RPI Squanders Three Goal Lead, Ties Harvard 3-3

Harvard freshman Sean Malone registered his second assist in as many games. - Bruce Bennett

A troubling trend for a very good RPI team is their inability to close out hot starts.

Troy, NY -- Sometimes two teams can view a tie very differently. That was the case Tuesday night at the Houston Field House as RPI squandered a 3-0 lead, and had to settle for a tie with Harvard.

As displeased as the Engineers were with blowing the three-goal cushion, Harvard was euphoric to gain a point on the road after falling behind by such a large margin in the game's first period.

"We just wanted to stay with it. In the third period we were able to get on top of it and had some chances to win it," said Harvard coach Ted Donato. "Overall I'm very happy, down 3-0 in a tough place to play with a young team, we're very happy to leave here with a point," added the coach in his 10th season.

It didn't take long for RPI to jump on top of the Crimson. The Engineers scored three goals on their first four shots.

Johnny Rogic started the scoring with a great move coming down the left side and cutting into the middle before slipping a backhand past Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek. The goal, just 4:33 into the game, was set up by a nice breakout sequence started by Matt Tinordi and Chris Bradley.

Just a few minutes later, the Engineers would capitalize on their first man advantage of the evening. Ryan Haggerty, the nation's leading scorer, blasted in a one-timer off a nice feed from Jacob Laliberte from the right corner.

Brock Higgs extended the lead to 3-0 when he was on the receiving end of a nice lob pass from Zach Schroeder. Higgs timed it perfectly, waiting at the blue line for the puck, before beating Michalek to the puck and flipping the puck into the open net.

Despite being up three after 20 minutes, Appert didn't think his team came out with the intensity it needed to play a full 60 minutes. "I didn't think we were very good all game. We made a few nice plays, but we had a tough start. Our first few shifts were poor," said Appert. "We had too many passengers tonight," he added.

On the other hand, Donato didn't think his team played that poorly considering it was down 3-0 after 20 minutes. "I actually thought we played well. RPI has been getting out to good starts. We were concerned to make sure we got a good start, and I thought we did," said Donato.

A pair of freshmen with NHL potential would help Harvard crawl back into the game with their skill and offensive instincts.

Highly regarded freshman Alexander Kerfoot took advantage of a delayed penalty to score his first collegiate goal and get the Crimson on the board with 12:53 to play in the second period. The New Jersey Devils prospect chipped in a loose puck in front of the net, beating RPI goaltender Scott Diebold up high.

Another rookie helped Harvard get within a goal just 3:08 into the third period. Sean Malone came down the left side, waited patiently until he had drawn Diebold over, then dished the puck over to Greg Gozzo who easily slammed it into the back of the net.

"Malone made a great play [on the second goal]. He was skating all night and made some very creative plays. He was slippery down low. He and Kerfoot were especially good with the puck down low and tough to handle. Their speed and skill helped us stay in the game," said Donato.

"Their group of young forwards are extremely dangerous and extremely talented," said Appert of his team's opposition.

Harvard evened the score at three when a bouncing puck landed right on Brian Hart's stick in front of the net. The Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick quickly buried it into the back of the cage, and the three-goal deficit was erased.

When asked if he was concerned about the recent trend of getting up to a big lead only to let it slip away, Appert said, "Yes." He added, "I like that we've started well. We need to learn our lesson. Really good teams learn their lesson. We've got to learn the lesson that you can't put your foot off the gas, you can't start to play the scoreboard instead of just playing our game."

The same two teams will meet again Friday night at Bright Arena in Cambridge at 7 p.m.

Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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