Wednesday, October 14, 2009

at UMass (Oct 8), New Hampshire (Oct 10)

Game on! The regular season is now underway - at least, the non-conference chunk of it is. The ECAC schedule doesn't kick off until the first weekend in November. Those will be the games that truly matter, but October's a time for building street cred, and although Thursday's game in Amherst didn't do much on those lines, the game in Troy certainly did.

I got a one word text message from a friend who was present at both games (which I would have been at, had I not been in Ohio). "LEGIT," he said.




The Minutemen and Engineers officially began the NCAA's 2009-10 schedule when Chase Polacek and Casey Wellman met at center ice at Mullins Center in Amherst for the opening faceoff. It didn't take long for Hockey East's famous referees to take center stage, however. Marty O'Grady was called for a trip just 1:46 into the game, and the teams would combine for five power play chances in the first 16 minutes of the game. Flow? What's that?

Despite three early penalty kills, the Engineers dominated early on and got on the board first. Seconds after a power play ended, Tyler Helfrich scooped up a loose puck in front of the net after a flurry of shots and put it home. RPI outshot UMass 16-6 in the first period despite having to kill four penalties, and led 1-0 after one.

Early in the second, the Minutemen got on the board after penalties to Brandon Pirri and O'Grady 14 seconds apart gave UMass a 5-on-3 power-play. With a 5-on-3 that long, it's usually only a matter of time, and the Minutemen did respond with a goal to tie it up. 5 minutes later, Paul Kerins was in the box for interference, and it took only 15 seconds for the Minutemen to make it 2-1. Appert then called time-out, probably to implore his charges to stop taking
penalties - the Engineers had 7 penalties at that point, and the game wasn't even halfway through.

The timeout didn't change much, though, as UMass made it 3-1 just two minutes later with their only even-strength goal of the night. In another two minutes, Bryan Brutlag was off for holding, giving UMass their 8th man-advantage of the night against 3 for RPI to that point.

Late in the period, the Engineers finally got a couple of chances on the power play, and they cashed in on the second one. Helfrich won the faceoff in the zone to start the power play and got it to Jerry D'Amigo, who rifled it to the back of the net for his first goal as an Engineer (hopefully the first of many!). Despite a tough period, the Engineers were only down one heading into the third, but they were guaranteed to start the next period in a hole - Pirri and Erik Burgdoerfer would be called for penalties 20 seconds apart very late in the 2nd, setting up a second long 5-on-3 for UMass in the 3rd.

Just like the first time around, it was only a matter of time. 20 seconds into the 3rd, the Minutemen scored their second 5-on-3 goal of the night. At that point, it was academic. Brutlag went back to the box midway through the period following a matching minor and UMass iced it with a 4th power play goal, this time 4-on-3. The Minutemen finished the night 4-for-11 on the man advantage (3 scored with two Engineers in the box), while RPI was 1-for-7.

Observers at the game remarked that the referees really never allowed flow to exist in the game at all - 18 penalties will do that - but that they were also overly picky, calling practically everything. Whatever the cause, the Engineers really never got a chance to execute their gameplan. Whether that was more RPI's fault or the referees is up for discussion.

New Hampshire



Two nights later, UNH skated into Troy for the home opener. The Wildcats always start their seasons with high expectations, although this one was a little lower than usual, coming in with a #16 national ranking. It was also the opening game of the season for New Hampshire.

Early on, it was obvious that the referees weren't overly interested in a repeat of the show their Hockey East brethren put on the previous night. Both teams had an early power play, but that was about it. 14 minutes in, the Engineers took the early lead for the second consecutive game as sophomore Josh Rabbani did what he does best - hang out in front of the net as the unmovable object, waiting to take out the trash. In this case, the rebound was provided by UNH goaltender Brian Foster, who couldn't hang onto a shot from the left wing by Polacek.

The Engineer penalty kill was mostly lockdown all night. Into the second period, RPI killed the first four penalties they took, but UNH would tie it about 9 minutes into the middle frame after freshman C.J. Lee was sent off on a trip. With time expiring in the penalty kill, UNH's Bobby Butler scored to tie the score at one. The Wildcats dominated the play in the second period, 16 shots to 5, but the period ended 1-1.

In the past, we've seen RPI start out well against top teams before crumpling in the third, but if Saturday was any indication, that may be a thing of the past as team fitness appears to be quite high. The Engineers found their second wind as the third period started and got a boost from UNH early on. 2 minutes in, RPI got a four-minute power play when UNH's Phil DeSimone hit the box for hooking and roughing. Brutlag took a shot from the blueline that Foster again could not handle, and this time it was Polacek's turn to scoop up the rebound and put it in.

Six and a half minutes later, the Engineers got some insurance shortly after killing off a penalty. Helfrich, coming out of the box, took control of the puck and got it to Brutlag, whose shot was saved by Foster, but yet again, the UNH netminder left a juicy rebound. This one wasn't left in front of the net, but rather popped out to sophomore defenseman Mike Bergin on the left side. Bergin slammed it home for his first goal as an Engineer.

Allen York was tremendous in net, showing the confidence he needs to be "the man" in goal for RPI. He made 37 stops on 38 shots to be a key part of the win. You don't always want your defense to start in net and radiate out from there (the opposite is usually more effective, see Cornell), but it's always good to have a guy who's going to keep the puck out as your final line of defense.

Early on, we're already seeing a trend developing. Although the penalty kill has at least been fair - 13 for 18 on the weekend, though 3 of the failures were with 3 defenders in Amherst - the team allowed only a single even-strength goal in 120 minutes of hockey against Hockey East foes on the weekend. Staying out of the box is going to be key for this team. If they can do that... watch out for the Engineers.

Other junk - The win over UNH earned RPI a tiny bit of recognition in the Week 1 poll. The Engineers earned 2 votes, which meant either 1 of 40 voters chose them to be 19th in the nation, or 2 chose them 20th. Like I said, not much. Cornell, despite the fact that their season doesn't start until the end of October, moved from 7th to 6th, largely because Notre Dame fell to 7th thanks to their opening night home loss to Alabama-Huntsville. Yale is still in 8th, and Quinnipiac rode a very impressive road sweep at formerly ranked Ohio State into the rankings, now at #18. Union's home sweep of a Maine team which is still riding its high reputation but is actually horrifyingly bad this year gave them 55 points, Harvard (17), Colgate (5), and SLU (4) also received votes. With the loss, New Hampshire is now unranked.

Also worth mentioning, this year's Hockey Ring of Honor inductee is Bob Brinkworth, class of '64. He will be inducted on November 7, the night after Black Friday. In 71 games (back then, you couldn't play as a freshman), Bob scored 110 goals and 106 assists. He is third all-time in goals and points. He was a three-time All-ECAC first team, and was named ECAC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American in his junior and senior years. He currently lives in Florida, where he coaches the Florida Gulf Coast University club team, which hehas guided to five national championship game appearances since taking over in 2002. His team will be in the Capital District that weekend to take on Siena College - perhaps we should turn out and cheer him on!

The Engineers' next task is in the Last Frontier for their first ever trip to Fairbanks, AK. They will take on the Alaska Nanooks and the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. The Nanooks shocked the college hockey world last weekend, beating Michigan 2-0 in Anchorage, for which they were rewarded with a #17 national ranking.

RPI at UMass
Non-Conference Game - Mullins Center (Amherst, MA)
10/8/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: UMass 5, RPI 2
College Hockey Stats:
Troy Record:\

Albany Times-Union:
Springfield Republican:\

RECORD: 0-1-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Tyler Helfrich, 1 G, 1 A, 5 shots
2. F Jerry D'Amigo, 1 G, 5 shots
3. F Brandon Pirri 1 A, 3 shots

#16 New Hampshire at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/10/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 3, New Hampshire 1
College Hockey Stats:
Troy Record:\

Albany Times-Union:
RECORD: 1-1-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 37 saves on 38 shots
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 G, 1 A
3. D Bryan Brutlag, 2 A, +2

Upcoming Games
16 Oct - vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska Goal Rush, Fairbanks, AK)
17 Oct - at #17 Alaska
23 Oct - Sacred Heart
24 Oct - American International
30 Oct - at Union



Rensselaer opened their season with a loss to Massachusetts (5-2), but bounced back with a 3-1 win over #16 New Hampshire. Sophomore goalie Allen York (Wetaskiwin, AB) backstopped the Engineers to the win with 37 saves.

RPI is back on the ice this weekend at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks. The Engineers battle Alaska-Anchorage on Friday (8:35pm) and take on Alaska on Saturday at 11:35pm. Both games feature live stats at and can be seen live on a pay-per-view basis with B2 Networks at Both games will also be broadcast courtesy of WRPI radio on 91.5 FM or log on to and click on sports.

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