Knights in Black and Scarlet matched up on a cold, windy, 37-degree Saturday afternoon at Shi Stadium with an important early-season top-10 opportunity for each team’s resume. The Knights in Scarlet looked to avenge a 15-4 2020 shellacking at the hands of the Knights in Black.
The Knights in Scarlet started hot. Ronan Jacoby opened up the scoring for Rutgers, taking the feed from Scott and sending it home before the shot clock expired. Army knotted the score at 1-1, as 3-time All-American Brendan Nichtern fired one past Kirst at 10:00. Rutgers answered with goals by Brian Cameron and Jacoby to put RU up 3-1. Jacoby’s coming after a stout effort by the defensive unit forced an Army over and back.
Jacoby was far from done as he took a beautiful feed from Mitch Bartolo and notched the 1st quarter hat trick, just beating the expiring shot clock by 2 ticks. Rutgers upped the lead to 5-1 as Brennan Kammish sacrificed himself on a well-executed screen, allowing Shane Knobloch to slide free and fire one in.
Cameron opened up the 2nd quarter scoring, shaking off an Army foul and scoring from 5 yards out for a 6-1 RU lead. Jacoby quickly followed with his 4th goal of the game.
Gunner Philipp ended a 15 minute Army drought. Army closed out the quarter with three more goals and all the momentum as the teams entered halftime with RU nursing a 7-5 lead. It was a tale of two quarters with the Scarlet Knights dominating the 1st and Black Knights the 2nd. Dugenio had another strong half at face-off for Rutgers, winning 10 of 14.
RU started quickly with Jacoby netting his 5th of the game - equaling his output from the prior 3 games. Following an Ethan Rall penalty, Rutger’s penalty killing unit broke down and allowed Nichtern, Army’s most potent player, to run free in front of the net and notch his 2nd goal. Army’s momentum continued as they scored the next two goals to tie up the match at 8 apiece.
At 7:30, Jacoby fired a missile, his 6th of the match, to put Rutgers back on top, 9-8. Then Knobloch followed with a beautiful fake pass and dive to the net for a 10-8 advantage.
With less than a minute in the quarter, Knobloch showed some crafty lefty one-handed skill, putting RU up 11-8 and notching his own hat trick.
The teams entered the final quarter of action with Army holding a 20-18 shot advantage. Ross Scott got the scoring going quickly, doing what he does - losing his defender behind the net and wrapping one around for a 12-8 Scarlet Knights lead. Bobby Abshire ended another long Army scoring drought to trim RU’s lead to 3 goals.
Cameron punched one in at 1:49 to put Rutgers back up by 4, 13-9. This was preceded with a 2:50 possession where Rutgers took 6 shots and while they did not score, they kept Army’s tired defense on the field and milked the game clock.
Army’s Paul Johnson scored his 3rd goal for the hat trick at :28 to make it 13-10 Scarlet and that’s how it would end. The Knights in Scarlet move to 4-0 for the first time since 2017 while the Knights in Black fall to 1-1.
My Final Thoughts
Rutgers started strong and held on. Army’s potent offense was able to fight back from a 7-1 deficit in the 2nd quarter and tie the game in the 3rd quarter thanks to poor slides on defense which allowed easy scoring opportunities, as color analyst Rick Mercurio continually pointed out.
Ronan Jacoby stole the show today with his 6 goals. The stud D3 transfer from Wesleyan is having no trouble transitioning to the D1 game.
Jonathan Dugenio had another solid game - winning 14 of his 25 face-off, including 10 of his first 14.
RU faced adversity but their 4-0 run late in the 4th sealed the game and helped them pick up a crucial ranked win that could be oh so important for a potential at-large tourney bid in May.
“We’ve been working all week on our game plan and continuing to build from the week before. That’s really what we did and we played unselfishly. I was put in good positions to finish the play, but we really played just good team offense. We executed how we needed to. The defense did a great job, and made the necessary adjustments after their run. We kept grinding, played hard the whole time and dug it out.”
- Rutgers won its 24th game in the all-time series with Army, which has been played 84 times dating back to 1923, the second most played series by RU.
- RU now has six ranked wins, and four top-10 wins in the past two seasons.
- This was Rutgers’ 12th lifetime win over a top-10 foe. Nine of those have come under head coach Brian Brecht and since the program joined the Big Ten in 2015.
- Prior to last season’s Covid-adjusted conference-only slate, this matchup had been played annually every year since World War II.
No. 6 Rutgers travels to Baltimore to face No. 14 Loyola on Saturday, February 26, a noon start. The game against No. 10 Army is the first in a stretch of three games out of four against ranked teams, extending to a matchup with No. 18 Princeton on Saturday, March 12.