The game was taking a sudden turn, then Jacob Laliberte turned it back the Engineers’ way.
Brown had rallied to tie the game after trailing, 2-0, midway through the second period, but a Bears’ turnover left the puck with Brock Higgs, who got it to Matt Neal, and Neal slid the puck to Laliberte walking in for a tide-turning power-play goal and the eventual game-winner in a 6-2 victory for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Saturday night at Houston Field House.
It was the second game of their ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series, pulling the No. 2 seed Engineers even with No. 7 Brown at a game apiece and forcing a decisive Game 3 tonight at 7.
“I think it was a little turnover in the neutral zone, and Higgsy did a good job chipping the puck off to Nealer, and Nealer did what he does best, making plays in tight,” Laliberte said. “I just had to bury it.
“He slid it under a stick, and I just picked a far corner.”
It was the Engineers’ specialty teams that squandered the 2-0 lead. Brown’s Matt Lorito scored a power-play goal from the right dot at 12:14, then Chris Zaires scored a short-handed goal at 16:40, netting the rebound of his first shot on a rush after RPI turned the puck over at the Brown blue line.
Laliberte’s power-play tally at 19:31 of the third, though, served as some measure retribution for the unit and gave the Engineers a 3-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Throughout the game, the Engineers had a better approach on the attack than they had in Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Bears. It wasn’t until the second period, though, that they started seeing results.
“I liked us in the first. I thought we came out with a lot more purpose, with how we pursued pucks and how physical we were, but we didn’t get rewarded,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “Then we had the 2-0 lead and it felt like we were in good position, but credit to Brown. They kept fighting and tied it up.”
Freshman Mike Zalewski scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the third period to give RPI a 5-2 lead and chase Brown goalie Anthony Borelli. Neal and Mark McGowan both had three assists in the game, and Higgs had two helpers. Goalie Jason Kasdorf made 27 saves.
Nick Bailen suffered a charlie horse during the game, and the Engineers lost Milos Bubela for an elbowing major and game misconduct at 17:11 of the first period, forcing Appert to juggle his lines the rest of the game. Brown captain and top defenseman Dennis Robertson missed the final 25:16 after being whistled for a kneeing major and game misconduct.
Meanwhile, the Engineers were just getting started as the second intermission came and went.
“Tonight, we played our way,” Laliberte said. “We played the Engineer way. We were finishing checks, we were moving our feet, and that paid off. That’s the only way we can win.”
Both teams have won once in the series when they felt they were able to play their own style, so how they handle the first couple shifts in tonight’s final game will be telling. The winner will head to Atlantic City, N.J., next weekend for the ECACH semifinals.
“We’re going to need all hands on deck,” Appert said. “We’re going to need every guy going and willing to give hits, take hits, block shots, win puck battles, so we can give ourselves a chance to win.”
Brown 0 2 0 – 2
RPI 0 3 3 – 6
First Period – No scoring. Penalties – Bubela, RPI, major-game misconduct (elbowing), 17:11.
Second Period – 1, RPI, Lee 6 (Miller, Fulton), 5:39. 2, RPI, Leonard 5 (Neal, Higgs), 9:09. 3, Brown, Lorito 19 (Robertson, Pfeil), 12:14 (pp). 4, Brown, Zaires 7 (Hathaway), 16:40 (sh). 5, RPI, Laliberte 11 (Neal, Higgs), 19:31 (pp). Penalties – Brown bench, served by Prescott (too many men), 1:10; Curadi, RPI (slashing), 11:45; Curadi, RPI (boarding), 14:19; Robertson, Brn, major-game misconduct (kneeing), 14:44.
Third Period – 6, RPI, Zalewski 10 (McGowan, Curadi), 5:59. 7, RPI, Zalewski 11 (McGowan, Neal), 8:38. 8, RPI, Burgdoerfer 3 (McGowan, Rogic), 19:51. Penalties – Hathaway, Brn (roughing), 14:21; Prescott, Brn (slashing), 20:00.
Shots on goal – Brown 8-12-9 – 29. RPI 12-15-10 – 37.
Power-play opportunities – Brown 1 of 3; RPI 1 of 4.
Goalies – Brown, Borelli 12-8-5 (32 shots-27 saves); De Filippo (8:38 third, 5-4). RPI, Kasdorf 14-4-2 (29-27).
A – 2,819. T – 2:08.
Referees – Mike Baker, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen – Michael Emanatian, Dan Taggert.