Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Women's Hockey - Harvard & Dartmouth (2/12-13)

Tell a random women's hockey fan at the beginning of the season that RPI would sweep a weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth and they'd call you an eternal optimist. Tell them the Engineers would sweep the season series against the Crimson and Big Green and they'd call you crazy. RPI did its part this weekend to make crazy fans look a little more sane as they downed Harvard 3-2 in overtime on Friday before going on to earn a solid 5-2 win over Dartmouth on Senior Night.

The four points boosted the Engineers into a tie for third place with Harvard, a tie which RPI wins by virtue of sweeping the season series with the Crimson. The win over Dartmouth trapped the Big Green in a 3-way fight for the eighth and final playoff spot, meaning next weekend has the possibility of seeing 4-time ECAC Champion Dartmouth eliminated from the ECAC playoffs for the first time since 1990-91.

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Friday

Wright/Harrison/Horton
Naslund/Dunlop/Weidner
Guillemette/Vandegrift/O'Keefe
Padmore/Jakubowski/Stapleton

Castignetti/Gersten
Le Donne/Vadner
Gaylord/Daniels

van der Bliek

Friday's game started off in frustrating fashion as RPI controlled almost every aspect of the game for the first 10 minutes, but was unable to put a puck in the net and get something to show for it. An early RPI power play contributed to the strong start as Harvard's Ashley Wheeler took a hooking penalty that assuredly deserved a matching holding the stick call. The Crimson woke up in the latter half of the period and put some strong pressure on the RPI net, but Sonja van der Bliek stood tall and kept the game scoreless.

With Amanda Castignetti off the ice on a tripping call, one of the most baffling series of officiating decisions in a weekend full of them led to Harvard's first goal. Moments after an RPI skater was flattened at center ice by a Harvard hip check (which would be legal if this were men's hockey...a recurring theme with the officials on the weekend), Allison Wright was whistled for a slashing call while attempting to lift an opponent's stick and steal a puck. While the Engineers killed the resulting 5-on-3, Harvard capitalized on the carryover time on the second penalty to take a 1-0 lead at 16:45.

The 1-0 score held up until the intermission, and the second period saw a parade of four Harvard players to the penalty box. Despite putting up a 13-5 shot margin in the period, RPI couldn't solve Harvard netminder Laura Bellamy, who made 25 saves in the first two periods. I noted during the game that this "[was] not the Harvard of yesteryear", with the Crimson clutching, grabbing, checking, and generally doing everything their fans complained about RPI doing the season before in the ECAC Semifinal game. It honestly looked as though the teams had been swapped during the offseason.

Things went from bad to worse for the Engineers just 2:22 into the final frame as Harvard doubled their lead to 2-0 on a 2-on-1 rush into the RPI zone. Sierra Vadner took a penalty just 30 seconds later to put RPI back on its heels and Harvard poured on the shots, but van der Bliek returned to form and kept them out of the net with some spectacular stops. With 8:40 left, Castignetti took an opportunistic shot from the faceoff circle which found its way through traffic and past Bellamy to get RPI back in the game, closing the lead to 2-1.

Allison Wright reminded everyone why she's on the top line with just 35 seconds left in regulation, as she skated the puck down ice and fired off a laser shot that rang off the junction of goalpost and crossbar and down into the net to tie the game. The game headed to overtime and it took Wright just 19 seconds in the extra frame to completely turn the tables on Harvard as she again skated into the zone and put a puck past Bellamy for the overtime game winner. RPI outshot the Crimson 33-30 on the game, including 2-0 in overtime. Harvard held the Engineers to 6 shots in the third period, but two of them found the twine, and that's all that matters.

One thing of note about the crowd - it was Military Appreciation Night at the Field House and the ROTC students came out in full force. While they spent much of the game slightly disinterested in the events on the ice, they came together late in the game to help really liven up the rink and the cheers that went up for the game-tying and -winning goals were very nice to hear in a Field House that rarely sees more than 100 fans at a women's hockey game. Attendance was only reported as 355, but it looked to be well over 500, certainly one of the larger crowds to take in a game at HFH.

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Saturday

Wright/Harrison/Horton
Naslund/Dunlop/Weidner
Guillemette/Vandegrift/O'Keefe
Padmore/Jakubowski/Stapleton

Castignetti/Gersten
Le Donne/Vadner
Gaylord/Daniels

van der Bliek

Coming off Friday's exhilarating overtime win, the stage was set for another Saturday letdown with a tired RPI team facing off against a Dartmouth squad who coasted to an easy 4-0 win at Union, outshooting the Dutchwomen 42-12 on their way there. Dartmouth got just the start they were looking for as Jenna Cunningham sprung Amanda Trunzo on a breakaway just two minutes into the game, and the top-line Dartmouth forward beat van der Bliek for a 1-0 lead. A few Dartmouth penalties came and went as RPI held the puck well but made poor decisions in the offensive zone to allow the Big Green to kill off each RPI opportunity.

The Engineers got right back into the game early in the second as a scrum in front of the Dartmouth net allowed RPI's fourth line to capitalize, and Audrey Stapleton got just her second goal of the season to tie the game at one. After a few back-and-forth penalties, RPI took the lead for the first and last time as Whitney Naslund threaded a beautiful pass across the front of the crease, allowing Kendra Dunlop to put a puck into a nearly empty net that Dartmouth goalie Mariel Lacina had no chance at stopping. The assist marked Naslund's 100th point on the season.

Naslund added an insurance goal at 8:15 of the third on a breakaway, but Dartmouth had no intentions of making it easy on the Engineers, and they cut the lead back to one on a bad turnover by RPI that found its way past van der Bliek and into the net. Dartmouth pulled Lacina in favor of the extra attacker, but couldn't generate any serious pressure - Alisa Harrison put the game away with an empty netter at 19:05 to give RPI a 4-2 lead. With the goalie pulled again, Naslund added an empty netter with 0.3 seconds remaining to put the final score at 5-2.

The Engineers outshot the Big Green in each period, with margins of 13-7, 10-9, and 10-9. It was a marked turnaround for the Engineers, who have struggled against Dartmouth, posting an 0-8-1 record against the Big Green before this season.

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Senior Night

Saturday marked the final regular season home game for RPI's five graduating seniors - Whitney Naslund, Allison Wright, Laura Gersten, Allysen Weidner, and Rossli Chace. A postgame ceremony honored the five for their contribution to the team, and hearing it spelled out all at once made everyone realize just how big an impact the class has had on the program as a whole.

Some highlights about the graduating class of 2010:

  • Whitney Naslund became the first RPI player to break 100 career points since the team turned D-1, earning her 100th, 101st, and 102nd point against Dartmouth. She is the 7th leading scoring in RPI women's hockey history.
  • Naslund and Wright each played their 136th career game against Dartmouth - the most of any player in RPI history, and it also happens to be every game since they set foot on campus four years ago. Gersten and Weidner trail by just one game - each has played 135. Chace played in 110 games over four seasons.
  • Though Rossli Chace's season was ended early due to injury, she was behind the bench for the Dartmouth game and honored all the same during the postgame ceremonies.
  • The seniors are more than a combined +100 in career +/-. The exact numbers were mentioned during the ceremony but I didn't manage to write them down. An impressive feat on a team that has gone 58-62-16 over the past four seasons.
  • Naslund, Wright, and Gersten were 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in scoring on last year's team that made it to the ECAC Championship game. The same three are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively this season, with Weidner at sixth.
The seniors stand to have at least one more pair of games in front of friendly fans if they can help the Engineers to secure home ice in the playoffs.

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Playoff Possibilities

With one weekend of play left, we're getting a better idea of the playoff picture. There's still a lot up in the air, but here's what we know so far:

  • If the playoffs started today, #3 RPI would host #6 Princeton at Houston Field House in the ECAC Quarterfinals.
  • Union and Brown are eliminated from the playoffs and can only play spoiler to other teams next weekend.
  • RPI can techincally still finish in first place, but it would require Clarkson and Cornell getting swept next weekend (not likely!) along with an RPI win over Colgate.
  • RPI can finish as low as as 7th if they lose at Colgate and Cornell, and Quinnipiac/Princeton/SLU take enough points to pass them.
  • RPI can guarantee themselves home ice for the first time since joining the ECAC by earning three points next weekend.
With Quinnipiac, Princeton, and SLU trailing the Engineers by 1, 2, and 3 points respectively, and Q/P facing Yale and Brown who are by no means powerhouses, the Engineers need to be vigilant in a hunt for points next weekend. It's a fine line they walk between a serious risk of losing home ice (by taking 2 points or fewer next weekend) or guaranteeing they get it (3 or more points).

It is most likely that Clarkson and Cornell will finish first and second in either order, while Colgate, Yale, and Dartmouth battle it out for the final playoff spot. The 3-7 seeds are entirely up in the air and could play out in a ton of different ways. We'll have a breakdown after next Friday's game of the playoff implications held in the final game of the regular season.

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RPI vs. Harvard
ECAC Hockey Game – Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/12/10 - 7:00pm
RPI 3, Harvard 2 (OT)

BOX SCORES:
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/wharren1.f12
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/box/?date=20100212&vis=hu&home=rpi&gender=w

RECAPS:
RPI: http://www.rpiathletics.com/news/2010/2/12/WICE_0212102138.aspx
Harvard: http://gocrimson.com/sports/wice/2009-10/releases/20100212_Rensselaer_Recap
Postgame Interviews: http://www.youtube.com/user/RPIathletics#p/u/0/fSCvMJfskbA

RECORD: 13-11-6 (10-5-4 ECAC Hockey, 24 points)

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RPI vs. Dartmouth (Senior Night)
ECAC Hockey Game – Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/13/10 – 4:00pm
RPI 5, Datrmouth 2

BOX SCORES:
College Hockey Stats: http://collegehockeystats.net/0910/boxes/wdarren1.f13
USCHO: http://www.uscho.com/box/?date=20100213&vis=dc&home=rpi&gender=w

RECAPS:
RPI: http://www.rpiathletics.com/news/2010/2/13/WICE_0213102027.aspx
Dartmouth: http://is.gd/8nIvA
Postgame Interviews: http://www.youtube.com/user/RPIathletics#p/u/0/aZNtIOZv6xU

RECORD: 14-11-6 (11-5-4 ECAC Hockey, 26 points)

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ECAC Standings (as of 2/14/10, all teams have played 20 games):
Standings in parentheses are ties that have been broken using ECAC tiebreakers.
                Pts  ECAC       All
(1) Clarkson 30 14-4-2 20-8-4 (Clarkson wins 2nd tiebreaker - # wins)
(2) Cornell 30 12-2-6 13-8-6
(3) RPI 26 11-5-4 14-11-6 (RPI wins 1st tiebreaker - head-to-head)
(4) Harvard 26 12-6-2 17-6-4
5 Quinnipiac 25 9-4-7 16-8-8
6 Princeton 24 10-6-4 12-11-4
7 SLU 23 10-7-3 14-11-7
(8) Dartmouth 17 8-11-1 11-13-2 (DC wins 1st tiebreaker - head-to-head)
(9) Yale 17 8-11-1 10-14-3
10 Colgate 16 6-10-4 10-18-4
(11)Union 3 1-18-1 5-26-1 (UC wins 1st tiebreaker - head-to-head)
(12)Brown 3 0-17-3 2-20-4
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Upcoming Games

Feb. 19 - at Cornell
Feb. 20 - at Colgate (end of regular season)
Feb. 26 - ECAC Quarterfinals
Feb. 27 - ECAC Quarterfinals
Feb. 28 - ECAC Quarterfinals (if necessary)

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WOMEN’S HOCKEY

The Engineers went 2-0-0 last week, edging fifth-ranked Harvard (3-2) in overtime on Friday night, before downing Dartmouth (5-2) on Senior Day, Saturday afternoon. Senior Whitney Naslund (2 goals, 1 assist) had three points against the Big Green, including the 100th of her collegiate career.

Rensselaer (14-11-6; 11-5-4 ECACH) travels to Cornell and Colgate to close out its ECAC Hockey regular season schedule on Friday (7pm) and Saturday (4pm), respectively. Live stats for Friday’s game will be available at http://livestats.internetconsult.com/cornell/whockey/index.htm and Saturday’s game at http://livestats.internetconsult.com/colgate/whockey/index.htm.

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