin Dueck ’13 was called for interference. RPI’s Josh Rabbani quickly capitalized when he cut across the crease, faked Rondeau out, and lofted a backhand over the sprawling goaltender. Despite four power play opportunities in the stanza, Yale headed into the locker room down 2–1, in large part due to York’s play.
“In the middle 30, [Yale] was scary, scary good and [York] was outstanding,” RPI Head Coach Seth Appert said.
RPI took full control of the game in the third during a delayed penalty call on defenseman Ken Trentowski ’11. Caught off-guard, the Bulldogs let RPI’s Brock Higgs skate alone to the crease and tap in a pass from defenseman Jeff Foss just 1:54 into the frame.
Now down 3-1, Yale needed to kill another RPI power play before attempting to get back in the game offensively. But a floating wrister by Engineer center Chase Polacek 39 seconds into Trentowski’s penalty sealed the game for the home team and forced head coach Keith Allain ’80 to yank Rondeau in favor of Maricic.
“Our power play was good,” York said. “We did what we had to do to win. They’re a good team, they’re going to get their chances, so we kind of weathered the storm and did our jobs.”
The Bulldogs continued to outshoot RPI for the last 17 minutes of the period, but couldn’t get into a rhythm as they faced their biggest deficit of the season. Then, with just over two minutes to go, Kevin Peel ’12 reinvigorated the Elis with a wrister that narrowed the deficit to 4–2.
“We had hope then and we had hope the entire third period,” said Martin of the goal.
But the goal was too little, too late. Allain soon pulled Maricic in favor of an additional attacker. A breakout pass from Polacek to RPI winger CJ Lee left Yale’s defense out of position, giving the Engineers an easy empty net score, as Jaskowiak desperately tried to catch Lee from behind with a hook. The home crowd roared, and the Engineers held their 5–2 advantage until the final whistle.
Allain, however, was not upset with his team’s loss.
“I’m extremely proud of the way my team played tonight,” Allain said. “I thought their goalie stole the game. We did everything possible we could.”
Christopher Merriman contributed reporting.
Correction: January 30, 2011
An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to Allain’s views on the team’s win, when it meant to refer to his views on the loss. It also misstated the year of Nick Jaskowiak ’12.