I was at the game and I'm not sure what happened. RPI somehow lead the scoring until part way through the third period and they scored four goals. They haven't scored four goals since they played Dartmouth College in February and the only other time they scored four goals last season was against Union College in December.
RPI has been struggling so far this year. Lovisa Selander is the most talked about loss, both a phenominal goaltender and the team captain. But they also lost the player who was second in points on the team, Jaime Grigsby, and their best defender, Josafine Hansen, who both graduated. They retained Blake Orosz, their leading goalscorer, who is now a senior, but she is on the starting line with two freshmen.
Which brings me to the biggest change: their entire roster. They retained only fourteen members of last year's team of 24 players. They have ten freshman and one graduate student new to the team for a roster of 25. Eight players graduated last year and two, who were not seniors, are no longer with RPI, although I couldn't find any information on where they went. Both of their main goaltenders graduated, leaving them to play freshmen goalies and it seems they've settled on Ena Nystrøm as their starter, where she's doing an admirable job despite the 40-50 shots she's been seeing every game including against opponents that they probably should be doing better against. They seem to be weighting the games with newer players, not sure why the coaches are putting such emphasis on certain players and ignoring more senior players.
So this game. RPI came out and scored less than two minutes into the game. Less than two minutes after that, they scored again on a 5 on 3 power play. Both good solid goals for RPI and their other play was excellent for a team that hasn't been able to get it together this year. This was probably the first time I've seen them deploy a forecheck and they did an incredible job gaining and holding time in the offensive zone, both things that they have traditionally struggled with. Defense was a little shaky but they are now playing better defense than they had, mainly because they had five or six defenders and sometimes had to play a forward there. Now they have nine defenders which is an interesting choice. They were also passing well and moving the puck forward out of their zone promptly despite Clarkson forechecking.
For the first period, Clarkson did answer back with two goals (one short handed, oops) but RPI was very close in shots, 10-11 Clarkson. Wild! In the second period, both teams scored one goal. RPI started to lose some steam in this period, with Clarkson pulling away in shots to 24 and RPI at 17 but that's not as bad as it could be. RPI's goal was even strength and Clarkson's was on the power play.
The third period could have been because of several reasons: RPI's freshmen don't have the stamina to play a full 60 minutes of NCAA hockey, they forgot how to keep doing what they were doing, Clarkson was Big Mad about the score, who knows. In the third period, Blake Orosz scored three and a half minutes into the period and Clarkson just started whipping shots at Nystrøm like they were really pissed off. They put 25 shots on goal in the third period so Nystrøm was facing more than a shot per minute through the whole period.
Clarkson finally scored, 14 and a half minutes through the third, and then scored 20 seconds later to finally take the lead. They seemed intent on not letting RPI do anything and so the game ended. RPI didn't pull Nystrøm for the extra attacker for some reason.
The officiating crew was absolutely garbage this game. I don't know where RPI's normal crew were, but they need to boot these officials. They called incidental contact as penalties to both teams, ignored some extremely blatant trips and checking and then made some soft calls after. Not sure what experience they have with NCAA games, but maybe they need to do some reading on the rules before they officiate another game.
I think RPI absolutely has a chance to win some games and do it well. I think once their freshmen get some more conditioning and experience, I think they could repeat what they did this game. Their pace, passes and execution on plays was really good in the first two periods and they looked like a completely different team than previous games. Nystrøm has been pretty solid although her defense has been doing a pretty bad job previously. The first part of this game, the defense was forcing players to take bad shots, clearing rebounds and getting the puck up to the forwards out of their zone. It will be fun to keep watching them develop as the year goes on.