Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Men's Hockey - New Brunswick (5 Oct)

We got our first look at the Engineers last night in an exhibition game against perhaps the best team in the CIS - the Canadian equivalent of the NCAA - the University of New Brunswick. The Varsity Reds came into Troy competing in their 10th game of the season (undefeated and untied in their previous nine) and third in four nights (having swept UMass and Vermont), while the Engineers were playing their first game and experimenting with line combinations and getting a close look at the freshmen, many of whom are vying for ice time early in the season. Thus, the final 4-1 score probably doesn't, in and of itself, tell us much about the Engineers, but some interesting things developed during the course of the game.

New Brunswick
RPI really didn't have too much in the way of regular lines in this game, since Seth Appert was focused on trying a number of different lines during the course of the game. There were two scratches, far lower than the usual number. I believe the scratches were simply due to logistics - there's only so much space on the bench - but the two skaters who did not dress were freshman Matt Tinordi and junior Justin Smith.

If you believe in omens, the opening of the game probably put a pit in your stomach as it pertains to the season. The Engineers won the opening faceoff back to Mike Bergin, who then tried to feather a pass across his own blue-line. He whiffed on the pass, instead leaving the puck open in the slot, where Hunter Tremblay, UNB's biggest offensive threat, rushed in to pick it up, leaving him all alone. Tremblay roofed it past York to give UNB a 1-0 lead just seven seconds into the game.

A second miscue would lead to UNB's second goal in the first period, this time coming on RPI's first power play of the game. Jeff Foss was unable to keep the puck in the zone at the blue line, and Chris Culligan pounced on it, earning himself a breakaway with his big speed. Again, hung out to dry, Culligan put it past York for the shorthanded goal and a 2-0 lead.

For the most part, though, the Engineers managed to keep pace in the normal flow of play during the first period. It was a run and gun period in which the transition game was almost non-existent - both teams were moving the puck through the neutral zone fairly quickly. UNB's solid forecheck helped keep the Engineers at bay.

A third defensive miscue leading to a UNB goal took place early in the second period, but York was not as blameless on this one as he had been on the first two, which both came off of breakaways. This time, the puck was given away off a pass from behind the RPI net. York made the initial save on Jordan Clendenning, but Clendenning put back his own rebound to make it 3-0, all goals scored unassisted.

Bergin would make up for his mistake late in the second period. As the Engineers' third power play got going, they did a fantastic job of cycling the puck, and as he did all game long, Nick Bailen shot the puck extremely well a couple of times. Eventually, after a couple of rebounds weren't able to be put back, Tyler Helfrich sent it up to Bergin, who one-touched it from the top of the right faceoff circle and into a yawning net to make the score 3-1. The goal got RPI going in the second period as they began to control play, and a power play carried over into the third period.

Although RPI controlled play during the third period as well, they were unable to get any closer, even with three power plays in the first half of the period - including almost a minute of 5x3 play. The game ended with Tremblay putting the puck in the empty net for the final tally.

Bryce Merriam came into the game about midway through the second period, and played phenomenally, making the plays when he had to to keep the puck out of the net against a very solid team. York did not look as solid, though the Engineers were not playing as well in front of him in the first half of the game as they did in the second half when Merriam was in net. But if you're looking for silver linings, there was one right there - Merriam looked much stronger than the last time we saw him, in the Freakout last season.

The freshmen defensemen, to some extent, looked better than some of the veterans. John Kennedy played the solid, physical game we've come to expect from him, but the big lapses came from Bergin and Foss, lapses that ultimately led to goals. Those have to be cleaned up, but one would expect that their lapses would be more quickly dealt with.

As far as the other freshmen, Brock Higgs had lots of ice time to prove himself and managed to draw a penalty to give the Engineers a power play, Johnny Rogic displayed his speed repeatedly, almost earning himself an unexpected breakaway at one point. Sophomore C.J. Lee played very well too, nearly scoring twice but still searching for his first collegiate goal - not that it would have counted as such if he'd scored.

All in all, RPI didn't look horrible. All teams this early in the season will have some items to iron out, but there weren't too many glaring problems. The defense was expected to be a little bit of a question mark. The forwards perhaps could have finished a little better, but finishing isn't easy against a team the caliber of UNB.

We'll see more in just two days time, when the Engineers travel to Colorado College to really get the season underway.

New Brunswick at RPI
Exhibition Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/5/10 - 7:00pm
RESULT: New Brunswick 4, RPI 1


RECORD: 0-0-0 (0-0-0, ECAC)

Upcoming games
08 Oct - at #20 Colorado College
09 Oct - at #20 Colorado College
15 Oct - at Northeastern
16 Oct - Bentley
22 oct - #18 RIT

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