Monday, February 22, 2010

Men's Hockey - Quinnipiac and Princeton (19/20 Feb)

It's maddening trying to figure out this team. They've come up big against top competition. They've laid big eggs against weak competition. The madness continued for Freakout weekend, as the Engineers got the job done with a solid showing against Quinnipiac, 5-3, before coming out and failing to win the Freakout for the fourth consecutive season, suffering the worst loss in the history of the game, 7-0 to 10th place Princeton.

Quinnipiac
Watts/Malchuk/Brutlag
Kerins/Pirri/O'Grady
D'Amigo/Polacek/Helfrich
Cullen/Angers-Goulet/Lee

Kennedy/Merth
Bergin/Foss
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

Merriam

Allen York's ankle reportedly made great strides over the course of the week, but he wasn't back to 100% by Friday and Bryce Merriam got the call. York did skate in the pre-game warmups, dressed, and sat on the bench, but would not see the ice all weekend.

Meanwhile, Tyler Helfrich was moved back to the top line with Jerry D'Amigo and Chase Polacek, and Bryan Brutlag was paired with Joel Malchuk, who has centered the fourth line all season long.

The first period was a wide open affair, as the referees allowed both teams to play, calling no penalties. This was equal parts enjoyable and frustrating, as they literally let quite a bit go.

Brandon Pirri got things going about 4 minutes in with his 10th goal of the season, from Marty O'Grady and Paul Kerins. About three minutes later, Quinnipiac got it back on a somewhat controversial goal as Scott Zurevinski put it past Merriam on what looked to be a high stick. The goal was allowed to stand, and it was 1-1.

10 minutes later, Chase Polacek got the fans pumped big time with an amazing putback of a Jerry D'Amigo shot taken from his knees. The "Hobey Baker" chant started ringing loud and clear throughout the Field House.

The 2-1 score held past the midway point of the 2nd period, when Brandon Pirri responded to a high stick in the face from Mike Dalhuisen with a slash. The referees called both players for penalties, ignoring Dalhuisen as he flailed around on the ice feigning injury. The matching minors created a long 4-on-4 opportunity, and the Engineers were the sole beneficiaries. D'Amigo would notch his 10th goal of the season 35 seconds later, and just under a minute after that, Alex Angers-Goulet would put in his 5th goal of the year, making it 4-1 RPI.

Merriam was strong for most of the game, but he allowed a goal on the power play late in the 2nd that was pretty soft as Quinnipiac captain Jean-Marc Beaudoin put one in from basically behind the net to make it 4-2 at the 2nd intermission.

Consecutive penalties to Dalhuisen - his second and third minors of the game - could not be capitalized on by the Engineers, but Zurevinski would get his second of the game with Pirri in the box on a poorly advised cross-check, making it 4-3 and instilling doubt in the RPI faithful still smarting from a lost lead in the previous game against Dartmouth.

The RPI D held firm, killing a penalty to Bryan Brutlag before getting a reprieve with Dalhuisen's fourth penalty of the night (his second slash), but the RPI power play could not convert.

A questionable cross-checking call against Polacek with just under 3 minutes to play gave Quinnipiac a key power play chance. The Bobcats pulled their goaltender immediately for a 6-on-4 situation. They held the zone for a significant part of the penalty, but could not get any decent shots at Merriam - a key hold for an RPI defense much maligned for its inability to defend a two-man disadvantage.

With the goalie still out of the net, RPI got the puck down in the Quinnipiac zone and killed a little bit of time before Polacek was able to throw the puck to junior captain John Kennedy at the point, and Kennedy ripped a shot that beat a defenseman five-hole and into the empty net for Kennedy's first career goal. Polacek dutifully retrieved the puck as the Engineers celebrated as though Kennedy had just scored a game winner in overtime - certainly one of the most wild celebrations for an empty netter you'll ever see.

The win, coupled with a SLU loss and a Colgate tie, put RPI alone in 4th place for the night. With Freakout and senior night on the horizon, it was looking like the bye could well be right within reach.

Princeton
D'Amigo/Polacek/Helfrich
Kerins/Pirri/O'Grady
Vassel/Malchuk/Watts
Cullen/Angers-Goulet/Lee

Kennedy/Merth
Bergin/Foss
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

Merriam

There's really not much to say about this game. I really don't want to say anything about it too substantial. No, I'm not just mailing it in on this one, the game was that depressing to be at. Yes, I am ending that sentence with a preposition.

RPI had a pair of short 5x3 opportunities in the 1st period but never got anything going. Merriam got plowed on the first Princeton goal (on the power play) and the Tigers led 1-0 at the first intermission.

Things got ridiculous in the 2nd period as Princeton scored three more times, each at even strength and the last two by a couple of guys who probably wouldn't be getting much playing time if not for the fact that Princeton has been decimated by injury.

It was 5-0 early in the third period when RPI got three power plays in relative succession and still couldn't find the net. Zane Kalemba, last year's Dryden Award winner who has been beyond horrendous this season, stopped 41 shots, in total, but most of them were not good shots. It was quantity over quality all night long. The power play going 0-for-8 didn't help matters.

The 50/50 raffle was called early in the 3rd, and immediately afterwards it was a mad dash to the exits with over 10 minutes left to go. The kind of thing that makes you embarrassed to be a fan.

With 4 minutes left and the team essentially no longer trying, Appert pulled Merriam in favor of sophomore Joey Harkenrider, who got the first real game action of his career. Unfortunately, this move only caused Princeton to lick their lips in anticipation - they scored on their first two shots against him about 30 seconds apart to make it 7-0, and they continued to push for another goal. Harkenrider would make a save on their final shot, but Princeton missed a wide open net in the dying seconds.

That sent Jerry D'Amigo - who'd already had to deal with his daily regimen of getting run two or three times - over the edge, and he laid an elbow into Taylor Fedun at the final whistle, precipitating a scrum right next to the RPI bench which saw 28 penalty minutes doled out, including 7 for Mike Bergin, who went after Rob Kleebaum. Not much else to say other than that it was good to see the team showing a little bit of pride considering they'd played the last 40 minutes as a beaten team. No game DQs were dished out and hopefully the league doesn't get involved and all the players involved will be available on Friday.

It was the worst loss in Freakout history, and gave Princeton a total goal edge of 12-0 in their last two Freakouts. The senior class, which was honored after the game, sadly, in front of a mostly empty Houston Field House, became the first group of seniors to never win a Freakout (they tied one), as the four-game winless streak is the longest in the history of the game and three consecutive losses ties for the longest in Freakout history, as the Engineers also dropped the 1980-82 Freakouts and the 1988-90 Freakouts. Those three streaks comprise 9 of the 10 all-time Freakout losses. Not good all around.

Fortunately, St. Lawrence bailed out the Engineers by tying Brown, but Colgate's victory moved them into a tie for 4th. They do still control their own destiny for the bye, but they absolutely must win on Friday in Hamilton or it's pretty much over. They can even clinch the bye on Friday if they win and Dartmouth beats SLU.

Colgate has all of 2 victories this season against teams with a better than .500 - RIT, who got there by beating up on their weak little league, and RPI, who in that game played their worst game of the season prior to Saturday. They win the tiebreaker with RPI in the event of a loss (which is why RPI would be eliminated for the bye if they lose), or a tie (which would necessitate points against Cornell the next night and hope for a Union win). RPI wins the tiebreaker if they win (which would eliminate Colgate for the bye, and would cause the Engineers to be worried only about SLU on Saturday).

There's a good chance that Cornell won't have anything to play for on Saturday (other than for positioning in the national tournament), so that's good. But we can't count on it. The Friday game is of paramount importance now. To be able to bounce back from such a horrible game with a big win would put this team right where they want to be.

Other junk - Who knew that getting blown out by Princeton at home would be looked down upon by the voters? Well... yeah. No votes for the Engineers this week. Ranked ECAC teams are #5 Yale (no change after sweeping SLU/Clarkson), #9 Cornell (up one after beating Harvard and losing to Dartmouth... yeah, I don't know either), and #15 Union (up one after sweeping QU/Princeton). Colgate got 2 votes after tying Dartmouth and beating Harvard, and SLU somehow still got 1 vote despite their third consecutive 1-point weekend.

Ranked non-conference opponents: #11 New Hampshire (up two), #12 Michigan State (no change), #17 Alaska (up three), and #20 Boston University (down one). Michigan and UMass dropped out of the rankings and got 10 and 7 votes respectively, while Sacred Heart took 7 votes.

The power play seems to have gone missing again. RPI was 0-for-12 on the weekend and is 0-for their last 16.

Chase Polacek still leads the nation in scoring with 49 points, but after getting shutout on Saturday shares the lead with Maine's Gustav Nyquist. He was passed by Sacred Heart's Nick Johnson for the goal scoring lead, is tied for 2nd with 24 along with UNH's Bobby Butler and Yale's Broc Little.

Brandon Pirri is the first freshman in the nation to reach 40 points, he leads Merrimack's Stephane Da Costa by two for the national lead.

Allen York is, at present, expected to play this weekend. He may have been healthy enough to play on Saturday, but if he was, Appert didn't want to risk his health with a huge weekend and the playoffs forthcoming.

Friday's gigantic game at Colgate will be airing live on the NHL Network. If you don't have it, demand it. The stakes are pretty high, you'll want to be watching.

ECAC Standings
1. Yale - 30 pts
2. Cornell - 28 pts (wins tiebreaker with Union)
3. Union - 28 pts
4. Colgate - 22 pts (wins tiebreaker with RPI)
5. RPI - 22 pts
6. St. Lawrence - 21 pts
7. Quinnipiac - 18 pts
8. Harvard - 17 pts
9. Princeton - 16 pts (wins tiebreaker with Brown)
10. Brown - 16 pts
11. Dartmouth - 14 pts
12. Clarkson - 8 pts

Quinnipiac at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/19/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 5, Quinnipiac 3

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
VIDEO
RECORD: 17-13-3 (10-7-2 ECAC, 22 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Chase Polacek, 1 G, 2 A
2. F Jerry D'Amigo, 1 G, 2 A
3. D John Kennedy, 1 G

Princeton at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/20/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: Princeton 7, RPI 0

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
RECORD: 17-14-3 (10-8-2 ECAC, 22 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Jerry D'Amigo
2. D Mike Bergin
3. G Joey Harkenrider

Upcoming Games
26 Feb - at Colgate
27 Feb - at #9 Cornell
05 Mar - ECAC First Round Game 1
06 Mar - ECAC First Round Game 2
07 Mar - ECAC First Round Game 3 (if necessary)
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Rensselaer went 1-1-0 last week, topping Quinnipiac (5-3) on Friday night, before dropping the 33rd Annual Bank of America Big Red Freakout! to Princeton (7-0) on Saturday. Two players recorded three-point games against the Bobcats, including junior Chase Polacek (Edina, MN), who notched a goal and two assists. RPI (17-14-3; 10-8-2 ECAC Hockey) concludes its regular season schedule this weekend, when they visit Colgate (7pm) and 10th-ranked Cornell (7pm) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Friday's match-up with Colgate will be televised locally on Time Warner Cable (Channel 3) as well as nationally on the NHL Network. Live stats for Friday’s contest will be available at http://sidearmstats.com/colgate/mhockey/index.htm. Live stats for Saturday’s contest will be available at http://livestats.internetconsult.com/cornell/mhockey/index.htm and live video will be available at http://www.cornellbigred.com/showcase/#liveevents. As is the case will all RPI men’s hockey games, both contests will be broadcast on the air courtesy of WRPI radio on 91.5 FM or log on to www.wrpi.org and click on sports.

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