RPI wins second straight in overtime, topping St. Lawrence

RPI wins second straight in overtime, topping St. Lawrence

TROY — RPI rookies Max Smolinski and Sutter Muzzatti once played together on a Pee Wee hockey team in their home state of Michigan, and a big highlight was Muzzatti assisting a Smolinski game winner in a tournament game in Quebec.

Seven years later, Smolinski returned the favor.

Smolinski ran with Kyle Hallbauer in a three-on-three sequence in overtime and found open ice before centering a pass to Muzzatti, who scored his second goal of the game after 1 minute, 55 seconds of overtime as RPI St .Lawrence defeated 4-3 on Saturday at the Houston Field House.

The win improves RPI’s record to 10-14-1, 5-9-0 in ECAC and follows Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over Clarkson when Smolinski scored the game-winner.

“It’s really good for us to build on that in the coming week and feel good for sure now,” Smolinski said. “Muz and I played together when we were 12 in a tournament. In the quarters we went down two-on-one, same (as tonight) and he found me through the back door and we scored in extra time. I think I had to bring him back. As soon as I jumped him in the corner, he said, ‘Like the old days.’ ”

RPI had the puck in overtime in the Saints’ zone, but Hallbauer pulled the puck out of the offensive zone and retreated across the Engineers blue line, putting Smolinski on the ice when Nick Ardanaz came to Smolinski for a shift change before the pass came to set up the odd man onslaught for the newcomers.

“I spoke to Kyle after the game and his words to me were, ‘That’s why we’re practicing line changes,'” said RPI coach Dave Smith. “It’s more about not being stuck in a bad spot. We used to get stuck in a bad spot in the same area and lost the puck. He made a good decision.”

The goal was Muzzatti’s second of the game and his sixth of the season.

“It’s cool to see it coming together,” Muzzatti said. “It’s a great team win for us, especially for our confidence to play a full 60 (minutes) and finish games.”

After only nine shots on target in the first two halves, RPI had 11 shots on target in the third half to turn a 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the first half of the third period.

After Felikss Gavars scored 48 seconds after the third to put St. Lawrence (12-12-0, 6-6-0) 2-0 up, RPI responded quickly to Ryan Mahshie’s goal at 2:29 and equalized the game against Muzzatti scored the 5:31 mark.

The Engineers took a 3-2 lead from Lauri Sertti’s power play goal to make it 7:19, but St. Lawrence came back immediately to level with Cameron Buhl’s second goal of the night to make it 8:56 with the Saints on the power play.

“We adjusted the lines a bit,” Smith said. “We talked about timely scoring. Mahshie’s goal to make it 2-1 was really big. Sertti’s goal, power play goal, very important time. That’s a huge goal. We keep pushing, there’s no magic in what we’re trying to do and these guys believed in that.”

The win was significant for RPI as the Engineers were without goaltender Jack Watson, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury – Smith said Watson is out of the week – and the cage went to junior Brett Miller for his second career start.

Miller found out in the morning briefing that he would get the net for his first start since January 2022, a 5-0 loss at Clarkson.

“It’s an amazing feeling, this morning my name was called and I prepared myself,” Miller said. “I was ready to go, didn’t treat it any differently than any other game, just wanted to step up and do my job and it feels great.”

Sean Martin, a local freelance writer, is a regular contributor to Times Union.

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