Monday, December 15, 2014

Men's Hockey - Boston University (13 Dec)

Facing off with one of the best teams in the nation (now the best team in the nation according to the recently released USCHO poll) with a very banged up squad was expected to be a pretty tall task for a team struggling to put points on the board. Saturday night's game between BU and RPI ended up looking very much like the lopsided game observers expected, but only on the scoreboard. The Terriers skated off with a 5-1 victory, but faced a tough battle from an impressive Engineers squad nonetheless.

Boston University
Liljegren-Bubela-McGowan
Wood-Neal-Bourbonnais
Laliberte-Miller-Nanne
Curadi-DeVito-Gillespie

Leonard-Bradley
Wilson-Reno
Prapavessis-Bell

Diebold

Lou Nanne's return to the lineup was both unexpected and short-lived. The freshman forward did not skate in the pre-game warmup, but was ready by game time. Unfortunately, an open-ice hit late in the first period found him skating to the locker room clutching the same shoulder he injured almost a month earlier against Quinnipiac.

Jason Kasdorf nearly made his return to the ice as well, dressing for the first time since suffering a lower body injury against New Hampshire, but he did not see any game play.

Nanne's return to the lineup, brief as it may have been, kept RPI from the difficult position of having to start two defensemen as forwards. Nanne functionally replaced the injured Travis Fulton, while Kenny Gillespie suited up in place of the once again injured Zach Schroeder on a very motley fourth line consisting of a defenseman, a non-natural center, and a seldom-used winger.

That line, however, was very nearly responsible for the game's first goal. Eight and a half minutes into a solid back-and-forth contest that saw the Engineers controlling early play, Jimmy DeVito appeared to give RPI a 1-0 edge - what would have been only their fourth such lead of the season - by placing a rebound perfectly top-shelf through traffic. Matt O'Connor, the BU netminder, protested immediately that he had been interfered with by Luke Curadi, and after a quick replay the goal was disallowed. The replay did show Curadi shoving O'Connor to the far side of the crease, although O'Connor did manage to recover in time to get back across and try to make a play on the shot by DeVito.

RPI continued to pour on the offensive chances in the first period, and on the play that saw Nanne re-injure his shoulder, O'Connor was forced into an outright robbery of a shot by Mark Miller that seemed destined for the net. O'Connor, on his stomach, managed to get a leg on Miller's shot to keep the game scoreless. The BU junior made 18 saves in the first period alone to maintain the 0-0 scoreline into the first intermission.

On the other side, Scott Diebold was earning his keep as well. He made 11 saves on 11 shots in the first period, and played strong hockey in the first half of the second period, helping to keep the game scoreless through the halfway point.

A slow-rolling redirection off a skate coming from a shot by BU freshman defenseman John MacLeod broke the deadlock at 11:57 of the second period. MacLeod had just managed to keep the puck in the RPI end after a big open ice hit on Gillespie moments earlier, a hit the RPI partisans in the crowd thought may have been a bit high. The referees, as they had for much of the game to that point, let them play, and BU capitalized to take the lead.

An ill-advised hit from behind by Milos Bubela just over a minute later put BU on the power play, and freshman phenom Jack Eichel showed why he's one of the top prospects in the world with a perfect pass that linemate Danny O'Regan practically feathered into the net to make it 2-0.

Things didn't look terrible for the Engineers from that point on in the second period, but a freak goal with just six seconds left in the period made the hill to climb more of a mountain. As time wound down, BU's Brandon Hickey whipped the puck toward the crease from behind the RPI end line, and the puck caromed off the back of Scott Diebold and into the cage to make the score 3-0 after two periods despite some continued even play on the ice.

An offensive zone faceoff win for the Terriers midway through the third period effectively sealed BU's victory, as they quickly moved the puck into the slot for freshman J.J. Piccinich to wrap past Diebold for the 4-0 lead.

RPI peppered Matt O'Connor with shots all night, and the goaltender was major reason why BU was able to claim the victory. He ended the night with 35 shots, although he missed out on the shutout when Milos Bubela picked up his fourth goal of the season with a shot from the top of the slot that O'Connor simply did not see as it beat him to the right. It was the team-lead-tying fourth goal of the season for the junior from Slovakia.

In an unusual circumstance, Seth Appert pulled Scott Diebold from the net with just over a minute left in the game to get an extra attacker on the ice, but a fairly quick BU clearance allowed the Terriers to regain their four-goal edge with an empty netter.

The Engineers now get some time to recuperate and recover as the holiday break begins. Their next game is the Tuesday after Christmas, which is 17 days removed from their battle against the Terriers. They'll need as many players as possible back into the lineup, because the post-holiday fun kicks off with a game against the Harvard Crimson that counts for ECAC points, followed by a pair at home against another one of the top teams in the nation, the Miami RedHawks.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 12 points (6-2-0)
2. Harvard - 12 points (5-1-2)
3. Clarkson - 10 points (4-1-2)
4. Yale - 9 points (4-3-1)
5. St. Lawrence - 8 points (4-3-0)
6. RPI - 8 points (4-4-0)
7. Colgate - 7 points (3-2-1)
8. Union - 7 points (3-4-1)
9. Dartmouth - 7 points (3-4-1)
10. Cornell - 6 points (3-3-0)
11. Princeton - 2 points (1-7-0)
12. Brown - 2 points (1-7-0)

#2 Boston University at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
12/13/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Boston University 5, RPI 1

RECORD: 6-12-1 (4-4-0, 8pts)

Upcoming games
30 Dec - at #4 Harvard
02 Jan - #6 Miami
03 Jan - #6 Miami
09 Jan - at #14 Quinnipiac
10 Jan - at Princeton

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Back to the Church

What is a cathedral?

Technically speaking, it's a high place of worship, but it's a word that gets thrown around a lot in the sports world as it pertains to buildings. Lambeau Field and Soldier Field, it is said, are cathedrals of football. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are often called cathedrals of baseball.

There are cathedrals of college hockey. Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Lynah Rink in Ithaca. Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Just to name a few.

We submit that Houston Field House fits the category.

It's certainly not the most glamorous place in the world. It's big and cavernous, swallowing sound from all but the most full crowds. Its birth as a Navy warehouse in Rhode Island is apparent from the moment you step in. The seats are mostly wooden and they're laid out in a manner unfamiliar to most places, walking up to your seat instead of walking down.

If you want all of the most modern accoutrements, go ahead and check out Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks or Agganis Arena in Boston. They've got all the bells and whistles and they fill the places up more often than not. If you want architecture, we didn't have Eero Saarinen like Yale did. We're not above saying that we'd like to have something like that someday.

But the history is undeniable. Houston Field House is the place, arguably, where the concept of small schools competing with the big dogs was born and fostered through the Engineers' success in the early 1950s. It's one of only four buildings currently used as a home arena in college hockey that once hosted the Frozen Four. It's a place that has turned out a number of players who have reached the NHL, and whose alumni have competed in every NHL season for over 30 years. The NCAA record books are dotted with the names of players who called the Field House their home.

There's no hard and fast rule for what constitutes a "cathedral of college hockey." It's a plaything for discussion. You don't have to agree with us in the slightest. But it's a cathedral to us, and we're coming home to it tonight.

(This is the part where we give a "what's up" to the First Church of RPI Hockey.)

As we mentioned yesterday, tonight's game against one of the best American-born prospects in decades, Jack Eichel, and his Boston University Terriers isn't likely to be very competitive. They're playing pretty well, well enough to be the #2 team in the nation. RPI might as well be playing this game from a hospital bed.

But it's another opportunity to come see a traditional old rivalry, waking up the ghosts of college hockey's past while getting a golden opportunity to gaze upon the game's future. Come back to church. You won't regret it tonight.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Walking Dead

The first half of the season is coming to an end following tomorrow night's home game (the first in a month), and it couldn't come at a better time.

Let's recap the situation in the infirmary, shall we?

Chris Bradley suffered a shoulder injury in early November, which kept him out of five games, including four ECAC contests.

Luke Curadi missed four games, including three ECAC contests, with a concussion picked up in the Harvard game. Curadi has been playing at forward since his return due to other injuries - he hasn't seen the blue line in over a month.

Milos Bubela has been in and out of the lineup with concussion issues. He missed three games in October (and basically four, since he didn't see much ice against Notre Dame), and another two in mid-November. He's currently tied for second in goals for the Engineers.

Matt Neal had an illness that kept him sidelined during the last league home weekend in November.

Travis Fulton separated his shoulder, either against Brown or in practice this week (it wasn't made clear). Either way, the spark plug who has played an important energy role for the Engineers is out tomorrow.

Zach Schroeder hurt his ankle against Quinnipiac and missed the next four games because of it. Now word has come out that the injury was re-aggravated against Brown and he'll now miss a fifth game tomorrow.

Mark Miller, according to reports, is playing hurt with injuries to his ribs and shoulder and has been for the last month. He has yet to miss a game this season but has been very limited in practice for the last several weeks - and obviously, playing hurt makes any player more susceptible to picking up an injury they can't play with, no matter how tough you are.

Lou Nanne hurt a shoulder against Quinnipiac, which has been a recurring injury issue for him - he had double-shoulder surgery last year. Nanne was the team's leading scorer before being sidelined. He's missed the last six games and and is expected to miss his seventh tomorrow.

Drew Melanson has mononucleosis and will miss his third game in a row tomorrow night. Following linemate Nanne's departure from the lineup, he became the team's leading scorer. That role is now held by Riley Bourbonnais.

Miller, Nanne, and Melanson made up what was arguably the team's most dynamic scoring line, full of speed and with just the right combination of passing, scoring, and physical play. That line was just beginning to look very dangerous when it was broken up by the injuries and illnesses.

Last and certainly not least, Jason Kasdorf missed time as a freshman with a shoulder injury, missed basically the entire season last year with a shoulder separation that required surgery to keep it from recurring, and now has an undisclosed lower-body injury that he picked up against New Hampshire on the 25th of November. He wasn't removed from that game immediately upon injury, instead coming out during the first intermission for what was then deemed a "precautionary measure." He's since missed the last four games, all losses for the Engineers. He's not expected to play against BU, either.

Add it all up, and 10 injured and ill players have lost 27 games to injuries, mostly within the last month. That number is expected to reach 32 tomorrow, and that doesn't even take into effect the loss of defensemen like Curadi, Craig Bokenfohr, and Phil Hampton who have occasionally had to play forward because of the ongoing injury concerns.

RPI is a team that was expected to have scoring struggles to begin with, and when you have seven forwards that have had injury and illness concerns in a very short amount of time, especially when three of those seven have proven to be very important to helping the team score, you're going to have problems.

It's no secret, either, that Kasdorf has been this team's most valuable player practically since he arrived in Troy. Scott Diebold is a decent enough goaltender - and before him, Bryce Merriam - but over the last three seasons, it's been very apparent that the team simply is better (and plays better) with Kasdorf in net over Diebold or Merriam. Last season may well have been a lost season if only because of the freak injury Kasdorf suffered very early on.

The bottom line is that this all seems to add up to the last month basically being lost because of the mounting and unrelenting injuries this team has had to deal with. Every squad in the nation has to deal with injuries over the course of a season, but rarely does it get this bad, where you have so many important players unable to contribute. The best team in the nation would be struggling without its top goaltender and two of its most important scorers, to say nothing of losing so many other key elements. For RPI, which wasn't likely to be in the discussion as one of the best in the nation, it hurts even more.

If there's anything to be thankful for with all of this, it's that the lion's share of the games during this difficult time have been non-league contests. At the end of the day, this isn't a team that's going to be banking on its overall record to reach the NCAAs, it's Lake Placid or bust, baby. In that light, the brutally difficult non-league schedule, made even more difficult by these injuries, are little more than exhibition outings preparing the team for more crucial games in league play. That's what tomorrow night's game against BU is going to end up being, unfortunately.

The Engineers have 17 days after they play BU before they get back into things with a game that matters at Harvard - arguably, the best team in the ECAC right now, a team that steamrolled RPI at the Field House in November. Bradley was the only major component missing for the Engineers in that game. It's part of a continued grueling schedule facing RPI when they come back from break, many in league play, so let's hope 17 days is enough to get healthy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Men's Hockey - at Yale & Brown (5/6 Dec)

The rollercoaster ride continues for the men's team. Thanks to injuries and illnesses to some of the Engineers' most crucial components, the trend is heading back downslope after a disastrous weekend of results against what has historically been an important road trip for RPI to pick up some points. With Drew Melanson sidelined by mononucleosis and with Lou Nanne and Jason Kasdorf continuing to miss time due to injuries, the Engineers struggled through the last full ECAC weekend of the calendar year, falling 5-2 against Yale and then becoming the first league team to drop points to Brown in a 4-2 loss in Providence.

Yale
Liljegren-Bubela-McGowan
Wood-Neal-Bourbonnais
Laliberte-Miller-Fulton
Curadi-Schroeder-DeVito

Leonard-Prapavessis
Bradley-Hampton
Wilson-Reno

Diebold

Melanson's absence was salved somewhat by the return from an ankle injury of Zach Schroeder. Travis Fulton moved up to the Miller line, while Schroeder slotted in on the fourth line.

The opening period against Yale was a rough one for the Engineers, as they managed just 2 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. The Bulldogs began to take full control of the period in the final 10 minutes, though RPI withstood the attack for much of the period. Just as it appeared that the Engineers might get out of the first with no score, Yale struck with under 2 minutes left in the period after a sustained attack in the RPI zone to go up 1-0.

The game's turning point came about six minutes into the second. Shortly after an RPI attack ended with a puck off the post, the Bulldogs went the other way with it and scored to make the score 2-0 instead of the 1-1 tally the game could have featured if the Engineers had been able to finish the attack.

Jake Wood scored his first goal of the season with 4:05 remaining in the second period, but any momentum RPI could have taken into the second intermission was scuttled just over two minutes later as Yale scored their third even strength goal of the game and second in the last two minutes of a period to make it 3-1 Bulldogs.

RPI hardly gave up the ghost at that point. After a solid first 10 minutes of the third period, RPI pulled to within one for a second time on the evening with a power play goal from Milos Bubela. The junior's third goal of the season made the score 3-2, but once again, that reduced lead for the Bulldogs didn't last long. Only 50 seconds later, the Bulldogs put one in the back of the net to regain the two-goal edge.

An empty netter with just over a minute left to play sealed RPI's fate. It was a game where the Engineers didn't play poorly, but they made enough spot errors and gave up goals at the very worst possible times - late in periods and just after their own goals - to doom themselves to a loss.

Brown
Liljegren-Bubela-McGowan
Wood-Neal-Bourbonnais
Laliberte-Miller-Fulton
Curadi-Schroeder-DeVito

Leonard-Prapavessis
Bradley-Hampton
Wilson-Reno

Diebold

Without much of a choice due to injuries and illnesses, the Engineers ran the exact same lineup against a Brown team that had been absolutely blown out the previous night against Union, who went up 7-0 on their way to a 7-1 victory.

Unfortunately, many of the same pitfalls that created a loss on Friday night reared their ugly heads again on Saturday. This time, it was a quick - and soft - goal that put the Engineers down 1-0 for the 15th time in 18 games this season. Brown, a team that has had trouble scoring goals this year, put themselves on the board just 50 seconds in to make it 1-0.

Jacob Laliberte notched his second goal of the season about two and a half minutes later on the power play to even the score, but once again, a quick goal given up blunted the momentum that RPI could have gained from having evened things up. Another soft one, this one only 31 seconds after the goal from Laliberte put RPI back behind just as quickly as they'd tied the game.

Several 4-on-4 opportunities were generated over the next 30 or so minutes, but nothing came of them and the Bears maintained a tedious 2-1 edge even as the Engineers began taking control of the game in the second period. Despite a 17-7 domination in shots on goal in the middle stanza, it was Brown scoring - for the fourth time in five periods on the weekend, a goal coming in the last two minutes of a period - to make it 3-1.

By the time the Bears picked up their fourth goal of the game 7:13 into the fourth period, again despite some strong play by the Engineers, it was a hole too big for RPI to extract itself. Jake Wood's second goal of the season with 3:22 left to play earned the Engineers a little more respectability, but it wasn't enough to stop the team's losing streak from extending to four games overall and three games in ECAC play.

The 0 point weekend was the first time since Brown and Yale became travel partners that the Engineers failed to earn at least a weekend split on that particular road trip. It also sent the team, which held first place on its own ahead of the Quinnipiac game, down into a tie for 5th place with St. Lawrence, a team with a game in hand over the Engineers. RPI is now four points out of first place and only two out of 10th, with just one more league contest - against the hottest team in the ECAC, Harvard - left to be played before 2015.

Things will not get easier from here. 6 of RPI's next 8 games are against ranked opponents, with the next four in a row coming against teams currently ranked in the top 10. This Saturday, the Engineers return to the Field House for the first time in a month to take on Jack Eichel and Boston University. With any luck, at least some of RPI's walking wounded will be back in the lineup, as the team sorely missed its top two scorers and top netminder this past weekend.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 12 points (6-2-0)
2. Harvard - 12 points (5-1-2)
3. Clarkson - 10 points (4-1-2)
4. Yale - 9 points (4-3-1)
5. St. Lawrence - 8 points (4-3-0)
6. RPI - 8 points (4-4-0)
7. Colgate - 7 points (3-2-1)
8. Union - 7 points (3-4-1)
9. Dartmouth - 7 points (3-4-1)
10. Cornell - 6 points (3-3-0)
11. Princeton - 2 points (1-7-0)
12. Brown - 2 points (1-7-0)

RPI at Yale
ECAC Game - Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
12/5/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Yale 5, RPI 2

RECORD: 6-10-1 (4-3-0, 8pts)

RPI at Brown
ECAC Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
12/6/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Brown 4, RPI 2


RECORD: 6-11-1 (4-4-0, 8pts)

Upcoming games
13 Dec - #2 Boston University
30 Dec - at #5 Harvard
02 Jan - #6 Miami
03 Jan - #6 Miami
09 Jan - at #15 Quinnipiac

Monday, December 8, 2014

Women's Hockey - Brown & Yale (5/6 Dec)

RPI finished the 2014 portion of the schedule (hitting the halfway point of the season with 17 games down and 17 remaining) by hosting Brown and Yale, two of the other teams in the bottom half of the ECAC standings.

After roaring out to a 7-0 lead over Brown on Friday, the Engineers' penalty kill surrendered four straight goals and the Bears tacked on one more at the last second for a 7-5 final. Another pair of power play goals allowed on Saturday turned a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 Yale lead and though the Engineers drew to within one on an extra attacker goal, couldn't knot it up and ended the year with a 3-2 loss.

Brown

Mahoney/Gruschow/Raspa
Horwood/Tomlinson/Svoboda
Wash/Renn/Mankey
Rooney/Hylwa/Walsh

Banks/Schilter
Kimmerle/Godin
Middlebrook/Behounek

Piper

RPI had a 4-goal first period for the first time in eight years and Alexa Gruschow had two goals and two assists including the game winner, but the Engineers finished on a sour note surrendering five straight but holding on for a 7-5 victory.

The Engineers last scored four in the opening period on 12/8/06 in a 7-0 win over Union. This time around Jenn Godin opened the scoring, skating into the zone all alone while the rest of the Engineers took a line change and giving RPI a 1-0 lead.

Marisa Raspa scored two goals just 13 seconds apart to triple RPI's lead. The goals temporarily gave the freshman the team lead in the category, but that would be taken back by Alexa Gruschow when she later scored the sixth and seventh goals for the Engineers - one each on the power play and shorthanded.

Between those events, Delaney Middlebrook scored her first goal as an Engineer in the middle of the first to make it 4-0, then Laura Horwood scored the Engineers' fifth at 1:13 of the second.

After going up 7-0 early in the third on Gruschow's shorty, the Engineers proceeded to surrender four straight power play goals, a glaring weakness the team has exhibited all season with a 67.2% success rate - last in the nation by a margin of 8.5%.

Brown's power play goals included a 5-on-3 goal followed by a goal on the remaining 5-on-4 just 26 seconds later. They would tack on one more for good measure in the game's final second, taking what could have been the Engineers' largest margin of victory in five years and instead turning it into a two-goal win by a 7-5 final score.

Yale

Mahoney/Gruschow/Raspa
Horwood/Tomlinson/Svoboda
Wash/Renn/Mankey
Rooney/Hylwa/Walsh

Banks/Schilter
Kimmerle/Godin
Middlebrook/Behounek

O'Brien

Laura Horwood drew the Engineers even at 1-1 late in the first period, but another pair of goals on a 5-on-3 and the ensuing 5-on-4 cost RPI a shot at a weekend sweep as they eventually fell 3-2 to Yale in Troy on Saturday afternoon.

Horwood's goal was a nice one, as the sophomore put her first shot over the net before circling around the corner back to the slot to find a loose puck and backhand it into the net to draw things even.

Yale had taken the lead early, as RPI did the day before, with a tally 1:40 into the first. Mallory Souliotis picked up the goal with a big slapper through traffic from the point which found its way past Kelly O'Brien.

Yale's second and third goals came late in the second period, with Delaney Middlebrook and Kathryn Schilter both in the box. Taylor Marchin made it 2-1 with a slapshot of her own on the 5-on-3, then Aurora Kennedy scored the game-winner on another shot through traffic from the point just moments later.

Alexa Gruschow brought the Engineers back to within one at 18:42 of the third, with O'Brien out of the net in favor of the extra attacker, but 1:18 wasn't enough time to find another goal and RPI fell to Yale by a 3-2 final score.

With the loss on Saturday, the Engineers now sit in a 4-way tie for last place with Brown, Union, and Colgate. While there's a lot of hockey left to play, it will be an uphill struggle for the Engineers to catch up to Yale or Dartmouth in the fight to make the playoffs. There's nothing to be done for a while, though, as the team now has a month-long break for the holidays before continuing their homestand with five games in nine nights at Houston Field House to say hello to 2015.

-----

RPI vs. Brown
ECAC Hockey Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/5/14 - 7:00pm
RPI 7, Brown 5

BOX SCORES:
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/1415/boxes/wbrnren1.d05
RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/boxscore.aspx?path=whock&id=4439

RECAPS:
RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/news/2014/12/5/WICE_1205142343.aspx
Brown: http://www.brownbears.com/sports/w-hockey/2014-15/releases/20141205ojla0x
Complete Game Video: http://rpitv.org/productions/877-womens-hockey-vs-brown-university

RECORD: 3-11-2 (1-4-0 ECAC)

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RPI vs. Yale
ECAC Hockey Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/6/14 - 4:00pm
Yale 3, RPI 2

BOX SCORES:
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/1415/boxes/wrenyal1.d06
RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/boxscore.aspx?path=whock&id=4438

RECAPS:
RPI: http://rpiathletics.com/news/2014/12/6/WICE_1206141737.aspx
Yale: http://www.yalebulldogs.com/sports/w-hockey/2014-15/releases/20141206o9jj7z
Video Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yTOo2aAF4U
Complete Game Video: http://rpitv.org/productions/878-womens-hockey-vs-yale

RECORD: 3-12-2 (1-5-0 ECAC)

-----

Upcoming Schedule

Jan. 2 - Princeton (3pm)
Jan. 3 - Quinnipiac (3pm)
Jan. 6 - Providence (4pm)
Jan. 9 - Dartmouth (7pm)
Jan. 10 - Harvard (4pm)

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ECAC Standings

1. Quinnipiac - 14 pts. (6-1-2) (.778)
2. Clarkson - 13 pts. (6-2-1) (.722)
3t. Harvard - 11 pts. (6-1-1) (.781)
3t. St. Lawrence - 11 pts (5-3-1) (.611)
5t. Cornell - 10 pts. (5-2-0) (.714)
5t. Princeton - 10 pts. (5-4-0) (.556)
7. Yale - 6 pts. (3-3-0) (.500)
8. Dartmouth - 5 pts (2-4-1) (.357)
9t. Brown - 2 pts (1-5-0) (.167)
9t. RPI - 2 pts (1-5-0) (.167)
9t. Union - 2 pts (1-5-0) (.167)
9t. Colgate - 2 pts (1-6-0) (.143)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Climbing the Mountain

Lou Nanne was the leading scorer for the Engineers. Then he hurt his shoulder and he's missed four games (set to become five and probably six this weekend).

While he was out, Drew Melanson became the team's leading scorer. He's out now, too. Mononucleosis.

Jason Kasdorf has been an absolute rock for RPI between the pipes almost since he arrived on campus. The team has simply played better when he's in goal. He's missing his third straight game tonight.

The injuries have not been a few and they're impacting some of the most key players on the squad. With that as the backdrop, the Engineers take off for Yale and Brown this weekend needing a minimum of 2 points to keep up their momentum in league play. It's not going to be easy, especially tonight against a Yale team that has found its groove on defense.

Meanwhile, the time is now for the women. Tied with Union in last place with no points in league play so far, there will be few weekends better to nab league points than at home against Brown (2 points, earned against St. Lawrence) and Yale (2 points, earned against Colgate). The Engineers finally picked up their second win last Friday against RIT, but then had a power outage the next afternoon in being shutout by the Tigers.

It's a daunting task facing both squads, but that's why we watch.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

ECAC Power Rankings (November)

Time for the first installment of our usually thrice annual ECAC power rankings. We don't publish after October, because the Ivies don't have enough games to fully evaluate, and we don't publish after February, because the league standings are ranking enough at that point.

Generally speaking, these power rankings are a reflection on each team's entire body of work, not just their activity in league play, but there is a premium placed on performance in league games. It's not perfect, but it's at least a generally agreeable method for sussing out who's hard and who's soft when it comes to the ECAC.

Enjoy.

1. Harvard - It's been said for quite some time that Harvard has a talented team, and they're finally starting to prove it. The way they've opened their season, they're not just the best team in the league so far, they're one of the very best teams in the country (and the country should be used to the top ECAC team having that role by now). 6th in the nation in both offense and defense, 2nd in power play and 4th in penalty kill, there's just not too many places where the Crimson are failing right now. Finally, they're living up to the promise of their talent because they're playing like a team.

2. Yale - This may end up being a team that lives and dies with its defense, but if so, they're off to a solid start. The "three-goal" rule has applied very strictly to the Bulldogs. They're undefeated when they give up two or fewer goals, they've yet to nab even a draw when they allow three or more. The offense isn't going to remind anyone of the national championship run, not yet, anyway. That makes this a different Yale team. In the recent past, they've needed to get just enough out of their defense to get by. That's been turned on its head lately. Will it last? We'll see.

3. St. Lawrence - The question marks that this team had to start the season are being filled in, and quickly. Kyle Hayton already has half as many shutouts in 14 games as his predecessor put together in 132. The "scoring by committee" that RPI is seeking is actually taking place in Canton, and in spades: all but six skaters on the team have at least two goals, and one of those six leads the team with 10 assists. That combines to make this young team dangerous. If they keep it up, the future is extremely bright.

4. Quinnipiac - Their thief-in-the-night journey to the Capital District notwithstanding, there's still been a great deal to like about the Bobcats' early showings. While they've turned in some games that leave one scratching their heads, Quinnipiac has proven that they have the chops to compete. While neither the offense or the defense has left anyone dumbfounded yet this season, they've done enough to have themselves in first place by themselves, and that's never a bad place to be. There's room for improvement, but a strong power play and their results thus far have put the Bobcats in a good place moving forward. Right now, that's enough.

5. Dartmouth - Want to turn some heads in college hockey this season? Keep a team with Jack Eichel on it from scoring any goals whatsoever. The Big Green did that last weekend by shutting out Boston University and moved themselves up considerably from where they might have been otherwise on that feat alone. When the offense is clicking, and it usually has been, the Big Green have been winning games. Now the defense is starting to come along as well, and that's always a good combination to have.

6. Colgate - The Raiders' offense has been mostly as advertised (although they've had some rough outings), but the defense, especially since the start of the ECAC season, has been uneven at best. Still, there are a lot of teams that wish they could be playing as well as Colgate has - it's just that expectations in Hamilton were higher than what they've rolled out thus far. Many of the Raiders' victories this season have come against tomato cans - only two of their 10 combined wins and ties have been against teams with records over .500. Not their fault, and it does show they're winning games they must win, but the defense needs to better than its lately been.

7. Cornell - The Big Red are already making some serious strides in the right direction, and in a turn of events that will shock no one, it's defense that is leading the way. As mentioned in our Cornell preview, they played one of the nation's most lowest scoring schedules last year, and only Northern Michigan games have been more low-scoring than Cornell's so far. That's actually been increased in the last couple of weeks - only nine goals were scored combined in the Big Red's first four games of the season. They could be dangerous if they start scoring with some consistency.

8. RPI - Far too wildly inconsistent to be ranked any higher than this. They've been shut out five times and as good as the defense has frequently shown that it can be, they haven't produced any of their own (although they've limited the opposition to a single goal on six occasions). The Engineers walk a razor's edge when they are playing well (they're 5-2-1 in games decided by two or fewer goals) and when they're bad, they're very bad (1-7 in games decided by three or more). This has to improve if they're going to take advantage of their early positioning.

9. Clarkson - Inconsistent is a good word to use for the Golden Knights as well. They've had good nights offensively. They've also been shut out three times. The defense has been on more often than it's been off, but it hasn't strung together any real solid runs outside of ECAC play. Fortunately for Clarkson, they're in a strong position after six games in the league, which gives them something to build upon. If the offense can even get to a point where it, like the defense, is merely on more than off, they're in contention for a top four spot.

10. Union - A strong start to the season has been blunted by a sputtering start to the league schedule. After rattling off five non-conference wins to start the year, the Dutchmen have encountered difficulties on both sides of the puck. They followed up their long winning streak, which included last year's national championship, with a six-game winless stretch, which included a throttling at the hands of RPI and most recently, an 8-2 drubbing by Western Michigan. At the very least, there are signs of potential all around for Union, including the revival of its power play, so they may not stay down for long.

11. Princeton - That the Tigers aren't bringing up the rear based on how their season has gotten out of the gate is more a testament to how badly the bottom-ranked team has played and not a statement on Princeton being better than expected, since they were roundly picked to be the worst team in the conference. They've been on that level, but they've been beaten to the bottom, so to speak. The Tigers have the nation's worst offense and the defense is in the bottom 10. Frankly, if it wasn't for their wins over Cornell and Michigan State, they'd be sitting in the spot most expected of them.

12. Brown - Before the season started, we asked Brown to "show us first" before we placed them as high as some of the preseason rankings suggested they were capable. This is why. The offense is far too reliant on a limited number of players and has been roundly ineffective - only Princeton's goal generating has been worse nationally. Defensively, the puck just isn't being kept out, and the nation's worst penalty kill isn't helping. Put together, only Colorado College has a worse scoring margin differential than the Bears, and they simply haven't been competitive in most of their games.