CANTON — From behind the closed door of the St. Lawrence locker room came a collective cheer followed by the rhythmic thumping of the team's sound system.
For the first time this season, the Saints celebrated a victory, coming 2-0 against Rensselaer in front of 2,157 fans in Appleton Arena.
“These are the types of games that, down the road, when you start winning championships, it's because of games like this,” SLU associate head coach Mike Hurlbut said. “It was a total team effort.”
Saturday night belonged to St. Lawrence and its goalie, Matt Weninger, who earned his third career shutout with 18 saves. More importantly, it gave the Saints an ECAC Hockey win and ended a five-game slide.
“It's a good character win because we had to battle so hard in the third period,” Weninger said. “It looked like we could have gotten out of here fairly easily, but we made it a little harder on ourselves. You have to earn every win.”
St. Lawrence (1-5-0 overall, 1-1-0 ECAC) appeared to be cruising, leading by two while controlling the pace and zone time. The Saints had killed off four previous power plays when Gunnar Hughes picked up a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Two minutes, 17 seconds into the extended penalty kill, George Hughes picked up another penalty to give RPI (1-8-0, 0-2-0) a full, two-minute five-on-three power play.
“We wanted to make sure guys stayed focus and we didn't want to change anything,” Hurlbut said. “Our penalty kill was going pretty well tonight and that's not the time go running around doing your own thing.”
Weninger made the majority of his 10 third-period saves during that five-minute stretch, drawing roars from the filled homecoming crowd. The Saints came out of it unscathed.
“Everybody was blocking shots,” George Hughes said. “That was a huge kill for us.”
It devastated Rensselaer, as the Saints went back on the attack clearly comfortable with its two-goal lead, especially with Weninger in net.
“He made some save tonight when he didn't know where the puck was and used his reflexes,” Hurlbut said. “He's got probably the quickest feet for a goaltender we've seen as far as recruiting kids. He showed it in a few saves tonight.”
St. Lawrence also found the goals it desperately missed in a 2-0 loss to Union on Friday night. Freshman Patrick Doherty netted the game-winner and third of the season off a feed from Greg Carey across the crease at seven minutes of the first period. Kyle Flanagan was also credited with an assist on the goal.
“When you're playing with those two guys you just have to find a soft area and they'll find you,” Doherty said. “Kyle beat two guys and Carey beat another two guys, drew them to the corner and found me in the slot.”
George Hughes gave SLU its second score just 47 seconds into the second period. Pat Raley shoveled it out to the point, where Hughes rifled a shot that glanced off an RPI player and into the top corner of the net.
“Basically, it was elevator shot of his shaft,” Hughes said. “It was awesome. It was a huge relief for our team and for me.”
Weninger, too, felt the collective pressure-release exhale of that first win. He was a big part of it.
“You can sit there and say we put those first four games behind us and how poorly everybody played, but you have to get a win to really put those behind you,” he said as the music blared. “I think we proved to everybody that the team we showed in the first four games is not the team you're going to see from here on out.”