Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Men's Hockey - at Colgate and Cornell (26/27 Feb)

Struggles in games down the stretch in which the Engineers probably should have done better - we're talking about Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton here - gave them a weekend of do or die hockey in the most difficult road weekend by record in the entire season. It just happened to be the last weekend of the season, and things didn't go RPI's way, as they lost the bye on Friday with a 3-2 loss at Colgate before losing 5th place with a 1-1 tie at Cornell despite an outstanding game.

Colgate
Rabbani/Kerins/Brutlag
D'Amigo/Polacek/Helfrich
Lee/Pirri/O'Grady
Cullen/Malchuk/Watts

Bergin/Foss
Kennedy/Merth
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

York

The big news early on was two-fold: Allen York was, as expected, back in the lineup after missing Freakout weekend with an ankle injury suffered at Dartmouth, but Alex Angers-Goulet was nowhere to be found. He stayed back in Troy, out with an illness.

The concept was simple. If St. Lawrence lost to Dartmouth, the winner of this game would lock up 4th place and the final bye. From the get go, the Big Green got out to a lead on the Saints and never looked back, so it became apparent quickly that this game was for all the marbles.

The Engineers got the game's first power play after a penalty to Colgate senior standout David McIntyre, but about a minute later, it was nullified by a holding penalty to Paul Kerins. After the 4-on-4 ended, Colgate's Austin Smith, one of the better offensive threats in the ECAC, scored to make it 1-0. RPI would kill a second penalty later in the period, but would go into the locker room down a goal.

Smith would take a penalty of his own early in the second period, and RPI would get a short 5-on-3 when defenseman Corbin McPherson went off on a hook. The Engineers didn't capitalize on the two-man advantage, but were able to draw even on the McPherson penalty as Marty O'Grady scored on a putback from a Brandon Pirri shot.

Less than a minute later, Kerins scored his 12th of the season on a soft shot to the right of Colgate goaltender Alex Evin to put the Engineers ahead 2-1. The momentum was with RPI and it looked as though RPI might have the chops they needed to secure the first round bye.

But a few minutes later, Bryan Brutlag was called for interference, and Colgate would tie things up on an odd goal. Smith took a shot that went through York but sat in the crease. Jordan Watts and Colgate player crashed the net, and Watts accidentally kicked it in with his skate in the process. Not really Watts' fault, but the score was tied back up again nonetheless.

Jeff Foss would take consecutive penalties about 6 minutes apart in the third period, and while the Engineers were able to kill the first one, the second one was not. Colgate would go ahead 3-2 on a play in which Peter Merth was badly burned, John Kennedy was hung out to dry, and a bad line change compounded things as York let in one he shouldn't have.

The Engineers didn't quit, but they would not be able to put another one in the net. Colgate's Thomas Larkin seemingly became the first player called for running Jerry D'Amigo (given only a two when it was vicious enough to possibly earn a five), and RPI couldn't capitalize on a number of good scoring opportunities on the power play. When it was back to five-on-five, York was pulled and the Engineers scrambled to score, and almost did. Brutlag beat Evin, but rang it off the crossbar and out of play.

Coupled with St. Lawrence's loss to Dartmouth, Colgate's win secured the final home ice spot. The Engineers were officially playing for fifth place the next night in Ithaca.

Cornell
Cullen/Kerins/Brutlag
D'Amigo/Polacek/Helfrich
Lee/Pirri/O'Grady
Watts/Malchuk/Rabbani

Kennedy/Merth
Vassel/Foss
Jensen/Burgdoerfer

York

Whatever bug has been going around the Engineer locker room, Mike Bergin caught it and it put him out for this game. Mark Zarbo must not have been traveling with the team, which is why Garett Vassel, another former d-man converted to forward, went back to the blue line for his final ECAC regular season game.

The Big Red had locked up the #2 seed the previous night and couldn't reach the #1 seed, but it was apparent that they were playing for pride, a possible share of the regular season title (which is fairly minor in this context), and their national tournament placing, as regular goaltender Ben Scrivens was in net and they didn't dress any scrubs.

Cornell would break onto the scoreboard first with a goal 7 minutes into the game at even strength, coming on an all-out scrum in front of Allen York. There was a review to see if the puck ever went in the net, but the goal was upheld.

After killing a penalty to Brutlag shortly after the Cornell goal, a number of penalties came down in rapid succession that eventually led to a 4-on-3 that was due to eventually become a long 5-on-3 for the Engineers. Before that two-man advantage came down, though, Jerry D'Amigo ripped a shot that was redirected into the net by Chase Polacek, tying the score at one. Since the second Cornell penalty had been a double-minor, RPI still got a 5-on-3 chance, but they couldn't score on it despite a number of good opportunities.

Early in the second period, Paul Kerins was sent off with a five minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind that observers at the game couldn't explain - even Cornell radio was scratching their heads at where the penalty was coming from. At any rate, RPI was without Kerins' key services for the remainder of the game, and the penalty kill held up for the long power play opportunity it gave Cornell. Midway through the period, the Engineers got their second 5-on-3 chance of the game for a little bit under a minute, and they still couldn't score on it, though D'Amigo came close once or twice but still is having problems putting the puck in the net on open chances.

Both teams would have power play opportunities in the third period, but nothing came of either one as both defenses became locked down. Allen York would make 20 saves in the final 40 minutes of regulation and Scrivens made 16 of his own.

In the overtime period, with St. Lawrence having already defeated Harvard and RPI needing a win to claim 5th place (with no difference in result between a tie and a loss), Seth Appert made the unusual move of pulling York with the score tied late in the overtime period. The Times Union, as is their norm, pitched a nutty over the move, claiming it almost cost the Engineers a meaningless tie when Cornell nearly scored on the empty net, but it was absolutely the right call. RPI needed to play for the win.

York was ultimately replaced with 9 seconds left after Tim Kotyra called another head-scratching penalty on the Engineers for too many men, apparently counting six skaters on the ice while York was on the bench. Brilliant move, Timmy. The tie gave RPI 23 points, the same as St. Lawrence, but the Saints won the tiebreaker on season series points (3 to 1). That might have been a tactical error on SLU's part, they get Clarkson who was no doubt praying for SLU as their opponent.

The Engineers, meanwhile, settle for 6th and will host Brown next weekend. The Bears have been dismal ever since that night in late January in Providence where a very, very late 5-on-3 gave them a win. They allowed an amazing 15 goals last weekend against Quinnipiac and Princeton and have only a home win over Clarkson to their name since then.

RPI certainly proved itself against the top three teams in the league this season, sweeping Yale and playing six very tight games between Cornell and Union. Hopefully, the Engineers will be a "hard out" in the upcoming ECAC playoffs.

Other junk - Not surprisingly, no votes for RPI after a 1-point weekend. Ranked ECAC teams are #6 Yale (down one after beating Princeton and losing to Quinnipiac), #9 Cornell (no change after beating Union and tying RPI), and #18 Union (down three after being swept by Cornell and Colgate). Colgate received 6 votes.

Ranked non-conference opponents are #10 New Hampshire (up one), #11 Michigan State (up one), and #14 Alaska (up three). Boston University (7 votes) and Michigan (5 votes) dropped out.

Chase Polacek won the ECAC scoring title, finishing with 35 ECAC points, 3 more than Union's Mario-Valery Trabucco. His 17 goals were good enough for third, behind Yale's Broc Little and Valery Trabucco, and his 5 shorthanded points in ECAC play had him tops in the league.

On the national level, Polacek has 50 points, one of only two players in the nation over the half-century mark (the other being Maine's Gustav Nyquist, who jumped out to a big national lead this past weekend with 54). Chase's 25 goals is tied for tops in the nation with Little and Sacred Heart's Nick Johnson. Polacek is the first Engineer to reach 50 points since Marc Cavosie in 2002, and only the 13th occasion (by 10 players) since the '85 title. I'll be shocked if he doesn't finish with the most points in a single season for an Engineer since Danny Riva's 57 in 1999.

Brandon Pirri led the ECAC in assists with 22, and was first in freshman scoring with 27 points. Polacek and Pirri both tied with Quinnipiac's Brandon Wong for first place in points on the power play, with 15 each. He has been overtaken by Merrimack's Stephane Da Costa for the freshman scoring lead, he trails Da Costa by one point (42 to 41).

Jerry D'Amigo was second in freshman scoring with 24 points. D'Amigo and Marty O'Grady each had 7 goals, tied for second in freshman goals with Quinnipiac's Jeremy Langlois.

Polacek, Pirri, and D'Amigo are now all over 30 points for the season, the first Engineer trio to accomplish the feat since Kevin Croxton, Kirk MacDonald, and Nick Economakos in 2003-04.

Allen York was second in the ECAC in both goals against average and save percentage, but far behind Cornell's Ben Scrivens in both categories, Scrivens should be the runaway winner of the Ken Dryden Award.

Final ECAC Standings
1. Yale - 32 pts
2. Cornell - 31 pts
3. Union - 28 pts
4. Colgate - 26 pts
5. St. Lawrence - 23 pts (wins tiebreaker with RPI)
6. RPI - 23 pts
7. Quinnipiac - 22 pts
8. Princeton - 18 pts
9. Harvard - 17 pts (wins tiebreaker with Dartmouth)
10. Dartmouth - 17 pts
11. Brown - 16 pts
12. Clarkson - 8 pts

RPI at Colgate
ECAC Game - Starr Rink (Hamilton, NY)
2/26/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: Colgate 3, RPI 2

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
RECORD: 17-15-3 (10-9-2 ECAC, 22 pts)

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

RPI at #9 Cornell
ECAC Game - Lynah Rink (Ithaca, NY)
2/27/10 - 7:00 pm
RESULT: RPI 1, Cornell 1 (OT)

BOX SCORES
RECAPS
RECORD: 17-15-4 (10-9-3 ECAC, 23 pts)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 28 saves
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 G
3. F Jerry D'Amigo, 1 A

Upcoming Games
05 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 1)
06 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 2)
07 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 3, if necessary)
12 Mar - at #18 Union OR Colgate (ECAC Quarterfinal Game 1, if RPI defeats Brown)
13 Mar - at #18 Union OR Colgate (ECAC Quarterfinal Game 2, if RPI defeats Brown)
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MEN’S HOCKEY

Rensselaer went 0-1-1 last week, falling at Colgate (3-2) on Friday, before tying ninth-ranked Cornell (1-1) on Saturday. Senior Paul Kerins (Weston, ON) recorded a goal and an assist against the Raiders. RPI (17-15-4; 10-9-3 ECAC Hockey) has earned a first round home series in the ECAC Hockey Tournament and will host Brown this weekend in a best-of-three clash at the Houston Field House. Game times are set for 7pm on Friday and Saturday nights, with game 3 (if necessary) slated for Sunday, also at 7pm.

Live stats will be available for the entire series at http://www.sidearmstats.com/rpi/mhockey/index.htm and all games can be seen live on a pay-per-view basis through the B2 Networks at http://www.b2tv.com/partner_members.asp?id=27. As is the case will all RPI men’s hockey games, the 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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