By DANIEL J. CASSAVAUGH
CANTON — The last time St. Lawrence senior captain Jared Keller enjoyed the siren at Appleton Arena was Feb. 21, 2009.
Since then, he’s had three concussions, which nearly ended his career. He missed most of last season trying to recover only to return and suffer another concussion in the first game this year. It took until Jan. 2 for him to return and until Friday against No. 14 Rensselaer to score again in front of a home crowd.
His goal turned out to be the game-winner in St. Lawrence’s 5-3 triumph over RPI in font of 1,375 fans.
“It’s been a long time,” Keller said. “It felt great to get the monkey off my back. I haven’t really focused a whole lot on the lack of goals. It’s been getting to me a little bit, but at the same we’re a lot more focused on the ultimate goal, which is getting two points each night.”
Keller helped St. Lawrence (10-16-5 overall, 6-12-1 ECAC) achieve those two points, snap a two-game skid and defeat yet another nationally ranked team. Of its 10 wins, four have come against ranked teams, further affirming St. Lawrence’s menacing potential in the playoffs. The Saints gained ground on Brown and Quinnipiac, which both lost, in the conference standings. Now, the Saints sit tied for ninth and three points behind Quinnipiac for the final home playoff spot.
“We just finished (tonight),” Keller said. “All the other games we played great, but didn’t get the results was probably just the finish around the net. If you want to score, you have to go around the net.”
The Saints dominated Rensselaer (18-9-4, 10-8-1) from the outset and took a lead just 1:24 into the game. Sean Flanagan, who had replaced Greg Carey on the top line alongside Aaron Bogosian and brother Kyle, netted his fourth of the year on a rebound during a wild first period.
“It was a bad first shift,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “They earned a lot of momentum and they got the crowd into the game. When you play St. Lawrence, it’s a chaotic game; it’s a helter-skelter game; it’s a tough game.”
The Saints did allow RPI to tie it on a power play at 4:48 of the first. Josh Rabbani scored with assists to Nick Bailen and Tyler Helfrich.
Carey, who had dropped down to a line with fellow freshmen Kyle Essery and Jeremy Wick, answered with a goal at 6:36 to put SLU ahead for good. He finished with two scores and improved his team-leading goals to 17 on the year.
“It seemed to work tonight,” Carey said of the new line. “We just weren’t winning games. I think I was getting too complacent with Bogosian and Flanagan.”
St. Lawrence took five penalties in the opening 20 minutes and even gave RPI a 5-on-3 penalty.
But the Engineers couldn’t score again against St. Lawrence’s penalty kill, which ranks fifth in the country at 87.3 percent.
“I think that’s the third game we’ve had a 5-on-3 that can change the momentum of a game and we haven’t scored,” Appert said. “That’s what they’re out there to do. They need to deliver in those situations.”
Instead, St. Lawrence extended its lead to 3-1 on Carey’s second score, and to 4-1 on Keller’s first home goal in two years. RPI pulled within 4-2 on Jeff Foss’ third of the year at 4:51 of the third. But Jordan Dewey needed only 59 seconds to make it 5-2 to finish off the Engineers.
Even with the win, SLU coach Joe Marsh is still concerned with the inconsistencies from game to game, particularly with penalties. The Saints took eight penalties on Friday.
“As time went on, (RPI) got better and better,” he said. “We dodged a bullet. We don’t want to be tempting fate. We had way too many penalties and we lost some battles getting it out of our zone, which is critical. Their third goal was a direct result of that.
“We’re going to have to really take a good, hard look and those are the things that have to be corrected. We have to be very cognizant of what are margin of error is really about. We have to be playoff ready and playoff conscious.”
NOTES: Freshman Pat Raley earned the Kevin Dougherty Memorial Scholarship. Former recipients include Aaron Bogosian, Max Mobley and Mac Stratford. Raley has six assists in 26 games this season.
Jared Keller interview
Greg Carey interview