Thursday, November 5, 2009

at Union (Oct 30), Army (Oct 31)

All of the attention last weekend was on the trip down Route 7 to visit the "kid brother," and that game certainly provided a significant amount of fireworks to breathe some life into the "rivalry" that is RPI-Union. Military Appreciation Night at the Field House the next night, by contrast, wasn't talked about that much. Afterwards, it seems like the roles were reversed despite an exciting Friday game in Schenectady.

Union
Angers-Goulet/Polacek/Lee
D'Amigo/Pirri/O'Grady
Cullen/Malchuk/Rabbani
Halpern/Kerins/Smith

Bergin/Foss
Kennedy/Merth
Brutlag/Burgdoerfer

York

The game at Achilles was back and forth all night long and no one team ever had a real firm control of flow, making for a heck of an entertaining game. The Engineers did not score on a power play that started 2 minutes into the game, and halfway through the period, almost successive penalties to Jerry D'Amigo and Brandon Pirri gave the Dutchmen two power play chances.

With Pirri's penalty running down, Union's Wayne Simpson took a quick shot that was saved by Allen York, but he picked up the rebound and moved it around the RPI sophomore, who was stuck on his knees and unable to move with the shot, giving Union the 1-0 lead. Pirri would make amends just 1:25 later, though, taking a nice pass from D'Amigo on a 2-on-1 break to even things up. The Engineers' fans chanted "BRAN-DON PIR-RI!" loud enough to resonate in the small
rink.

A Union penalty early in the 2nd period gave RPI their 3rd power play of the night and Chase Polacek cashed in on it, putting the Engineers up 2-1. But about three minutes later, Union evened things back up on a goal scored through persistence - York made a couple of saves, but Union continued to bash away in the scrum and Stephane Boileau got credit for putting it between York's pads to tie the game at two.

Late in the 2nd, Union took the lead again on a very nice goal that even impressed me. Mario Trabucco made a nice move to evade his defender, took the pass from Boileau at the top of the left faceoff circle, and blasted a wide open shot that York was just screened enough on to miss despite a clear shooting lane for Trabucco.

The Engineers worked furiously to tie things back up, but were hampered by sloppy play from Pirri, who took back-to-back penalties midway through the 3rd, even though he almost scored right out of the box on the first one. The Engineer penalty kill weathered the storm, though - they'd go 4 for 5 total on the night - and with about 4 and a half minutes left to play, Boileau was sent off for interference. Appert called timeout, and the power play went to work. It was Bryan Brutlag, playing strong in his capacity as power play quarterback, who would blast home a pass from Paul Kerins at the point to tie the game with about 3 minutes left.

In overtime, it was Chase Polacek once again, this time scoring off the rebound, giving Kerins his second consecutive first assist and giving the Engineers a huge victory in the lion's den.

Army
D'Amigo/Pirri/O'Grady
Lee/Polacek/Halpern
Cullen/Malchuk/Rabbani
Angers-Goulet/Kerins/Smith

Kennedy/Merth
Brutlag/Burgdoerfer
Bergin/Foss

Merriam

The next night, it looked early on like the Engineers were primed for a second straight weekend sweep - something they hadn't accomplished in two years (and actually included 3 of the same 4 teams). RPI began an all out barrage of shots on the Black Knights, aided by a pair of early power plays.

Six minutes into the game, while on their second power play, the Engineers struck, and it was Chase Polacek from Paul Kerins yet again, giving Polacek 3 goals on the weekend and Kerins the first assist on three straight RPI goals.

From there, through the end of the second period, the Engineers were getting the shots and keeping Army locked down, but were unable to score despite repeated power play opportunities. After 40 minutes, RPI was 1-for-4 on the man advantage and had successfully killed five straight penalties against what looked like a very weak power play from the Black Knights.

As time went on, it was apparent that finishing was the issue. After 2 periods, the Engineers led in shooting 26-9, but they were only up 1-0 and were increasingly allowing Army to hang around.

The Knights finally broke through early in the beginning of an atrocious third period by the Engineers, during which RPI looked extremely lethargic and uninterested. Two minutes in, a quick transition ended with an Army goal on only their 10th shot of the game, tying it at one. Then, after a penalty to D'Amigo, the still weak Army power play managed to score one on a very lazy penalty kill by the Engineers, especially from Erik Burgdoerfer who was beaten very badly, to make it 2-1 Army despite near total domination by RPI in every other meaningful category.

Falling behind didn't seem to spur the Engineers into action, however. They still had problems finishing and could not convert two late power play chances. Despite a game-high 14 shots in the third period, and a total shot difference of 40-16, the Engineers went down to a 2-1 loss, giving Army a 3-point weekend against ECAC teams (they had tied Colgate 4-4 the previous night). Army goaltender Jay Clark had a phenomenal night, but much of the blame still rests with the inability of the Engineers to score on their chances.

Other junk - Union's second consecutive heartbreaking loss sees them getting no more love from the pollsters, natch. Ranked this week in the ECAC are #5 Cornell (up one despite needing overtime to beat Niagara), this week's opponent Yale, the 6th best team in the nation (up one, with one first place vote) and #14 Princeton (down three after beating Brown but getting trashed by Yale). Quinnipiac fell out of the top 20, gaining 53 votes, and Harvard gained 22 votes. Ranked future opponents of the Engineers include #4 Michigan, #7 Boston University, and #17 Michigan State.

Chase Polacek was nominated for ECAC Player of the Week and would have won if not for Harvard sophomore Alex Killorn's 2 goal, 1 assist effort in an actual ECAC game. Jerry D'Amigo was also nominated for ECAC Rookie of the Week.

Now that the first month's in the bag, here are my observations about the team.

York - He's stepped up and assumed the mantle that was expected of him as the firm first-string goaltender. Still needs to work on giving up fewer tasty rebounds.

Pirri and D'Amigo - As advertised. They're fast. They score goals. Both of them, however, need to work on taking fewer penalties, especially Pirri.

Cullen and Lee - They're doing everything right, working hard, and creating chances, but they're snakebitten, it seems. If they keep doing what they're doing, though, they'll start scoring.

Brutlag and Bergin - Both of these guys have really stepped up on the power play and are doing well defensively as well.

Foss and Kennedy - Kennedy had a poor game against Army, but has been otherwise strong. Foss is an absolute rock for the Engineer defense.

I've been impressed with the play of Marty O'Grady, Joel Malchuk, Justin Smith, Josh Rabbani, Tyler Helfrich, and of course, Chase Polacek. Guys I am disappointed in so far are Erik Burgdoerfer, Scott Halpern, and to a lesser extent Peter Merth.

This week is the first week of the far more important games - the ECAC league games. As always, the first ECAC game at home is Black Friday, and the Engineers put their unbeaten Black Friday record on the line against a very difficult foe - the Yale Bulldogs. Yale is favored to win a second consecutive league title by both the media and the coaches polls. On Saturday, RPI entertains Brown and will add Bob Brinkworth to the Hockey Ring of Honor during the first intermission. Brinkworth currently coaches the Florida Gulf Coast University club hockey team,
they take on Siena tonight in Loudonville.

Some injury news to report - Tyler Helfrich's ankle has not healed enough to allow him to return to the lineup this weekend, and RPI will also now be without physical forward Josh Rabbani either. Rabbani apparently hurt his shoulder in the Army game. Helfrich, on the other hand, "would play if this were the national tournament," according to Appert, which is a good indication that he is at least improving.

RPI at Union
Non-Conference Game - Achilles Center (Schenectady, NY)
10/30/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 4, Union 3 (OT)
BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats: http://www.collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/mrenuni1.o30
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/box/?date=20091030&vis=rpi&home=uc&gender=m
RECAPS
RPI: http://www.rpiathletics.com/news/2009/10/30/MHOCK_1030095421.aspx
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/recaps/20092010/m/10/30/rpi-uc.php
Troy Record:
http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/10/31/sports/doc4aebc51652fe3044907166.t\
xt

Albany Times-Union:
http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=860045
RECORD: 4-2-1 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Chase Polacek, 2 goals (GWG), 1 assist
2. F Paul Kerins, 2 assists, 2 shots, +1
3. D Bryan Brutlag, 1 goal, 3 shots

Army at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/31/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: Army 2, RPI 1
BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats: http://www.collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/marmren1.o31
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/box/?date=20091031&vis=army&home=rpi&gender=m
RECAPS
RPI: http://www.rpiathletics.com/news/2009/10/31/MHOCK_1031093523.aspx
Troy Record:
http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/10/31/sports/doc4aed05249c039231390523.t\
xt

Albany Times-Union:
http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=860314
RECORD: 4-3-1 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Chase Polacek, 1 goal
2. F Brandon Pirri, 7 shots
3. F Jerry D'Amigo, 5 shots

Upcoming Games
06 Nov - #6 Yale (Black Friday)
07 Nov - Brown
13 Nov - at Clarkson
14 Nov - at St. Lawrence
18 Nov - at Niagara

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