A stifling performance in net by junior goalie Allen York and a potent power play sparked Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to a 5-2 win over Yale — the nation’s No. 1-ranked college hockey team — on Saturday night at Houston Field House.
A sellout crowd of 4,780 for the annual “Big Red Freakout” game didn’t hurt, either, loudly cheering on the Engineers, who improved to 9-5 in the ECAC and 17-6-3 overall. Yale, which also lost Friday night at Union, fell to 11-3 and 17-4.
RPI blanked Brown, 3-0, Friday night and swept its weekend games.
Yale coach Keith Allain was effusive in his praise for York, who stopped 38 shots, many from close range. He called it the best goaltending performance his team has faced this year.
“It was fun. It was awesome,” said York. “They’re a team that likes to make that extra pass. I tried to stay calm. I did my job, but we all contributed. It’s huge. The No. 1 team in the country and we just beat them.”
RPI scored four of its five goals on the power play.
“They were very effective,” said Allain. “What did they have, 16 shots for the game? Probably 12 came on the power play.”
“Well, we have to keep pace with Union,” smiled RPI coach Seth Appert, referring to the Dutchmen’s weekend sweep of Yale and Brown.
“It’s a good win. I’m happy for our guys. This was a big game, but our guys have earned the right to make this a big game.
“We found a way to deliver. Allen does what he does — sometimes spectacular, always solid. He’s a calming presence. He was great in the middle 30 minutes of the game. They were scary good and Allen was outstanding.”
RPI got on the board first just 3:34 into the game on a power play. Jeff Foss slid the puck to his right, and winger Patrick Cullen rifled a shot past Yale goalie Ryan Rondeau from the top of the right face-off circle.
RPI held the lead after one period, despite being outshot, 13-6.
But Yale evened things 12:53 into the second period when winger Denny Kearney deflected a slapshot from defenseman Jimmy Martin past York.
RPI reclaimed the lead less than five minutes later when junior right wing Josh Rabbani made a nifty move in front of Rondeau, skating left to right and tucking the puck into the net on the stick side.
RPI made it 3-1 just 1:54 into the third session when, on a delayed penalty call, defenseman Pat Koudys threaded a pass to Brock Higgs on the right doorstep, and Higgs knocked it home.
“That third goal was big,” said Appert. “It was a big play when Patty saw Higgs cut for the back post. That’s a mature play for a freshman.”
Less than a minute later, on the power play, RPI’s Chase Polacek, who was closely guarded by Yale defenders throughout the game, sent a shot from the top of the right face-off circle high into the net.
That made it 4-1 and the chants from the RPI crowd of “overrated” in reference to Yale grew louder.
Yale drew to within 4-2 with just 2:15 left in the game when defenseman Kevin Peel snapped a wrister past York from straight away.
RPI added an empty-net goal with 1:13 left by C.J. Lee.
Between the first and second periods, a fan from Tupper Lake, Jason LeBoeuf, won a new Honda CRV Sport Hybrid vehicle from Rensselaer Honda by shooting a puck from center ice through a small hole in the goal mouth. The crowd erupted.
Yale 0 1 1 — 2
RPI 1 1 3 — 5
First Period — 1, R, Cullen (Foss, OGrady), 3:34 (pp). Penalties — Jaskowiak, Y (hooking), 1:44; Foss, R (high sticking), 9:18.
Second Period — 2, Y, Kearney (Martin, Limbert) 12:53 (pp); 3, R, Rabbani (Higgs, Polacek) 17:28 (pp). Penalties — R, Lee (hitting from behind) 2:09; R, Polacek (cross-checking) 3:59; Y, Kearney (hooking) 5:49; R, Rogic (delay of game) 8:11; R, Burgdoerfer (elbowing) 11:33; Y, Dueck (interference) 16:51.
Third Period — 4, R, Higgs (Foss, Koudys) 1:54; 5, R, Polacek (Helfrich, Rabbani) 2:33 (pp); 6, Y, Peel (O’Neill), 17:45 (pp); 7, R, Lee (Polacek) 18:47. Penalties — Y, Trentowski (holding) 1:54; Y, Martin (roughing) 4:37; R, Lee (roughing) 4:37; Y, Peel (interference) 4:54; R, Kennedy (elbowing) 10:38; Y, Martin (slashing) 12:38; R, Foss (hitting after the whistle) 16:20; Y, Cahill, (grabbing face mask) 16:20; Y, Jaskowiak (hooking) 18:47); Y, Agostino (cros-checking) 19:50.
Shots on Goal — Yale 13-16-11—40. RPI 6-3-9—18.
Goalies — Yale, Rondeau (5-2-1 8 total saves); Yale, Maricic (5 saves total in third period). RPI, York (13-15-10 38 total saves).