Monday, February 8, 2010

Men's Hockey - St. Lawrence and Clarkson (5/6 Feb)

RPI took care of business for the most part on alumni weekend - which included an all-out, special tribute to the 1985 national championship team - not impressing for the second straight home weekend, but also taking 3 points for the second straight home weekend, earning a 3-3 tie with St. Lawrence before skating to an uninspired 2-1 victory over dead last Clarkson on Saturday.

St. Lawrence
D'Amigo/Polacek/Halpern
Kerins/Pirri/O'Grady
Lee/Angers-Goulet/Brutlag
Vassel/Malchuk/Watts

Kennedy/Merth
Bergin/Foss
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

York

With Paul Kerins good to go from the injury suffered in the 2nd period against Yale the previous weekend, Coach Appert decided to keep the lineup completely intact from that outstanding performance, making not even a single change to the lineup or the lines themselves.

Before the game, an interactive discussion with '85 champions Mike Sadeghpour, George Servinis, Ken Hammond, and Mike Dark took place, with special guest appearances by head coach Mike Addesa and SLU coach Joe Marsh, who was an assistant coach for the Saints that season. You can check out this outstanding discussion here: http://www.rpitv.org/productions/276-legends-of-85-panel-discussion

The game started off as an absolute slugfest, a back and forth battle that foreshadowed the outright war that was to come. The first five minutes or so went by with no whistles as the game was much like a tennis match with action on both sides of the ice.

RPI would get on the board first by sticking with a strategy of taking shots and anticipating rebounds in order to beat SLU senior Kain Tisi, one of the best goaltenders in the league. A shot by Brandon Pirri was saved by Tisi, but Marty O'Grady was waiting on the doorstep to scoop up the puck, bring it around Tisi, and stuff it in the net for his 8th goal of the season.

An RPI power play midway through the period was ended after only 18 seconds when Paul Kerins was called for tripping, creating a long 4-on-4 sequence. St. Lawrence would capitalize about a minute later with the open ice, luring Allen York out of position before throwing it into the open net to tie the score at one.

The Engineers didn't relent. Two and a half minutes later, another hard work goal was in store for RPI as a weak Bryan Brutlag shot to Tisi's left was easily stopped, but Alex Angers-Goulet was right there on the doorstep to pick up the very small rebound. He whacked at it a couple of times and somehow got it past Tisi, who was trying to seal up the seam by the post, putting RPI up 2-1.

Angers-Goulet would take a rare penalty in the last minute of the first period, and it gave St. Lawrence over a full minute of power play time at the beginning of the second period. The Saints took advantage of the fresh ice advantage and beat York with 3 seconds left on the penalty to tie it back up. From here, momentum definitely swung in St. Lawrence's direction, and the push came for the go-ahead goal. Senior Mike McKenzie accomplished just that about 3 minutes after the Saints had tied it. The remainder of the second period featured mostly uninspired play by the Engineers, who were fortunate to reach the second intermission down only one goal.

The third period turned back into the back and forth that had been prominently featured in the first frame, with RPI looking for the tying goal and SLU looking for the insurance marker that they absolutely needed. It was on another long 4-on-4 opportunity that the crucial goal came, with St. Lawrence taking a penalty just 9 seconds after Brutlag was sent off for roughing. About a minute into the 4-on-4, Jeff Foss unleashed a blistering slapshot that was redirected in front by Paul Kerins for his 11th goal of the season, tying it up at three with 6:45 left in regulation.

From there, the game got fairly chippy in a hurry. It began when Jerry D'Amigo, who has been a target of rough hits since his return from the World Juniors (and Friday night was no exception) leveled Derek Keller with a powerful but clean hit behind the SLU bench. A few minutes later, Alex Curran decided he would be the one to get retribution, charging into D'Amigo near the RPI bench. The hit left D'Amigo on the ice and precipitated Erik Burgdoerfer to go after Curran, eventually ending up tangling with Brandon Bollig while captain John Kennedy was restrained by a linesman while he shouted at the St. Lawrence bench. Burgdoerfer and Bolling were both issued 5 and a game misconduct for "grasping the facemask" (read: fighting without throwing punches) and Curran was sent to the box for the charge on D'Amigo - only two minutes, which was fortunate given the retaliatory and partially from behind nature of the hit - giving the Engineers a key power play late.

Less than a minute later, working on the man advantage for the go-ahead goal, D'Amigo pursued the puck into the corner but was slowed up by SLU's Rick Carden, who was hooking D'Amigo between his legs. Frustrated, D'Amigo went to the ground, drawing the penalty, and the Field House crowd of 3,424 was expecting a 1:08 5-on-3 for RPI with only 2:36 left in regulation. Instead, D'Amigo was sent off in addition to Carden, for unsportsmanlike conduct - embellishment. It was probably the right call, as Carden's hook wasn't fully impeding D'Amigo, just enough to keep him from doing what he wanted, and not enough to put him on the ice.

With D'Amigo no longer an option for the power play, the Curran penalty expired without much fanfare from the Engineer offense. The game would end in overtime, but not without a couple of decent chances for both teams in the extra session, including one for Mike Bergin, who, in a fit of anger after being brought down on a scoring chance, barked at the referee and was tossed a dime for his trouble.

Ultimately, it was a "good tie" for RPI as opposed to the "bad tie" they picked up at home against Harvard. Although they would have liked to get both points, their poor play in the second period necessitated a third period comeback. It was a hard fought game on both sides. These teams may not have seen the last of each other - both teams have solid talent that makes for an exciting game.

Clarkson
Lee/Angers-Goulet/Brutlag
Kerins/Pirri/O'Grady
D'Amigo/Polacek/Halpern
Vassel/Malchuk/Helfrich

Kennedy/Merth
Bergin/Foss
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

York

Tyler Helfrich returned to the lineup on the checking line after missing two games as a healthy scratch while Patrick Cullen continued to ride the pine, but the news of the night was that Clarkson was coming in after one of the most lopsided and embarrassing losses in their long program history, suffering a 11-2 rout at the hands of Union on Friday night. The Knights came into Houston Field House in dead last in the ECAC with little hope of moving out of the basement any time soon. Anything less than 2 points would be a complete failure.

The first period was complete domination from the Engineers as they outshot the hapless Knights 15-3. They spent entire stretches in the Clarkson zone at even strength with the Knights barely even able to touch the puck let alone clear the zone. It was a credit to Clarkson goalie Paul Karpowich that the Engineers were able to score only a single goal in the period. It came 9 minutes in on RPI's first power play of the game as Chase Polacek was left alone behind the Clarkson net. Jerry D'Amigo fed Polacek, who had plenty of room to operate, and he took advantage to find Mike Bergin fading toward the slot, and Bergin's blast put the Engineers on top.

Clarkson came out ready to play for the 2nd period, but it was RPI who would score next to go up 2-0 as Bryan Brutlag took the puck from the north side boards toward the slot, looking to dish to Alex Angers-Goulet, but as Angers-Goulet got caught up, Brutlag instead split the defense and surprised Karpowich with a shot that hit nothing but the back of the net.

Midway through the period, RPI went on their third power play of the game, and it appeared as though they would have a good opportunity to put the game essentially out of reach early. But the ensuing advantage was fairly lackadaisical, with two icing calls going against the Engineers caused by booming passes by Allen York trying to move the puck too quickly. As the final seconds of the Clarkson penalty ticked down, York tried a third time to whip the puck quickly into the neutral zone to try and take advantage of the Knights' penalty transition, but instead threw it at the RPI bench during a line change, and the Engineers were called for too many men. Clarkson went on the power play, which was going nowhere until Peter Merth was whistled, for the second consecutive weekend, for interference immediately on a defensive zone faceoff. The Knights now had 48 seconds of 5-on-3 to work with.

Although RPI survived the two-man disadvantage, Clarkson continued to push for their first goal on the extended power play. It eventually came just one second after the Merth penalty had expired, and was not without controversy. The puck came out to the point shortly after a Clarkson player had knocked York to the ice. Corey Tamblyn's shot found York's five-hole as he was struggling to get back up. He complained viciously to the referees that he had been interfered with, but it was to no avail. The RPI lead had been cut in half.

The goal re-energized Clarkson, who realized they still were very much in the game. York would eventually face a total of 13 shots in the 2nd period, by far the lion's share of the shots he faced in the entire game (18), but he stood tall, not allowing any more goals. The RPI offense, meanwhile, went into hibernation through the remainder of the period, and by the time the 2nd intermission rolled around, the last place team in the ECAC, which was working with only 17 skaters and 2 of 6 defensemen who were forwards by trade, was still hanging around with 20 minutes left to play.

The defense went into lockdown mode in the third period, and while that has not been a winning move for RPI so far this season (see also Union games), it worked against Clarkson. Officially, the Knights did not record a single scoring opportunity in the final 20 period (and if you can do basic math, you already know they had only 2 shots in the 3rd period). The Engineers blasted shot after shot at Karpowich in the first 5 minutes or so of the 3rd but were turned away at every point. After a pair of power plays came and went with no goals, they went back to picking their spots, which made the crowd of 4,134 fairly nervous with just a one-goal lead, but the defense did its job and RPI skated away with a 2-1 victory that was closer than it needed to be, but accomplished the goal set at the beginning of the night: 2 points in the ECAC standings.

It's pretty clear at this point that the Engineers are going to play to the level of their opponents on a nightly basis, which should make the final six games of the regular season a white-knuckle ride. RPI has 18 points, which is basically enough to functionally lock up home ice for at least the first round of the playoffs even if they haven't mathematically locked it up. They sit in 5th place, a single point behind St. Lawrence in 4th place, the last spot for the first-round bye. It's not over yet for the bye, not by a longshot, but from where we're sitting right now, to feel comfortable for the bye, 9 points in the last 6 games (12 possible points) will more often than not secure the bye without having to worry too much about other happenings. 7 or 8 points could probably could do the trick, but there'd be somewhat more concern over what St. Lawrence or Colgate are doing.

Fortunately, the next four games are games which, on paper, the Engineers should be favorites in. This weekend, they travel to Harvard and Dartmouth, which, by the numbers, is the weakest road trip in the league. The Crimson are coming off their annual Beanpot embarrassment, this year being outscored 10-1 while coming in last. Meanwhile, Dartmouth is showing a propensity to sneak up on unwitting teams - beating Union and Quinnipiac recently - but are still next-to-last in the conference. Hopefully, there's a sour taste left from the most recent meetings just three weekends ago in which RPI had to dogfight with Dartmouth and then coughed up a point on an extra attacker goal against Harvard. Four points isn't outside the realm of possibility this weekend, and if they are had, the bye will look a whole lot more likely.

The weekend after that is Freakout! weekend, and it features a Quinnipiac team that finally won its 8th ECAC game on Saturday (over a fading Colgate) and a Princeton team which has surprises in it as evidenced by its win over Cornell on Saturday. These are all winnable games, and if the Engineers turn their current 3-game unbeaten streak into a 7-game unbeaten streak, they'll officially be hot at the right time, and favorites to get the first weekend in March off.

Other junk - With three point-bearing games in a row, the Engineers took 8 votes in the USCHO.com poll, which actually didn't put them that far out in the poll itself. Ranked ECAC teams are #6 Yale (up two after sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard), #8 Cornell (down three after beating Quinnipiac and losing to Princeton), and #16 Union (up four after sweeping Clarkson and SLU). St. Lawrence, despite their one point weekend in the Capital District, was a single vote away from moving into the rankings, taking 28 votes to #20 UMass-Lowell's 29 votes, giving the Saints the most votes among unranked teams for the third straight week.

Ranked non-conference opponents of the Engineers are #13 Michigan State (down one), #15 New Hampshire (down two), #18 UMass (down three), and #19 Michigan (no change). Alaska bumped back up to 18 votes, Sacred Heart earned 5 votes despite losing for the first time in 13 games.

Chase Polacek is no longer in the national scoring lead - that title now belongs to some guy from Canisius, who has 42 points, but Chase, who was shut down on Friday against SLU and managed only the assist against Clarkson, is still in there with 41 points. He has retained his ECAC lead in scoring, but that big offensive night for Union has helped Mario Valery-Trabucco catch up. Keep voting for Chase for Hobey: http://www.hobeybaker.com/voting/ He's currently in 3rd behind Michigan State's Jeff Petry and some guy from RIT who really doesn't have much of a prayer of being an actual finalist. Vote early and vote often.

RPI has at least 2 points in each of the last 4 full ECAC weekends, the first time they've done that since they had 5 in a row in 2005-06.

I'm eliminating the winning percentage rankings since each team has the same number of games played except for Colgate and Cornell, who play each other next Tuesday. By winning percentage, Cornell is in 1st, and Colgate displaces RPI for 5th, but it's points that will matter in the long run.

ECAC Standings
1. Yale - 22 pts (wins tiebreaker with Cornell and Union)
2. Cornell - 22 pts (wins tiebreaker with Union)
3. Union - 22 pts
4. St. Lawrence - 19 pts
5. RPI - 18 pts
6. Colgate - 17 pts
7. Quinnipiac - 16 pts
8. Harvard - 15 pts
9. Brown - 13 pts (wins tiebreaker with Princeton)
10. Princeton - 13 pts
11. Dartmouth - 9 pts
12. Clarkson - 4 pts


St. Lawrence at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/5/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 3, St. Lawrence 3 (OT)

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
VIDEO
RECORD: 14-12-3 (7-6-2 ECAC, 16 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Brandon Pirri, 2 A
2. F Paul Kerins, 1 G
3. F Marty O'Grady, 1 G

Clarkson at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/6/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 2, Clarkson 1

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
VIDEO

RECORD: 15-12-3 (8-6-2 ECAC, 18 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Bryan Brutlag, 1 G
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 A, 6 shots
3. D Mike Bergin, 1 G

Upcoming Games
12 Feb - at Harvard
13 Feb - at Dartmouth
19 Feb - Quinnipiac
20 Feb - Princeton (Big Red Freakout! and Senior Night)
26 Feb - at Colgate
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MEN’S HOCKEY

Rensselaer went 1-0-1 last week, tying St. Lawrence on Friday (3-3), before edging Clarkson on Saturday (2-1). Junior Bryan Brutlag (Lakeville, MN) had a goal and an assist on the weekend, including the game-winning tally against the Golden Knights. RPI (15-12-3; 8-6-2 ECAC Hockey) hits the road for a pair of road league games against Harvard and Dartmouth, this Friday (7pm) and Saturday (7pm), respectively.

Live stats for both games will be available at http://www.ecachockey.com/men/index. Live video will be available at http://www.stretchinternet.com/harvardvideo.html on Friday and http://dartmouthsports.com/liveEvents/liveEvents.dbml?SPSID=48933&SPID=4728&db_oem_id=11600 on Saturday. 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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