It was not for a lack of chances that the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s hockey team was knocked out of the ECAC tournament Sunday.
The Engineers outshot the Brown Bears, 42-17, and saw many opportunities in close, but Brown won the game, 3-2, and the quarterfinal series, 2-1, to advance to the semifinals in Atlantic City Friday.
No. 7 Brown got two first-period goals during a stretch of four-on-four play, then took advantage of No. 2 RPI’s need to press forward to stop the bleeding. Bears freshman winger Nick Lappin streaked into the zone unmarked and up through the slot, taking a feed from Mark Naclerio from the left boards and beating RPI freshman goalie Jason Kasdorf with the eventual game-winner and a 3-0 lead at 5:06 in the second period.
“They only had probably three or four shots the rest of the game, but their third goal, they made a nice play,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “When you’re down two or three goals, you have to start to press. That’s the problem in a Game 3, is it’s really important to get a lead. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
It was the second time in four seasons the Bears (15-13-6) have eliminated RPI. The Engineers have lost their last four home playoff series.
RPI (18-14-5) worked for in-close chances early on, only to see passes slip safely through the crease untouched or shots skip just wide of the post. They built some momentum at the end of the second period, getting on the board with Mark McGowan’s goal at 17:25, cleaning up a rebound of a CJ Lee shot. The Engineers struck again when Mike Zalewski deflected a point shot from Chris Bradley at 19:13.
“We were high, and probably wanted to stay out there a little bit,” said Lee, RPI’s senior captain. “The feeling in the locker room was we expected to win the game and ride that momentum going into the third. I think we did that, but just couldn’t find the third goal.”
Brown goalie Anthony Borelli made 40 saves for the win, stopping all 13 he faced in the third period.
“He was incredible. He made huge, huge saves,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “He was calming back there when we were not calm in that third period. He just did a great job. And we got a lot of bounces. Things were hopping over guys’ sticks for them, but sometimes luck plays a key role in hockey, and it did tonight, and it shined on us, which was nice for a change.”
RPI played without senior defenseman Nick Bailen (charlie horse), who tried to skate through warm-ups, but had to give way to freshman Phil Hampton. Appert spoke about his pride in coaching this group of Engineers, and said they are likely to barely miss being selected for the NCAA tournament.
“We’re close,” Appert said. “Our body of work is good, our strength of schedule is outstanding. I’ll have to analyze the numbers closer tomorrow. My gut feel is we probably have an outside chance, but we’re probably out.”
Brown 2 1 0 – 3
RPI 0 2 0 – 2
First Period – 1, Brown, Goldberg 4 (Zaires, Robertson), 10:56. 2, Brown, Lorito 20 (Lappin), 11:46. Penalties — Zaires, Brn (charging), 2:05; Haggerty, RPI (slashing), 3:09; Leboeuf, RPI (cross-checking), 10:17; Pfeil, Brn (checking from behind), 10:44; Crowley, Brn (hooking), 14:33; Burgdoerfer, RPI (interference), 18:20.
Second Period — 3, Brown, Lappin 7 (Naclerio, Lorito), 5:06. 4, RPI, McGowan 7 (Lee, Fulton), 17:25. 5, RPI, Zalewski 12 (Bradley, Leboeuf), 19:13. Penalties — None.
Third Period — No scoring. Penalties — Naclerio, Brn (boarding), 19:44.
Shots on goal — Brown 10-3-4 — 17. RPI 15-14-13 — 42.
Power-play opportunities — Brown 0 of 3; RPI 0 of 4.
Goalies — Brown, Borelli 13-8-5 (42 shots—40 saves). RPI, Kasdorf 14-5-2 (17-14).
A — 2,583. T — 2:09.
Referees — Andy O’Brien, Bob Ritchie. Linesmen — Glen Cooke, Joe Testa.