The 59th annual RPI Holiday Tournament provided for us the last really good opportunity to work out some kinks before some very important home ECAC games. While the final result was disappointing - and a key player was lost to injury - there's still quite a lot of good to take away from the weekend, which saw the Engineers pick off Bentley 5-2 before dropping an overtime thriller to Union, 5-4.
The big news ahead of this game was that sophomore Allen York would be out with a sore shoulder, an injury that had been previously unknown. Coach Appert remarked that if it had been an ECAC game, York would have been good to go, but in keeping with the relatively unimportant nature of the weekend, he decided to rest his top goaltender and give Bryce Merriam his third start of the season. Also missing was Mike Bergin, who it was hoped would be back for the Niagara game, but would ultimately miss both games this weekend as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered in the Clarkson game. Some good news was seen up front, however, as Tyler Helfrich and C.J. Lee rejoined the lineup for the first time in several games, giving RPI a solid three scoring lines, especially with the benchings of Alex Angers-Goulet and Patrick Cullen at an end.
RPI got the scoring started in the first period on the power play when Brandon Pirri hit Chase Polacek with a cross-ice pass that Polacek promptly one-timed to the back of the net to put the Engineers up 1-0. It was Polacek's 10th goal of the season, and the goal made it the seventh game in the last eight that Polacek had dented the twine.
With about two minute to go in the first period, RPI made it 2-0 on a nifty goal by junior Joel Malchuk. After a shot from the boards by Scott Halpern, the puck took a big bounce off Bentley netminder Kyle Rank in Malchuk's direction. Malchuk, falling backwards, poked the puck into the net practically from his back for his first goal of the season.
The Engineers dominated offense in the first two periods but wasn't loading up on the goals until late in the second. RPI's third goal came on a coast-to-coast play by Jerry D'Amigo. On a play that looked like D'Amigo was fading to Rank's left side and trying to dish to Marty O'Grady, the puck instead deflected off a Bentley player and into the net, making it 3-0. Just 48 seconds later, the Engineers would score again as Halpern drove to the net and had his shot saved by Rank, but Malchuk was right there on the doorstep to put it home for his second goal of the game, putting RPI up 4-0.
The game was well in hand at that point, though Bentley would get themselves on the scoreboard late in the second, when Bobby Preece scored to make it 4-1 (RPI 2011 recruit Patrick Koudys's cousin, Dan Koudys, had an assist on the goal). Then, early in the third period, with Preece in the penalty box, the Engineers gave up their first shorthanded goal of the season to make it 4-2. RPI bounced back quickly, though, as Alex Angers-Goulet scored his first goal of the season on an "alley oop" pass from Paul Kerins at the blue line. Angers-Goulet basically redirected the long pass into the net to give RPI a 5-2 lead. That would be the final score - the third consecutive time the Engineers have won by that score in a Friday game. RPI had a good game on the margins as well, as they took only two penalties in the entire game, the second of which was cut short by a Bentley penalty. Four of the five goals scored were at even strength, another good sign.
Allen York's shoulder was feeling better the next day, so he was inserted back into the lineup for the championship game. However, C.J. Lee was back out of the lineup, this time with a wrist injury as he took a slash from the Bentley goaltender on Friday. Mike Bergin was still missing from the lineup.
There was a great amount of hope as the game started that this would finally be the year that the Engineers would earn the gold in their own tournament. Union had played a lackluster 0-0 tie against Lake Superior State the previous day, advancing only on a 1-0 shootout win. They were also missing all of their top four scorers, each serving a team suspension for a violation of team rules. With York back in net, it seemed like the stars were arranging for the Engineers.
The first period might have been one of the most atrocious - Appert would later call it "immature" - periods RPI has played all year. Despite dominating play early on, the Engineers were unable to be the first to beat Union goaltender Keith Kincaid on the weekend.
The discipline issue was what became the initial problem, and the penalty kill problem reared its ugly head again. Practically back to back penalties for hooking were assessed to Malchuk and Polacek, giving the Dutchmen an extended 5-on-3 chance, and as has been the norm practically, the opposition capitalized, as Mike Schreiber scored to put Union up 1-0. Just 15 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Bryan Brutlag was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct after a foolish headbutt, giving Union another 5-on-3, and this one was also capitalized on. 3 seconds after Polacek was released from the box to officially make it 5-on-4, Jeremy Welsh made it 2-0 Union - with the Engineers still effectively dealing with a 5-on-3 situation.
After failing to score on a power play chance just after going down 2-0, the Engineers would fall even farther behind as Kyle Bodie scored his first of the year with 5 minutes left in the 3rd as Union went up 3-0. Everything was going the Dutchmen's way. Even worse, freshman phenom Jerry D'Amigo left the game late in the period and did not return.
The second period was much more even throughout, but Union maintained their 3-goal edge throughout most of the period. The slow climb back began late in the 2nd period as RPI got a power play chance with about three minutes left in the period. Sophomore Josh Rabbani got his second goal of the season after pulling the puck out of a scrum on the boards and making a nice move before rifling it from the right-side faceoff dot to get RPI on the board, 3-1. Just before the 2nd intermission, Union was called for too many men, giving the Engineers a power play opportunity with fresh ice in the third.
The comeback continued on that power play, as Brandon Pirri took a shot from the left-side faceoff dot during the first minute of the third that evaded Kinkaid, making it 3-2 and putting RPI right back into the game. Both teams would get another power play opportunity during the first half of the third, but Union remained up by one.
With about four minutes left in the game, Paul Kerins was shown the door for boarding on what may have been a borderline call, except that the player had his back turned to Kerins before the hit, so the referee pretty much had to make the call. As it was, the penalty alone made completing the comeback much more difficult, but just four seconds later, Jason Walters scored to put Union up 4-2. With only four minutes left to play, it seemed pretty grim for the Engineers.
But Kerins would gain instant redemption. Just 45 seconds later, after a sweeping wrap-around attempt by Angers-Goulet, Kerins would pick up a rebound and throw it into the net to make it 4-3. That was just the beginning of his atonement.
With York pulled for the extra attacker, Union's Stephane Boileau would get called for an obvious tripping call to give RPI a late power play. Appert elected to leave York out of the net for the last 30 seconds of the game, calling timeout to set up the play. The Engineers swarmed, looking for the tying goal, and it was Paul Kerins who would ultimately score on a pass from Polacek as time expired in the third. Technically, the goal came at 19:59.9 of the third period, as RPI tied the game at the last possible moment to force overtime.
Things continued to seem bright in the overtime period. Union's Mike Wakita was called for contact to the head elbowing, giving the Engineers a rare overtime power play, but they were unable to generate the winning goal. Just a few seconds after the power play expired, Union's Jason Walters would score a nifty goal, his second of the game, on a rising shot that evaded York to give Union the 5-4 victory and their first RPI Tournament championship.
The overtime goal was quite a buzzkill, but the game still displayed more about the Engineers that we are continuing to see in them. They fell behind 3-0 but refused to quit, even when facing a 2-goal deficit with four minutes to play, even with the final seconds ticking off the clock, they continued to focus on the task at hand. Last year, this game would have easily been over after the first period, especially with an injury to a key element.
Clearly, the penalty kill has got to improve. Union was 3-for-6 on the man advantage, with two of them being assisted by bonehead penalties from upperclassmen to create 5-on-3 chances. Saturday games are also becoming a major point of contention, as RPI has not played a convincing game on Saturday night to date, though the "sixth period" issue took a vacation this weekend, as RPI played with all desperate attention in the third period against Union. It was more of a "fourth period" problem this go round.
Easily the biggest lasting negative from the Union game was the injury to Jerry D'Amigo. He has been diagnosed with an MCL sprain, an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for three crucial ECAC home games and the trip to BU.
This week, focus turns to what are more than likely going to be three of the most difficult home matchups remaining on the schedule - Cornell on Friday, Colgate on Saturday, and followed quickly by a return from the Dutchmen next Wednesday. Six big league points will be on the line in the span of six days, and none of the games figure to be easy, especially with D'Amigo missing from the lineup. A speedy return to game fitness for Mike Bergin and C.J. Lee would help out greatly, especially against Cornell. At this point, neither are confirmed to be in the lineup, but they have not yet been ruled out the way D'Amigo has.
Other junk - Surprising given the fact that the Engineers are 1-3-0 in their last four (all without Bergin, hint hint), the Engineers still managed to pull in 3 votes in this week's USCHO.com poll, which means there are 3 voters who think RPI's the 20th best team in the nation, or one who thinks they're #19 and one who think they're #20. Ranked ECAC teams are #4 Quinnipiac (up five with seven 1st place votes after beating Princeton and UMass), #7 Cornell (no change after beating Colgate and tying BU), and #10 Yale (up one after manhandling Sacred Heart and Holy Cross). Colgate (fell out from #20 after losing to Cornell, 20 votes), Union (tied Lake Superior State and beat RPI, 19 votes), and Princeton (lost to Quinnipiac, 1 vote) also received votes.
At this point, there's definitely some separation developing in the ECAC. It appears that there are a couple of tiers - the top tier, with Quinnipiac, Cornell, Colgate, RPI, Union, and Yale, and a lower tier with Princeton, Harvard, Clarkson, Dartmouth, and Brown. St. Lawrence is sitting in the middle; they could go either way.
Quinnipiac is ridiculous right now. They are 7-0-0 in the ECAC and 12-1-0 overall, the best record in the nation. They came into the season with major question marks in net, but there are no questions anymore. Their offense has been superb, and we sit here on the last day of NOVEMBER and the Bobcats are likely to, for all intents and purposes, lock up a home ice playoff spot before the New Year. At this point, they could go .500 the rest of the season and more than likely still have a first-round bye. That's how dominating they have been.
Chase Polacek now has a nine game point-scoring streak going back to the first Union game (8 goals, 8 assists). His 20 total points have him tied for 6th in the nation in that category. His 10 goals place him 7th nationally, 5 power play goals at 6th, and 10 assists is tied for 24th in the nation.
G Keith Kincaid, Union
D Simon Gysbers, Lake Superior State
D Mike Schreiber, Union
F Paul Kerins, RPI
F Kelly Zajac, Union
F Chase Polacek, RPI
MVP Jason Walters, F, Union
F Jerry D'Amigo (MCL sprain) - will miss next four games
F C.J. Lee (wrist) - has missed four of the last five
D Mike Bergin (concussion) - has missed four straight games
G Allen York (sore shoulder) - missed one game, played last game
1. Quinnipiac - 14 pts
2. Cornell - 10 pts
3. Colgate - 9 pts
4. RPI - 6 pts (4 games, 3 wins)
5. Union - 6 pts (4 games, 2 wins)
6. Yale - 6 pts (5 games)
7. St. Lawrence - 6 pts (6 games)
8. Princeton - 5 pts
9. Harvard - 4 pts
10. Clarkson - 3 pts
11. Dartmouth - 2 pts
12. Brown - 1 pt
By Winning Pct. (points/possible)
1. Quinnipiac 1.000 (14/14)
T-2 RPI and Union .750 (6/8)
4. Cornell .714 (10/14)
5. Colgate .643 (9/14)
6. Yale .600 (6/10)
7. St. Lawrence .500 (6/12)
8. Princeton .357 (5/14)
9. Harvard .286 (4/14)
10. Clarkson .250 (3/12)
11. Dartmouth .143 (2/14)
12. Brown .100 (1/10)
Bentley at RPI
RPI Holiday Tournament First Round - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/27/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 5, Bentley 2
College Hockey Stats: http://www.collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/mbenren1.n27
Troy Record: http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/11/28/sports/doc4b10c58fe6d38237660139.txt
Albany Times-Union: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=871144&category=SPORTS
Schenectady Gazette: http://www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/schott/2009/nov/27/rpi-bentley-postgame-report/
Post-game Press Conference: http://www.youtube.com/user/RPIathletics#p/u/1/RP7bQOWUMRw
Full replay, streaming: http://www.rpitv.org/productions/2009/11/27/RPI-Men-s-Hockey-vs-Bentley-59th-Annual-RPI-Holiday-Tournament
RECORD: 8-5-1 (3-1-0 ECAC, 6 pts)
1. F Joel Malchuk, 2 G, 2 shots
2. D Bryan Brutlag 2 A, 2 shots, +1
3. F Jerry D'Amigo, 1 G, 1 A, 4 shots
Union at RPI
RPI Holiday Tournament Championship - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/28/09 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: Union 5, RPI 4 (OT)
College Hockey Stats: http://www.collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/mrenuni1.n28
Troy Record: http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/11/28/sports/doc4b11fe98f1801394713539.txt
Albany Times-Union: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=871422&category=SPORTS
Schenectady Gazette: http://www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/schott/2009/nov/29/union-rpi-postgame-report/
WNYT-TV (Albany): http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S1279632.shtml?cat=300
Post game Press Conference: http://www.youtube.com/user/RPIathletics#p/u/0/B-Ze5GBvr4E
Full replay, streaming: http://www.rpitv.org/productions/2009/11/28/RPI-Men-s-Hockey-vs-Union-59th-Annual-RPI-Holiday-Tournament-Championship-Game
RECORD: 8-6-1 (3-1-0 ECAC, 6 pts)
1. F Paul Kerins, 2 G, 1 A, 5 shots
2. F Josh Rabbani, 1 G, 1 A, 3 shots
3. F Brandon Pirri, 1 G, 6 shots
04 Dec - #7 Cornell
05 Dec - Colgate
09 Dec - Union
11 Dec - at Boston University
29 Dec - vs. Michigan (Detroit, MI)
Rensselaer went 1-1-0 last week, topping Bentley (5-2) in the semifinal round of the 59th Annual Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, before falling to Union (5-4) in overtime in the Championship Game on Saturday. Senior Paul Kerins (Weston, ON) had a five-point tournament, posting two goals and three assists, while making the All-Tournament Team.
RPI (8-6-1; 3-1-0 ECAC Hockey) is back to league play this weekend, when it hosts seventh-ranked Cornell on Friday (7pm) and Colgate on Saturday (4pm). Live stats for both games will be available at http://www.sidearmstats.com/rpi/mhockey/index.htm and can also be seen live on a pay-per-view basis with B2 Networks at http://www.b2livetv.com/. The games will also be broadcast courtesy of WRPI radio on 91.5 FM or log on to www.wrpi.org and click on sports. Friday’s game will be Whiteout! at the Houston Field House, while Saturday’s contest will be Teddy Bear Toss Night as well as Skate with the Engineers after the game.