Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Prince Edward Island (Oct 3)

I have seen the dawning of a new age - and it was at quite possibly the most awesome and intense exhibition game I've ever been at, and I've been at exhibitions at St. Cloud State and Minnesota before. If the students are this raucous for a game that doesn't count... hoo boy.

RPI Lines
D'Amigo/Polacek/Cullen
Angers-Goulet/Pirri/Helfrich
Lee/O'Grady/Watts
Vassel/Malchuk/Smith

Bergin/Kennedy
Brutlag/Burgdoerfer
Foss/Merth

Kerins/Halpern
Zarbo

York

Seth Appert remarked to me, Chris Farrar, and Tim Vanderpoel in August that RPI might have the most knowledgeable student section in the country, and given what I saw last night, I'd have to agree. He cited, for instance, the fact that the Red Army and the band boos loudly whenever Harvard's Chris Huxley touches the puck when the Crimson are in town. Huxley, you may remember, committed to RPI and then bolted when Dan Fridgen resigned. As it turns out, he sucks, so I guess we dodged a bullet - yet our students know this and don't forget. This weekend, the same was true for the students and their knowledge of just how good the freshman class is supposed to be. And they were good. VERY good. As advertised.

The first period was a little rough. Passes were a little sloppy, and shots were mostly muffins at logos. PEI got on the board first after a defensive breakdown midway through the period -- mostly Erik Burgdoerfer - left Allen York out to dry. Then the Panthers took a couple of penalties in a row, and the RPI power play... well, it looked like it has for a couple of years running now. Nothing working at all. PEI led 1-0 after one.

The Panthers would score again early on in the second period to make it 2-0, and the upset stomach started to set in. Although Canadian college teams from the Maritimes are traditionally MUCH better than the ones from Ontario and Quebec, this wasn't supposed to be the way we started watching this freshman class. Was anything going to happen? Was the power play going to show any signs of improvement?

Two more PEI penalties later, and the Engineers were 0 for 4 on the man advantage, and down 2-0. Then, RPI got its 5th power play opportunity of the game when the Panthers' Greg Paynter went for contact-to-the-head roughing. That's when the Age of Pirri began at Houston Field House. And what an amazing start it had.

Tyler Helfrich rode a PEI player off the puck behind the net and shuttled it to Jerry D'Amigo. D'Amigo hit a nice pass off to Pirri, who brought his stick around his back to grab it, tucked it between his own legs to the forehand, and buried it. The fans went wild, and Pirri immediately raced over to the north side of the Field House, offering a big salute to Section 17.

It was still 2-1 heading into the third period. Early in the third, the Engineers finished off their third and final penalty kill of the night - they did well to keep the Panthers off the board on the advantage. Nine minutes into the period, Jordan Watts had a minor tussle with PEI's Connor Cameron which ended with Cameron's gloved hand punching Watts in the back of the net. Both went off, but the Red Army savaged Cameron as I have rarely heard before in Houston Field House - and I've been to almost 20 years of games there.

During the ensuing 4-on-4, the Engineers had a number of good chances early, but the Panthers regained their two-goal lead on a breakout to the other end, which was the only goal that freshman Bryce Merriam allowed on the night after replacing York at the start of the third.

Then the fun began. Mere seconds into their first power play since Pirri's goal, Jerry D'Amigo lit the lamp for his second point of the game, right off a face-off win by Chase Polacek. Under a minute later, the Engineers went back on the power play, and for the third time in as many opportunities, they got a power play goal from a freshman forward as Marty O'Grady tied it up at three, sending the student section into a frenzy. Twice down by two goals, the Engineers had fought back against a tough (and large) PEI team to tie it at three.

The PEI coach was livid at the referees following the O'Grady goal. He wanted a tripping call, and ventured out onto the ice to demand one while the Engineers were celebrating. There was indeed a penalty called, but it was a bench minor on the Panthers. On the ensuing power play, RPI looked close to taking the lead several times, including a shot by C.J. Lee, the last of the four big freshmen forwards without a goal on the evening, but he was robbed by the PEI goaltender, who kept his team in the game all night after a general barrage by the Engineers, who outshot the Panthers 36-29 on the night. RPI also ended at 3-for-8 on the power play, which bodes well for the season if they can keep it up.

The game went into overtime, and PEI dominated the 5 minute period, outshooting RPI 4-0, but they could not beat Merriam, who was solid in his 25 minutes of play. With a minute left, it was announced that there would be a 3-man shoot-out if the OT ended tied, prompting a student to call out "Are you just making this up as you go along?"

Despite being the home team, RPI shot first at the east end of the Field House. Brandon Pirri shot first, and, like Han, hit was he was shooting out, faking the PEI goaltender out of his pads with a head-fake and burying it high before coming around and doing the hockey equivalent of a jersey pop for the student section. You can tell this guy loves playing and is PUMPED to be in Troy.

Merriam responded at the other end with a save, but Chase Polacek could not score and PEI scored on the other end to make it 1-1. Tyler Helfrich then slipped one five-hole to give the Engineers a 2-1 advantage, and then Connor Cameron, the Red Army's favorite Panther, clanged one off the post to give RPI the shootout win.

PEI, in my opinion, was like Cornell on crack. Huge players who gum up the works with clutch and grab garbage tactics, but the Engineers prevailed with their speed, agility, and by taking shots. If they can get the defense into lockdown - Brutlag and Burgdoerfer especially - the Engineers will be in business. This is now a team that can score on any shift.

Kerins, Halpern, and Zarbo saw limited amounts of ice-time as they would not have been playing if not for the fact that it was an exhibition. It was a little curious that we didn't see Josh Rabbani playing, though. If he's healthy, I'd expect to maybe see him on the third line with Lee and O'Grady, or maybe on the 4th line, tomorrow night in Amherst as RPI faces UMass in the first official game of the 2009-10 NCAA men's hockey season. Quinnipiac also faces Ohio State on Thursday, but their faceoff is 5 minutes after RPI/UMass.

Other junk - The preseason USCHO.com poll is out, and everyone's sleeping on the Engineers. Sleeeeeeeeeep. Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep. SLEEEEEEEEEEP my enemies. Cornell is overrated as usual, leading the ECAC in the poll at 7th. Yale (8) and Princeton (10) are the only other ECAC teams ranked in the top 20. Harvard, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Union, and even Dartmouth and Quinnipiac all received votes, leaving RPI alone with only Colgate and Brown among ECAC teams that didn't get any votes. Do I think we're better than a lot of those teams? Yes I do. Sleeeeeeeeeep.

Speaking of sleep... RPI was picked 10th out of 12 teams by the ECAC media (ahead of Quinnipiac and Brown) and was tied for 8th in the coaches poll (with Quinnipiac and ahead of Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Brown). Your intrepid reporter had a vote in the media poll, and picked RPI 6th (though I think they CAN be better), and I'm also aware of another voter in the media poll who had RPI 7th. Given the way the votes shook out, that means there are some in the media who picked the Engineers LAST. That is mind-blowing to me. As bad as they've been, they've never been last, and there's no doubt that this year's team is eons better than last year's. SLEEEEEEEEP. PLEASE think of RPI as being a pushover.

UPEI at RPI
Exhibition Game
10/3/07 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 3, UPEI 3 (RPI wins SO, 2-1)
BOX SCORES -
College Hockey Stats: http://www.collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/mpeiren1.o03
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/box/?date=20091003&vis=other&home=rpi&gender=m
RECAPS -
RPI: http://www.rpiathletics.com/news/2009/10/3/MHOCK_1003095447.aspx
Troy Record:
http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/10/04/sports/doc4ac83113f1a79306396985.t\
xt

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

Reale Deals
1. F Jerry D'Amigo, 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots
2. F Brandon Pirri, 1 goal, 1 SO goal
3. F Marty O'Grady game-tying goal

Upcoming Games
8 Oct - at UMass
10 Oct - #16 New Hampshire
16 Oct - vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Alaska Goal Rush, Fairbanks, AK)
17 Oct - at Alaska
23 Oct - Sacred Heart

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MEN'S HOCKEY

Rensselaer scored three power play goals, including two in the third period, for a come-from-behind 3-3 tie and the Engineers won the shootout, 2-1, over Prince Edward Island in an exhibition game on Saturday. Three different freshmen scored for the Engineers, led by a goal and an assist from Jerry D'Amigo (Binghamton, NY).

RPI is back on the ice this week with a pair of games against Hockey East foes. RPI heads to Amherst to take on Massachusetts on Thursday and hosts New Hampshire on Saturday at Houston Field House. Both games begin at 7pm and feature a number of media options.

Live stats for Thursday's game can be found at http://www.umassathletics.com/sports/m-hockey/sched/umas-m-hockey-sched.html. Saturday's game will have live stats at http://www.sidearmstats.com/rpi/mhockey/ and can also be seen live on a pay-per-view basis with B2 Networks at http://www.b2livetv.com/. Both games will be broadcast courtesy of WRPI radio on 91.5 FM or log on to www.wrpi.org and click on sports.

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