Monday, October 18, 2010

Men's Hockey - at Northeastern, Bentley (15/16 Oct)

A week after a successful (if not materially successful) trip to Colorado, the RPI season rolled on with the only away/home weekend of the season with another interesting matchup in Boston before heading home for reunion weekend and an early evening game to kick off the Houston Field House schedule. It was a "three point weekend" for the Engineers, as they earned a tie for the second consecutive game against Northeastern, 2-2, before beating Bentley 3-0 on Saturday night.




The Northeastern Huskies came into the season with fairly high expectations in Hockey East, with the coaches of the league believing they can finish somewhere in the middle of the table as one of the best teams outside of the league's traditional "Big Four" of BC, BU, UNH, and Maine. Given the Engineers' similar aspirations (picked fifth in the ECAC), this promised to be a game of very evenly matched teams, and it played out that way for the most part.

Penalties were an issue for both teams in Colorado, and it was no different in this game, especially in the first period as the Engineers and Huskies both took 5 minor penalties in the first 20 minutes with three power plays each. RPI would score on their third chance on the man advantage, taking their first lead of the season as Bryan Brutlag scored from Tyler Helfrich and Nick Bailen on a two-man advantage that was brilliantly executed. But three minutes later, on a delayed penalty to Greg Burgdoerfer, Northeastern scored after an extended 6x5 opportunity to tie the score, and then went on the power play to boot thanks to the new rule requiring penalties to be assessed even after goals on delayed calls.

Northeastern came out firing in the second period, earning an even strength goal on a blast from the point by 6'7" behemoth Jamie Oleksiak to put the Huskies up 2-1. From there, penalties continued to rule the day. Burgdoerfer took his third penalty of the night less than a minute after the Husky goal, which would pretty much end his night as he didn't see the ice much after that. The chippiness started getting nasty shortly thereafter, as Northeastern's Zak Stone was issued five for a hit from behind and a game misconduct for a hit that left Alex Angers-Goulet prone on the ice for a few minutes. That long power play was mitigated shortly thereafter by a too many men call on RPI (served by Johnny Rogic who, along with Burgdoerfer, became scarce after the first period). A second penalty to NU a minute later eventually gave the Engineers a long 5x3 power play, but unlike their first period opportunity, they were unable to convert.

After a questionable "instigating" call on Brutlag (who apparently was managing to instigate from being flat on the ice, where he was put at the end of the play), the Engineers were the beneficiary of a questionable call on Northeastern, and they capitalized on the ensuing power play as Chase Polacek scored from a pretty extreme angle, almost on the goal line, for his first goal of the year to tie the game at two.

The referees looked as though they wanted to swallow the whistle in the 3rd period, but early on Northeastern's Randy Guzior made a dangerous play, checking Brutlag into the RPI bench from behind, and he earned the 2nd major penalty of the night for Northeastern. But as on the first major, the Engineers squandered the opportunity with penalties of their own, actually giving the Huskies a 4x3 power play after penalties to Marty O'Grady and Jeff Foss. All told, both teams were assessed a total of 13 penalties, although the Huskies ended up with far more in minutes thanks to the two majors. Neither team scored for the duration of the penalties, and after that, the whistles were put away.

The goaltenders put on a show in the third period, with Allen York making a total of 7 saves, while Northeastern's Chris Rawlings made 9 of his own. The Engineers got a late power play on a blatant hooking call, but it was evened up about a minute later with a tripping call against Helfrich. Neither team was able to break the deadlock, though RPI did manage 3 shots in the overtime period. Overall, an evenly played game marred by lots of penalties, but an even tie with neither team really having much to be disappointed with in the result.

Tinordi and Halpern



The next night, Seth Appert came out with an interesting combination of 7 defensemen (the entirety of the RPI defensive corps) and 11 forwards, leaving Bo Dolan as an extra defenseman and only three centers - Polacek, Malchuk, and Higgs - dressed with Matt Tinordi seeing his first action as an Engineer. Rogic and Burgdoerfer, who did not see action in the second half against Northeastern, were in the stands, as was Patrick Cullen, who had not in three games been the force RPI partisans had hoped he would be.

Once again, it was penalties, penalties, penalties in the first period, especially for RPI. Four penalties gave Bentley two 5x3 chances of a minute or more, but the Engineers stood firm down two men. The Falcons were aggressive both on and off the power play, putting 8 shots on Allen York in the first period. The penalty killing necessitated a focus on defense in the first period, and the Engineers did not score on 7 shots.

A late penalty to Bentley in the first period carried over into the second, and on the fresh ice, it was Chase Polacek scoring his second of the weekend to put RPI on the board on the man advantage. The Engineers' penalties suddenly dried up for the remainder of the game, as they took only one penalty in both the 2nd and 3rd period, but now it was the Falcons' turn to take a slew of penalties. Tyler Helfrich converted on another opportunity midway through the 2nd period to make it 2-0, and after missing a wide-open net on Friday and again earlier in the game on Saturday, C.J. Lee finally got the proverbial monkey off his back, scoring early in the 3rd period for his first collegiate goal to make it 3-0.

Meanwhile, Allen York was lights out. Bentley fed him a steady diet of shots all game long, but the junior netminder was up to the task. 8 more shots in the 2nd period and 7 in the 3rd gave him a 23-save shutout, the third of his career. It was also the 20th victory of his career.

Bentley is a team that has potential to be outstanding within Atlantic Hockey in the near future, but they are young and were definitely a team RPI needed to beat. The Engineers are now 1-1-2 on the season. They executed well against the Falcons, getting a good combination of offense and defense, where they needed more offense in the first three games they played but were very much in those games thanks to their defense.

Next on the docket are RIT and Niagara, two teams both looking for their first wins of the season in a psuedo-travel partner weekend as both teams also face Union in Schenectady. These are also games the Engineers should win if they hope to make splashes in the ECAC this season, developing that finishing touch on offense while maintaining a solid defensive front. The combination, applied within the ECAC, would make them a very dangerous team to play.

Other junk - RPI gained votes in the weekly poll, earning 27, up from 13 last week, tying them with Ferris State for the unofficial #23 in the nation. Ranked ECAC teams this week are #5 Yale (no change, idle), #13 Cornell (down one, idle), and #18 Union (down two, lost to #14 Alaska and beat Alaska-Anchorage). Also ranked are #8 Boston University (up two) and #19 Colorado College (down one). Also receiving votes were Colgate (25), RIT (10), and Quinnipiac (2).

The RPI penalty kill has been incredibly effective, even despite its frequent use. That's obviously not something that they should be relying on as often as they have been, but it's good to know it's there. The Engineers are 27 for 29 on the penalty kill, a 93.1% rate that has them ranked 6th in the nation on the kill. Only Boston College (23/23, 100%) and Notre Dame (21/22, 95.5%) have a better kill percentage with 20 or more penalty kill opportunities, and only Michigan (26/30, 86.7%) has had more opportunities overall.

Of course, the Engineers have had plenty of power play chances too, and their combined 57 special teams chances in just four games is tops in the nation, only Maine and Wisconsin with 53 each also have more than 50.

Allen York has a shutout streak of 90:36 heading into this weekend's games, which goes back to 4:24 of the 2nd period in Boston. His 1.45 GAA is 8th in the nation, his .947 save percentage is 9th, and his 248:32 of time in net is more than any other goaltender thus far this season. He has been nothing short of superb for the Engineers in all four of their games thus far.

The Lee/Polacek/Helfrich combination has been pretty sensational - Polacek does what he does, but Lee and Helfrich are not squandering their opportunities playing with the team's star, as they are helping drive the Engineers' efforts on offense. Although the goals haven't been there for the most part, the Angers-Goulet/Malchuk/Brutlag combination is also showing signs of life. If they can start producing, that would go a long way toward being the "answer" to the Pirri and D'Amigo departures.

An interesting tidbit from Saturday night's game - former Engineer C.J. Hanafin '05 is now an ECAC linesman, and he worked the Bentley game in that capacity.

Four RPI home games will now be broadcast on Time Warner Cable in the Albany area, with two of them being picked up for broadcast across North America on the NHL Network. This Saturday's game against Niagara and the January 29 game against Yale will be available exclusively on TW3, while the December 11 game against BU and the February 12 game against Cornell will air on NHL Network. The latter two games will now start at 3:30pm to accommodate the NHL Network's schedule. Tim Heiman '10 and Kevin Broad '07 will be on the call for all four games.

RPI at Northeastern
Nonconference Game - Matthews Arena (Boston, MA)
10/15/10 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Northeastern 2


RECORD: 0-1-2 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 26 saves
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 G
3. F Bryan Brutlag, 1 G

Bentley at RPI
Nonconference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/16/10 - 5:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Bentley 0


RECORD: 1-1-2 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Tyler Helfrich, 1 G, 2 A
2. G Allen York, SO, 23 saves
3. F Chase Polacek, 1 G, 2 A

Upcoming games
22 Oct - RIT
23 Oct - Niagara
30 Oct - vs. #18 Union (Lake Placid, NY)
05 Nov - at Dartmouth
06 Nov - at Harvard

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