At first, Mathias Lange was just honored to be named to the Austrian men’s Olympic hockey team.
Now, the former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute goalie is making a name for himself.
Lange made 34 saves in his first start of the tournament Sunday, leading Austria to a 3-1 victory over Norway in the final game of the preliminary round.
“We knew it was going to be a tough matchup, but we played solid over 60 minutes and scored two early goals, which helped us out,” Lange said. “It was a really good win for us and, hopefully, we can repeat this performance again [today].”
Austria lost its first two games, including Friday’s 6-0 loss to Canada. Bernhard Starkbaum started in goal for the Austrians and allowed 14 goals in five periods.
At the start of the third period against Canada, Austria coach Manny Viveiros inserted Lange into the game. Facing an all-star lineup of National Hockey League players, Lange shut down Canada, stopping all 15 shots he faced.
“I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit nervous once I was told that I was going in, but that all went away once the puck was dropped,” Lange said. “Obviously, I knew what kind of team we were facing, so I just concentrated on finding and tracking the puck, which I was able to do.”
On the basis of that effort, Lange got the start against Norway. It’s possible that he’ll get the start today, when Austria faces Slovenia in the qualification round.
“Coming into any game in relief is never easy, but I was able to get into a rhythm right away, especially since Canada spent a lot of time in our defensive zone,” Lange said. “It’s always the goal to not give up any goals, no matter how many minutes you play, and I was able to do that against arguably the best team in the world right now. I’m definitely pleased with the effort, although there are always situations that could’ve been played better on my part.
“But no goals against versus Canada, I can live with that.”
Lange is the first Engineers alum to play in the Winter Olympics since 1988 graduate Mo Mansi represented Italy in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
“The Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’ve been enjoying every moment so far,” Lange said. “I’m very honored and humbled at the same time to be able to call myself an Olympian.”
Lange played in 108 games for RPI from 2005 to 2009. He had career record of 29-57-17 with a 2.95 goals against average and an .898 save percentage.
He is playing for the Iserlohn Roosters in Germany. Last year, he helped the Bietigheim Steelers win the German league title, and was named playoff MVP.