Monday, December 6, 2010

Men's Hockey - at Yale and Brown (3/4 Dec)

This is was the "island" ECAC weekend for the Engineers. After getting things started in early November with a road trip and the Union home-and-home, this was the one weekend separated from all the rest by at least three weeks on either side - and yet, it was more than likely the most difficult and key road weekend of the season. RPI earned a split, but still came out smelling like roses on the other side, dropping a close-fought battle to high-flying Yale, 4-2 before coming out on top in the grudge match with Brown the following afternoon, 6-2.

Yale
Cullen/Polacek/Brutlag
Angers-Goulet/Higgs/Helfrich
Tinordi/Rogic/Rabbani
Burgdoerfer/Halpern/Smith

Bergin/Foss
Bailen/Dolan
Koudys/Leboeuf

York

Injuries limited the Engineer lineup at the worst possible time. With C.J. Lee, Joel Malchuk, and John Kennedy all out already, sophomore Marty O'Grady picked up a concussion in practice to add to the Engineers' injury woes. That necessitated another reshuffle of the lines.

With Yale's dynamic offense and power play, it was always going to be important to stay out of the penalty box to avoid trouble, and that's exactly what the Engineers didn't manage from the very beginning. Jeff Foss was called for tripping just 34 seconds into the game to put Yale on the power play from the get-go, and with just 11 seconds left on the penalty, the Bulldogs converted as Broc Little gave Yale a 1-0 lead after a well executed power play.

The Bulldogs controlled play for much of the first period through their solid puck control and passing. The Engineers did not back down from the challenge, putting up a solid defensive front with good forechecking and allowing no quarter past the center red line, but they would find themselves in a 2-0 hole a little over halfway through the first period as Chris Cahill scored on a nice shot.

The second period got ugly fast for RPI. The Engineers gave up three power plays, including another quick one on a penalty to Bryan Brutlag just 20 seconds into the period that almost turned into a disaster. The Bulldogs just missed on a breakaway, then hit the inside of the post, then forced Allen York to make a save with his hand after he'd lost his stick moments prior. RPI most certainly bent but they did not break despite a near total onslaught in the second period.

The turnaround began in the final minute of the period. With momentum slightly shifting toward the Engineers, they finally scored their first goal of the game as Nick Bailen ripped a blast from the point that went straight to the back of the net. The flow of the game had been with Yale all the way, but the lead was only one at 2-1. RPI pushed for the tying goal immediately, even before the end of the period, nearly tying it on a shot by Chase Polacek and ultimately drawing a penalty that was called at 20:00, giving RPI a power play to start the 3rd period.

RPI would come close to scoring on that power play, but was unable to put it home. A couple of minutes later, that didn't matter as Mike Bergin glided down to the faceoff circle to one-time a pass from Alex Angers-Goulet into the back of the net, tying the game at two. From there, it appeared the momentum may have shifted to the Engineers, and that the upset could well be brewing.

But then the penalty woes returned with three straight penalties. The Engineers killed a penalty to Brock Higgs, but when Guy Leboeuf and Bailen were called for tripping about a minute apart, it set up a long 5-on-3 against Yale's impressive power play. 11 seconds later, it was fairly academic as Andrew Miller scored on a textbook 5-on-3 implementation, putting Yale back in front, 3-2.

The Engineers' best chance to catch back up about a minute later as they got another power play, but they were unable to draw square for a second time, finishing the evening 0-for-4 on the man advantage, giving Yale's rough penalty kill a boost. The Bulldogs uncharacteristically stayed out of the box pretty well, while RPI's penalty woes ended their shot at an upset. The Bulldogs added a late empty netter to secure a 4-2 victory.

At even-strength, missing four key players, the Engineers hung with the Bulldogs, forced them to adapt their game, and even outscored the #2 team in the country, 2-1. The penalties, especially the 5-on-3, were the dagger, but it was a loss that the Engineers could at least take a little bit of pride in. It was only the second time this season a team had brought Yale down to the wire (their 15 minute collapse at Air Force notwithstanding), and the first time they'd had a close game at home.

The one issue after the game was the health of Allen York, who was slow to get up after his final action of the night - he was pulled right away and did not see the ice again as the Engineer net was empty for the remainder of the game.

Brown
Angers-Goulet/Rogic/Brutlag
Cullen/Polacek/Helfrich
Tinordi/Higgs/Rabbani
Burgdoerfer/Beauregard/Halpern

Bergin/Foss
Bailen/Dolan
Koudys/Leboeuf

York

More line shuffling was in order after the Yale loss, with Johnny Rogic finding his first opportunity to center a scoring line. Tyler Helfrich was put back on the wing with Chase Polacek. York did start despite injury concerns, but observers at the game noted that he often rested on one of his knees during the game.

The Engineers got a 5-on-3 opportunity about 8 minutes into the first period, and they capitalized with a goal as Helfrich scored his 7th of the year from Brock Higgs and Polacek to give RPI a 1-0 lead. The goal actually came as the first Brown penalty expired, so they did not have an opportunity for a follow-up 5-on-4 chance.

The penalty problems persisted in the first frame as Patrick Cullen and Matt Tinordi both earned minor penalties late in the period that resulted in Brown power plays, but both were killed off. Shortly after Tinordi left the penalty box, Johnny Rogic cashed in with his first collegiate goal with just four seconds left in the period, giving RPI a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

RPI didn't let up as the second period began, as Helfrich notched his second of the game in a 4-on-4 situation to make it 3-0. 90 seconds later, everyone's favorite Brown captain, Harry Zolnierczyk was called for holding (a call he most likely protested vehemently), and Nick Bailen scored another goal from the point with 2 seconds left on the ensuing power play to put RPI up 4-0 after just over 25 minutes of play. The rout, it seemed, was on.

But Brown would get one back about three minutes later, beating Allen York on a defensive breakdown to make it 4-1, a score that would hold up into the third period. The Engineers came out poorly early in the final stanza, allowing another goal 2:23 in to make it 4-2, and Brown appeared to have the initiative for much of the period, with York forced to make a total of 17 shots in the period. A penalty to Polacek with about 7 minutes left looked like a key opportunity for Brown to pull within a goal, but the RPI penalty kill stood firm.

Seconds after the penalty expired, the Engineers closed the door firmly, as Greg Burgdoerfer landed his first goal as an Engineer to give RPI their three-goal lead back with just over 4 minutes left in the game, and an exclamation point was put on the win just under 2 minutes later when defenseman Pat Koudys scored his first collegiate goal to make the final score 6-2.

For the second time this season, the Engineers earned a road split. That bodes well moving forward. If they can continue their dominance at home (where they are undefeated and untied) in league play and continue to churn out two points at a minimum in their remaining three road weekends, they will be in a very good position to end the season.

There is no rest for the weary, not right away at least. A huge non-conference tilt is coming up this weekend, as RPI faces traditional rivals Boston University at the Field House in a game that could go a long way towards making the Engineers national contenders with the right result. The Terriers were swept by their hated nemeses from Boston College last weekend and must face Northeastern on Wednesday before taking their trip down the Masspike to Troy.

That game, it should be mentioned, will be broadcast live around North America on the NHL Network. Puck drop is at 3:30pm.

Other junk - The valiant stand against Yale and the solid win over Brown impressed the voters in the USCHO.com poll to move the Engineers up yet again - they are now ranked #15 in the nation, up one from last week with 260 votes. The Bulldogs' sweep of RPI and Union (beating the Dutchmen by an impressive 5-0 score on national TV) propelled them into the top spot for the first time in school history - #1 Yale (34 first place votes, up one) is the 17th school in the history of the poll to hold the top position and only the second ECAC team (Cornell was ranked #1 in the final poll in 2003). Two other ECAC schools are ranked this week - #13 Union (no change, beat Brown and lost to Yale) and #19 Dartmouth (previously unranked, idle). The Engineers' opponent this week is #7 Boston University (down five, swept by Boston College). Other RPI opponents earning votes were Clarkson (42, the most by an unranked team), Colorado College (17), Princeton (3), and Niagara (1).

With his assist on Helfrich's second goal on Saturday, Polacek moved past Neil Hernberg '87 and Tim Regan '96 to move into 35th in scoring all time at RPI. He now has 132 points for his career. Next on the list is Don Hearns '75 and Brian Ferreira '90, tied for 33rd with 134 points, and Trevor Kaye '62, 32nd with 135 points. The four assist night on Saturday helped move him up to 17th in the nation in points per game with 1.33 PPG.

Helfrich needs 16 more points this season to become the 61st member of the RPI Century Club. If he can continue scoring at his current pace, he will reach it.

Nick Bailen's goal on Saturday was his 7th in 15 games as an Engineer. He scored only six in 37 games at Bowling Green in 2008-09. It is already the most goals scored by an Engineer defenseman in a season since Keith MCWilliams scored 9 in the 2005-06 season and Scott Basiuk netted 11 in 2003-04. He has scored a goal in three straight games, and five of the last six. With 17 points, he is 4th in the nation in scoring by a defenseman, and his 7 goals are 2nd in the nation behind Wisconsin's Justin Schultz.

With Kevin Beauregard's appearance in Saturday's game, the only player on the roster that has not seen ice time is third-string goaltender Jeremy Coupal. Beauregard, Justin Smith, Matt Tinordi, and Guy Leboeuf are the only skaters yet to record a point thus far.

ECAC Standings
1. Yale - 6-0-0 (12 pts)
2. Princeton - 6-3-0 (12 pts)
3. Dartmouth - 5-2-1 (11 pts)
4. Clarkson - 4-2-1 (9 pts)
5. Union - 3-2-1 (7 pts)
6. Quinnipiac - 3-5-1 (7 pts)
7. RPI - 3-3-0 (6 pts)
8. St. Lawrence - 3-4-0 (6 pts)
9. Brown - 2-3-1 (5 pts)
10. Cornell - 2-4-0 (4 pts)
11. Harvard - 2-6-0 (4 pts)
12. Colgate - 0-5-1 (1 pt)

Adjusted Standings
1. Yale (1.000)
2. Dartmouth (.688)
3. Princeton (.667)
4. Clarkson (.643)
5. Union (.583)
6. RPI (.500)
7. St. Lawrence (.429)
8. Brown (.417)
9. Quinnipiac (.389)
10. Cornell (.333)
11. Harvard (.250)
12. Colgate (.083)

#16 RPI at #2 Yale

ECAC Game - Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
12/3/10 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Yale 4, RPI 2

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Yale Daily News

RECORD: 7-4-3 (2-3-0 ECAC, 4 pts)

Reale Deals
1. D Nick Bailen, 1 G
2. D Mike Bergin, 1 G
3. F Alex Angers-Goulet, 1 A, 2 shots

#16 RPI at Brown
ECAC Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
12/4/10 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 6, Brown 2

BOX SCORES
College Hockey News
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union

RECORD: 8-4-3 (3-3-0 ECAC, 6 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Chase Polacek, 4 A
2. F Tyler Helfrich, 2 G
3. G Allen York, 33 saves

Upcoming games
11 Dec - #7 Boston University
19 Dec - US Junior National Team (exhibition)
30 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
31 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
07 Jan - Clarkson

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