Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On the Recent Unpleasantries

Never fails. The team strings together losses, folks start tweeting at WaP that we're not hard enough on the coaching staff. The team strings together wins, folks start tweeting at WaP that we're too hard on the coaching staff. Both are usually completely unreasonable, and the more extreme the strings, the more unreasonable the shouting.

We've chosen to be agnostic on the coaching staff. We're not going to advocate for either their retention nor their release. It's a departure from where we were when the site began, when we supported the coaching staff against, quite frankly, attacks that were beyond ridiculous given the circumstances at that time.

But here's all that really needs to be said, and it's something I told a friend about a month ago: "something needs to change, or something needs to change."

Take that for what you will.

We've endured some bad RPI teams in the past - but often times, those teams were just bad and the response among reasonable folks was always "well, they're just not good right now."

This year's team is outdoing so many of those other bad teams in producing bad results, but it's been even a step farther now. This squad as the talent to be far better than it has been in other years where the team put up L after L - and there's no really good reason why they haven't been.

In the past, where there have been plausible excuses for falling far too short: running into hot teams at the wrong time, a rise in the number of strong teams in the ECAC, injuries riddling the squad, there's always been something that could be pointed to that says "OK, that's a bad break."

What is it now?

Something needs to change, or something needs to change.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Long Time Running

This is a post we always expected to make some day but never really wanted to.

For seven years, Without a Peer has been a delight for us to run. We've met new people, engaged with fans on the Internet and in person, and had the opportunity to give our opinions on matters regularly.

We're very proud of the fact that we were the first source for RPI live tweets - both for the RPI women and for the RPI men from the very beginning. No one else that we knew of was doing that in 2009 - today there are multiple places where you can keep tabs on the game in progress.

But as life has evolved for both of us, so has the site in and around that. When we started WaP, both of us were not working full-time and both of us were single. Today we're both married, both of us have full-time jobs with significantly increasing responsibilities, and notably, Tom is going to become a father for the first time in November.

You can see where this is going.

This isn't the end, and it's not goodbye. We'll still be kicking around here. WaP will continue to exist - it just won't quite be the same thing you've seen for the last seven years.

First, live tweeting will come to an end. This is tough to do, since that has been one of WaP's bread-and-butter items since the very beginning, but after seven years, it's time for us to return to simply being fans instead of guerilla journalists in the stands, informing folks on what's happening at as many turns as we can. When we're busy tweeting, we're not celebrating goals, or appreciating saves, or fully getting the fan experience that we love so much. We miss that - and we hope our fans won't begrudge us deciding to go back to it.

Second, we won't be doing weekly recaps anymore. These have always been a staple of the site since the start, always fairly-research intensive, delivering game summaries with an RPI-centric eye in an attempt to convey the fan mood, with plenty of links and insights for the reader to digest. But lately, these recaps have been less fun to produce and have felt more like a chore. In past seasons, it was always a little more difficult to write these when the team was struggling, but it never truly felt like it was being done for form until some time last season. When Tom sat down to write last week's recap for the Niagara-RIT weekend, he felt more like he was writing a recap for a difficult and heart-wrenching borefest rather than the engaging and interesting weekend that the Engineers had.

After discussing the matter, we've decided that rather than continuing on as we have, with the site starting to feel more of a chore than a source of enjoyment, we're going to cut way back on expectations by eliminating these two elements. But when there's something either of us want to say, you'll still have WaP to read it if it's substantive, and you'll still have @without_a_peer on Twitter if it's short and/or snarky - possibly including in-game tweets, which will probably assume that you're already watching, listening, or otherwise keeping tabs on things.

Certain features will continue. When the mood strikes, we'll have a weekend pumpup with cogent commentary. The yearly recruit pipeline piece every January will continue. Tom is hoping to continue the summer's "Know Your Enemy" roll, although that may be altered somewhat. Engineer Bracketology will probably make a comeback whenever it's necessary (not looking good this year, but stranger things have happened).

This was not an easy decision, and it was made only after we tossed around a few ideas. Among the bigger items was deciding against starting a Patreon account. WaP has always been free. We always wanted it to be free, and it always will be. It'll also always be ad-free. We've had a tip jar for several years, but that has always gone directly to site related costs. We've now taken that down - and we thank those who have made donations over the years to keep WaP up and running.

Through Patreon, we considered that we could allow our readership to decide how valuable the site has been to them, and that we could offer additional content (or a return of past content, like podcasts and stupid photoshops) if our readership as a whole found it worthwhile enough to voluntarily fund. But when it felt like another job even without funding, it would have felt like even more of a job with funding.

So instead of forcing our way thorough the rest of the season, we decided that the time was right to make this change right now. We hope our readership will understand.

Gary will still be seen at women's games - when he's around to attend them - and you'll still be able to catch Tom on WRPI covering men's games. Feel free to say hello if you see us, we're always up for a chat on RPI hockey.

Thank you, so very much, from the bottom of our hearts. This entire endeavor would have been nothing without you. We both feel an immense amount of pride in Without a Peer, and we hope to continue bringing some insight and analysis through WaP, even if it's no longer going to be on a regular schedule.

-- Tom and Gary

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Men's Hockey - Niagara/RIT (21/22 Oct)

After a couple of weekends on the road to start the season, the Engineers began a rather long homestand (9 in 10, with the odd game out in Schenectady) with a pair of non-conference tilts against Niagara and RIT - the only non-conference weekend on the schedule featuring two different squads. A strong performance on Friday night ended in a very dissatisfying 3-3 draw with Niagara (the proverbial "bad tie"), but sticking with the same themes on Saturday led to the Engineers' first victory of the season, scoring a 6-3 victory over the Tigers.




Jake Marrello made his RPI debut on Friday night as the Engineers returned to a standard 12x6 lineup to take on the Purple Eagles, still searching for their first positive result of the season after starting off with three losses in as many games.

Early returns were not positive for the Engineers, although game remained scoreless for well over 30 minutes. Nine penalties were called before the game's first goal, and all of them were of the "obstruction" type that the NCAA is cracking down on this year (interference, slashing, hooking, tripping, holding, and the sort). The first eight - four per team - were killed off without great incidence, and the RPI penalty kill reached a rather impressive 21-for-21 to start the season while the power play reached a miserable 1-for-23.

RPI's perfect penalty kill was ended by the goal that put Niagara up 1-0 a little over halfway through regulation. A one-timer from the left faceoff circle by Derian Plouffe evaded Chase Perry to put the Purple Eagles ahead - but they would not hold the lead for long. Just 38 seconds later, Evan Tironese one-touched a pass from Riley Bourbonnais to the back of the cage from the middle of the slot to even the game back up.

After 21 straight successful penalty kills, RPI made it two power play goals in a row given up just 57 seconds after that, as Johnny Curran scored 10 seconds into a Parker Reno penalty on a floater that beat Perry top shelf to put Niagara back in front, 2-1.

1:44 into the third period, the Engineers tied the game for the second time, with Lou Nanne scoring his first goal of the season doing what he typically does to score goals - redirecting shots from the perimeter. A slapper by Tommy Grant was tipped in front by the RPI junior and past Niagara's Jackson Teichroeb to knot the score once again.

The biggest pivot of the game came in the denouement of regulation, as on their 7th power play opportunity of the night, the Engineers finally scored their second power play goal of the year, coming off a big shot from the blue line by Jared Wilson for his second goal of the year (both of RPI's power play goals for the season), giving the Engineers their first lead of the game late in the contest at 3-2.

About a minute later, a dustup between Plouffe and Viktor Liljegren ended with both in the box, but Plouffe with an extra two minutes for holding, putting the Engineers back on the power play with 4:15 left in regulation. Seconds later, Wilson appeared to give the Engineers a two-goal cushion with a goal that was practically a mirror image of the one he'd just scored a minute-and-a-half earlier, but it was immediately wiped out, as the officials called a slashing penalty against Jimmy DeVito, essentially for making a solid stick-check that allowed Wilson to take the loose puck in the first place.

Before an outraged Field House crowd, Niagara won the ensuing faceoff in the RPI end at four-on-four, and an ill-advised no-look pass by Tironese was picked off by Curran, who one-timed it past Perry to tie the game back up at 3-3, only further enraging the RPI partisans.

A Niagara penalty for cross-checking in the final minute of regulation carried over into the overtime period, but the Engineers were unable to get anything done on the man advantage, finishing the night 1-for-9 on the power play. Meanwhile, both teams put up four shots in the extra period, but neither were able to find the game winning goal, and the contest ended with a very unsettling 3-3 tie.

Other than the continued struggles on the power play and the seemingly botched ending late in the third period, the game did display an RPI team that looked like they were ready to compete. They unleashed 41 shots on the evening, and full credit has to be given to Teichroeb, who simply didn't let up a great many rebounds.




Max Reisinger made his RPI debut against RIT on Saturday night, replacing Marrello in the lineup, and Charlie Manley returned as well, replacing Bradley Bell. Finally, Cam Hackett got his first start of the season in net for the Engineers.

A fortunate angle got RIT on the board first midway through the first period. A pass by Abbott Girduckis to Caleb Cameron on a two-on-one break didn't result in a shot, but as Cameron passed by Hackett, he tried to blindly backhand the puck back into the slot. It didn't get there - instead it hit off the back of Hackett's leg and into the back of the net, a goal certainly created by the two-on-one that the Tigers earned but certainly one that falls into the category of "good puck luck" in the end.

The Engineers got their stroke of luck about four minutes later as Riley Bourbonnais sniped a shot that RIT netminder Christian Short probably should have nabbed with his glove - instead it flew into the cage over that glove as Bourbonnais scored his second shorthanded goal of the season (perhaps only technically a shorthanded goal, as it came exactly as a 4x4 ended) to tie the score.

On the power play to start the second period, Mike Prapavessis gave Houston Field House a glimpse of the potential that RPI has on the man advantage, scoring with a snap shot from the point just over a minute into the second period to put the Engineers ahead 2-1 - Prapavessis being part of a potentially potent 1-2 punch with fellow power play QB Jared Wilson. Then, just 33 seconds later, Evan Tironese notched his third goal in as many games on a nifty wraparound to make it 3-1 and ending Short's night, as the RIT sophomore made just 7 saves on 10 shots in 21:41 of work. He was replaced by RIT's usual netminder, Mike Rotolo.

RIT clawed one back about two minutes later on one of the many four-on-four situations that would arise over the course of the game, as a disorganized RPI defense left Gabe Valenzuela open to roof one and cut the RPI lead in half. 10 minutes later, late in the second period, the Tigers got things square once more with a goal by Erik Brown, again taking advantage of a disjointed RPI defense.

But the Engineers would regain the lead for good with about two minutes left in the second period as Jared Wilson scored his third goal of the year - and third power play goal of the season - this time with a slapper from the top of the left faceoff circle, giving the Engineers a 4-3 lead heading into the final period.

The Tigers worked hard in the third period trying to find the tying goal, but the Engineer defense did a good job of bending without breaking. Hackett secured 13 saves in the last 20 minutes to help bolster the victory, and the Engineers ultimately got an insurance goal from Bourbonnais on a perfectly executed give-and-go while behind the defense with Tironese during a 4x4, and Jake Wood added his second goal of the season on an empty netter with just over a minute to play to seal the game up for a 6-3 victory.

Tironese ended the night with a goal and four assists, having been a part of the scoring combination on every RPI goal against the Tigers with the exception of Prapavessis' power play blast early in the second period. His career night was a first in several years for the Engineers in a pair of categories - it was the first four assist performance for RPI since Chase Polacek against Brown in December 2010, and the first five point night for an Engineer since Kevin Croxton (3 goals, 2 assists) against RIT in December 2005. Those are a pair of names that put Tironese in some very exclusive company in relatively recent RPI history. With nine points in five games, he is now 7th in the nation in scoring, averaging 1.80 points per game.

RPI's offense does look a bit more improved, with a goals per game now at 2.80, closing in on that coveted 3.00 GPG that they've been missing for some time. Tironese, Bourbonnais, Wilson, and Prapavessis all look fairly dangerous in their various scoring roles, just as we'd hoped to start the season.

The problem is that they've also given up three goals in all five games they've played this season, calling into question a defense that was supposed to be one of the team's brightest points.

Continued improvement on both of those aspects is needed in a hurry, as the ECAC schedule opens this coming weekend against Union in the annual home-and-home set, of which the Engineers have won four contests in a row against the Dutchmen (and six of seven overall when including the Mayor's Cup). They'll be keen on the need to stop Union senior Mike Vecchione, who won ECAC Player of the Week plaudits over Tironese by scoring six goals on the weekend against the same two teams that RPI did battle with, including four against Niagara.

Niagara at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/21/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Niagara 3 (OT)

RECORD: 0-3-1

Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/22/16 - 7:00pm


RECORD: 1-3-1

Upcoming games
28 Oct - Union
29 Oct - at Union
04 Nov - Brown
05 Nov - #17 Yale
11 Nov - Clarkson

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dial It Back

The Engineers (0-3-0) open their home schedule with a doozy of a homestand - nine in 10 within the friendly confines of Houston Field House, with the oddball being the short journey to Houston Field House West just up Route 7 next weekend. That's more than half of the entire home schedule taking place within the next five weekends - only seven games remain on the regular season tableau after a weekend series with Ohio State on the 18th and 19th of November. It would be prudent for the team to produce some results in the next five weeks.

They get that mission underway tonight against Niagara (0-2-1) and tomorrow night against RIT (1-1-1). No offense to the Purps or the Tigers, but they're not quite Maine (who are off to a surprisingly strong start) and they're not quite North Dakota (enough said). Look at the last two weekends as a resistance run. Back when I ran cross-country in high school N years ago, we'd take a couple of practices and run down to the beach, where we'd do wind sprints while knee-deep in Lake George. It helped make running down a nature trail seem a whole lot easier.

If RPI can take a three really tough road games and play the same way at home against teams less likely to burn mistakes, less likely to simply outclass, and less likely to make life in general super difficult, it could be a strong bounce in the correct direction - and perhaps prove that losing your first three games isn't necessarily a season killer, especially if it prepares you for games that will ultimately matter more... games which start next weekend.

Continuing our selection of Tragically Hip pumpups, here's "Fifty Mission Cap," a song that relates the true story of hockey player Bill Barilko. If you don't know it, learn it. Certainly one that will help get the blood flowing as the Engineers return home after a couple thousand miles of road trip to start the year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Men's Hockey - at North Dakota (15 Oct)

It was always going to be hard to expect anything about traveling to the defending and eight-time national champions, and the end result was pretty much as one would have expected. RPI was actually fairly efficient with their shots, scoring twice on 14 of them, but of course, 14 shots is not what you're looking for against a team like North Dakota, who have proven in their first three games to be very stingy on defense and full of firepower on offense. The end result was a 5-2 defeat from which the Engineers can at least draw some positives going forward, if not a victory for the resume.

North Dakota
Wood, Rodriguez



Whatever Brady Wiffen's injury is, it kept him from traveling with the squad and the Engineers again went with an 11x7 lineup, with Meirs Moore returning from a minor thumb injury and replacing Bradley Bell among the starting 18, with a healthy amount of line jumbling as well.

The first goal was a repeat from both RPI and North Dakota's last outings - the Engineers scored first and the Fighting Hawks gave up the first goal. Evan Tironese notched his first goal of the year and his second collegiate goal when he one-timed a pass from Riley Bourbonnais past UND netminder Cam Johnson to put the Engineers ahead 1-0 on their first shot of the game.

RPI maintained that lead for much of the first period, and even had two opportunities to extend that lead on the power play, but both power plays were cut short by penalties taken by Viktor Liljegren. The Swedish junior took a tripping penalty just under a minute into RPI's first power play of the game, and then a hooking call about 20 seconds into the Engineers' second man advantage.

UND tied things up with about 4:30 left in the first period as sophomore Joel Janatuinen struck pretty much out of nowhere with a one-timer from Ludvig Hoff to put the Fighting Hawks on the board.

The Engineers didn't fall behind until almost six minutes into the second period. North Dakota took a 2-1 lead on a goal by super-freshman Tyson Jost, and just over a minute later a second goal by Janatuinen gave the home team a more comfortable 3-1 edge.

After a very solid penalty kill for RPI about five minutes later, freshman Will Reilly found Jake Wood on an outlet pass, and the senior was off to the races. Wood buried the puck just three seconds after a penalty to Mike Prapavessis ended - technically an even-strength goal but functionally a short-handed tally as the play began before the penalty concluded, but nevertheless pulling the Engineers back within a goal with two goals scored on just 10 shots in the first two periods of the evening.

But the ending still wasn't terribly in doubt, and the Fighting Hawks left zero doubt early in the third period, as a goal by Cole Smith five and a half minutes into the final period gave UND their two-goal cushion back, and the conclusion of the hat trick by Janatuinen - the second hat trick scored on the Engineers in three games - pretty much sealed things tight. After putting five shots on goal in each of the first two periods, RPI managed just four in the third period, certainly not anywhere close to being enough to pull back the three-goal hole. Chase Perry was once again a hard-luck loser in net with 33 saves on 38 shots - it really wasn't poor play by the Engineers that caused the loss, more just the outstanding play by the home team getting the job done without a shadow of a doubt.

Again, this wasn't an unexpected result. RPI was going to need to catch North Dakota on a bad night in order to find success and it just wasn't in the cards. The Fighting Hawks didn't even look particularly bad in the first period, when the Engineers led for over 10 minutes. So it's an 0-3 start for RPI, but that's probably not the best metric for measuring them just yet. The sweep at Maine suddenly looks a lot better after the Black Bears split with Quinnipiac in Orono over the weekend, with both games going to overtime - and from here, the schedule not only gets a touch easier, it also shifts home for the first time... and for the next five consecutive weekends.

RPI went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill on the evening, extending their streak of penalty kills to start the season off with 17 successful kills in a row. Only Bemidji State (22) has started off their season with more successful kills without allowing a power play goal, and Penn State (15) is the only other non-Ivy that has yet to allow a power play goal.

On the flip side, the Engineers are 1-for-19 on the power play to start the season. Only Alaska-Anchorage (1-for-23) and, amazingly, Boston College (a mind-numbing 0-for-20) have been worse on the power play to start the season. Mercyhurst, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State all have yet to score a power play goal as well, but all have fewer than 10 opportunities, so let's not be too harsh on them just yet.

In the meantime, the first two games of a nine-out-of-ten in a row homestand - the one being a road trip all the way to Schenectady - get underway this weekend against Niagara and RIT of Atlantic Hockey. RIT is no slouch, but they're not Maine on the road and they're not the defending national champions. The key, especially on Saturday night against the Tigers, is for the Engineers to display what they've learned in three tough games and show that they can win games that they're supposed to win, even if they couldn't win games they weren't necessarily favored to win.

RPI at #1 North Dakota
US Hockey Hall of Fame Game - Alfond Arena (Orono, ME)
10/15/16 - 8:00pm

RESULT: North Dakota 5, RPI 2

RECORD: 0-3-0

Upcoming games
21 Oct - Niagara
22 Oct - RIT
28 Oct - Union
29 Oct - at Union
04 Nov - Brown

Monday, October 17, 2016

Women's Hockey - UConn (14/15 Oct)

RPI finished off its early season non-conference play by hosting UConn for a weekend pair at Houston Field House. The Engineers soundly defeated the Huskies in a 3-0 shutout on Friday, but the tables were turned Saturday as UConn took a 4-1 victory in the rematch.





Lovisa Selander earned her first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over UConn Friday night, also notching an assist on the Engineers' first goal. Six other players each tallied a point on the evening, while Marisa Raspa led the team in shots with seven.

RPI scored once in each period, starting out with a goal by Makenna Thomas at 5:45 of the opening frame. Thomas skated in one-on-one and put a shot off the pipe and in to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead.

Amanda Kimmerle made it a 2-0 game at 17:48 of the second period, firing a rocket of a shot through traffic from the point to beat a screened Annie Belanger.

Hannah Behounek grew the lead to 3-0 8:59 into the final period, an impressive unassisted tally where she picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated in one-on-three and still managed to get the puck past Belanger.

RPI outshot UConn by a 41-21 margin on the night





After a good win on Friday night, the Engineers didn't fare so well on Saturday - defeated by UConn 4-1 while being outshot 35-22. Aly Tremblay scored the Engineers' lone goal, while the Huskies' second line of Leah Lum, Briana Colangelo, and Theresa Knutson combined for a 3-6-9 line on the afternoon.

Lum was responsible for two goals, both scored in a first period which saw the Engineers outshot 16-2. Both goals were assisted by Colangelo and Knutson.

After a scoreless second period, RPI drew to within one on Tremblay's goal at 5:05 of the third. The Engineers found themselves back in a two-goal hole shortly after when Knutson scored to make it 3-1.

With the RPI net empty in favor of the extra attacker to get back to 5-on-5 during a penalty kill, UConn put the game away with a goal from Madison Badeau.

Morgan Fisher earned the win in the Huskies' net in her first collegiate appearance, making 21 saves on 22 shots. Lovisa Selander stopped 31 of 34 shots she faced on the afternoon.

RPI now takes a weekend off before opening up ECAC play at home against Cornell and Colgate on October 28th and 29th. Both games will have 3pm start times as the men also host Union the evening of the 28th.


RPI vs. UConn
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/14/16 - 6pm
RPI 3, UConn 0

RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/boxscore.aspx?path=whock&id=5783
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/1617/boxes/wconren1.o14

RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/news/2016/10/14/womens-ice-hockey-womens-hockey-shuts-out-uconn.aspx?path=whock
UConn: http://www.uconnhuskies.com/sports/w-hockey/recaps/101416aab.html
Video Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQspoAs-MtI

RECORD: 2-4-1


RPI vs. UConn
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/15/16 - 3pm
UConn 4, RPI 1

RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/boxscore.aspx?path=whock&id=5784
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/1617/boxes/wconren1.o15

RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/news/2016/10/15/womens-ice-hockey-uconn-splits-with-womens-hockey.aspx?path=whock
UConn: http://www.uconnhuskies.com/sports/w-hockey/recaps/101516aaa.html

RECORD: 2-5-1


Upcoming Schedule

Oct. 28 - Cornell (3pm)
Oct. 29 - Colgate (3pm)
Nov. 4 - at Yale (6pm)
Nov. 5 - at Brown (3pm)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Great Plains

Neither the men nor the women got off to the starts they wanted - but the women may have turned the corner a bit last night with a 3-0 victory at home against UConn, and the men have at least the opportunity to mimic last season with a tough game against the #1 team in the nation.

For the third straight year (2014 - Minnesota, 2015 - Boston College) the Engineers' second opponent of the year is the #1 team in the nation. For RPI (0-2-0), it's not looking like a game that's going to produce a result. The goal tonight against North Dakota (2-0-0) is to take strides from last week's pair of losses in Maine - get shots on goal. Finish when possible. Hopefully, don't get destroyed. Then take what you learn in playing against the very best and apply it at home next weekend against not the very best.

The women (2-4-1) got themselves off a five game winless streak with their first shutout of the season, at home against UConn last night, a 21-save shutout for Lovisa Selander that included the third goals of the season for both Makenna Thomas and Hannah Behounek. They'll be seeking an opportunity to complete their first weekend sweep since January (the Union home-and-home) on home ice this afternoon.

Yes, it's more Tragically Hip this weekend, and it's impossible not to use this tune. Sure, the Engineers have a pair of games that will be played farther west than this, but they'll never be closer to the magic longitude.