Monday, December 20, 2010

Men's Hockey - U.S. Junior National Team (19 Dec)

Exhibitions have zero impact on anything terribly relevant. They don't count in the record. The well defined national tournament selection process uses a (relatively) objective system and doesn't consider them. The statistics don't count.

And yet, the end result from Sunday's exhibition against the defending World Junior Championship gold medalists from the United States will certainly open eyes around the college hockey world - and people may now see the Engineers in a slightly different light. By collegiate standards, the game ended in a 3-3 tie, an impressive showing against an extraordinarily talented team by itself, but by the international standards by which the game was played, RPI earned an upset 5-4 shootout victory.

US Junior National Team
Cullen/Polacek/Helfrich
Lee/Higgs/O'Grady
Angers-Goulet/Malchuk/Brutlag
Rabbani/Rogic/Burgdoerfer
Halpern, Smith

Bergin/Foss
Bailen/Dolan
Koudys/Leboeuf
Beauregard

York

Every skater dressed for the Engineers with the exception of John Kennedy, who Appert said would have played if it were an ECAC game but was held out as a precaution against reinjuring his hand in an ultimately meaningless contest, and Matt Tinordi, who there just wasn't enough room for on the lengthened bench.

Notably, Kevin Beauregard suited up as a defenseman for the first time, while Marty O'Grady returned after missing three games with a concussion. All of the three players who had suffered concussions since Thanksgiving have now returned.

The Yanks got things going pretty quickly - just 89 seconds into the game. An early whistle due to an inadvertent red light signal from the goal judge behind Allen York set up a faceoff to his left. North Dakota's Brock Nelson won the faceoff and Michigan's Chris Brown immediately one-timed the shot into the back of the net, giving Team USA a 1-0 lead.

RPI got their opportunities during the course of the first period, but puck control largely stayed with the Americans throughout the first period - York was forced to make 17 saves during the course of the period. The Engineers' penalty kill was tested twice, bending but not breaking. Then, with 10 seconds left in the period, Brown was called for holding, giving the Engineers their first power play, which carried over into the 2nd period.

With time running out on the penalty to Brown, the Engineers capitalized for their first goal as C.J. Lee scored from Patrick Cullen and Marty O'Grady to tie the game at one. About five minutes later, after killing another penalty, Chase Polacek beat Team USA's Jack Campbell to give RPI a surprising 2-1 lead.

Minutes later, the Engineers nearly took a 3-1 lead when Kevin Beauregard wound up with a shot from the blue line that beat Campbell, but clanged off the crossbar and bounced out. The red light, however, came on, and the Field House horn went off. The referees emphatically waved the goal off and then conferred even as the Engineers celebrated. Ultimately, the wave off stood.

Shortly thereafter, the Americans attacked, and Emerson Etem of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers cashed in, scoring from the Denver duo of Drew Shore and Jason Zucker to tie the game up. Late in the period, the Yanks retook the lead as Brown scored his second of the game with less than 10 seconds left in the period, making it 3-2 into the second intermission.

The Engineers continued to work hard in the third despite being unable to put many shots on Cornell goaltender Andy Iles, who replaced Campbell midway through the second period, but their persistence paid off late in the game. With under three minutes left to play, a clearing attempt by the Americans was intercepted at the point by Bo Dolan, who rifled a slap shot as he had done many times earlier in the game, this one going over Iles' shoulder to tie the game back up at three, with Dolan unofficially scoring his first goal as an Engineer.

With just over a minute left to play, Chris Brown was whistled for interference in the RPI crease, giving the Engineers a late power play that ultimately carried over into the overtime period. Despite a number of good opportunities to score, RPI was unable to put the game winner away, and Team USA immediately went to work, dominating the rest of the overtime period. With 90 seconds left in the game, Zucker, who had been dynamic with the puck throughout the game, tried to go from York's right to left to put the puck in, and the two players made contact. York crumpled to the ice but, after being checked out by the trainer, resolved to stay in the game. He held firm, and the game officially ended in a 3-3 tie.

In international competition, however, ties are broken by a shootout, and the teams went at it with the Americans shooting on York at the west end of the Field House, while the Engineers shot at Iles on the east end. Fittingly, the first shooter of the night was Jerry D'Amigo, who missed wide, setting the tone for a tentative first three rounds in which neither team scored. In fact, it wasn't until the fifth round that C.J. Lee would score the first goal of the shootout.

But every time the Engineers scored, the Americans would respond with a goal of their own. Each time the Engineers missed, the Americans could not seal the victory. Lee's goal was neutralized by a goal from Zucker, the Engineers would get another goal from Lee and goals from Nick Bailen and Jeff Foss, but those would be neutralized by goals from Rocco Grimaldi, Drew Shore, and another from Zucker. Finally, in the 12th round, Marty O'Grady scored, leaving it up to Jerry D'Amigo, who beat York but rang his shot off the post, giving RPI the 5-4 win in a marathon of a shootout.

American fans can take heart in the loss - several top players who are shoo-ins for the team, such as Kyle Palmieri, Chris Kreider, Jon Merrill, Justin Faulk, and John Ramage did not play. In fact, given the lack of ice time for D'Amigo in the second period, it's likely he would not have played if this game had been against anyone else. But Engineers fans can take heart in the win despite Team USA not being at 100% full strength - this was still a team comprised of amazing talent, with several first and second round draft picks getting solid playing time. More than likely, the future looks good for both of these teams.

The word was already out on the Americans. Perhaps now the word will be out on the Engineers - these guys are good.

The exhibition concluded the home schedule for 2010. Up next for RPI is a trip to Huntsville, Alabama for a pair of games with the UAH Chargers. It's been a rough season for the Chargers, but RPI can't afford to let their guard down. Wins won't help their cause much due to UAH's terrible record, but losses will almost certainly come back to haunt later in the season.

Other junk - With only a handful of games this past weekend and none this week, there won't be any more polls released until after the New Year.

Jerry D'Amigo, when he was announced as part of the starting lineups, got a standing ovation and a loud "Jerry! Jerry!" chant. When he lined up for both of his shootout attempts, however, boos were heard. He was last in the handshake line after the game, and got a big hug from each member of the Engineers, including John Kennedy. Distinct "USA! USA!" cheers were heard as the Americans left the ice.

Among the national leaders on the Engineers...

Chase Polacek: 12th in points per game, 48th in goals per game, 13th in assists per game, 21st in power play goals, 18th in shorthanded goals.
Nick Bailen: 35th in points per game, 78th in goals per game, 32nd in assists per game, 50th in power play goals, 3rd in points per game among defensemen.
Tyler Helfrich: 51st in points per game, 32nd in goals per game, 21st in power play goals.
Mike Bergin: 95th in assists per game, 28th in points per game among defensemen.
Joel Malchuk: 2nd in shorthanded goals.
Brock Higgs: 42nd in points per game among freshmen.
Allen York: 6th in goals against average, 5th in save percentage, 20th in winning percentage.

Team: 28th in offense, 4th in defense, 13th in average scoring margin, 28th in power play, 27th in penalty killing, 27th in combined special teams.

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. Quinnipiac - 4-5-1 (9 pts)
6. Union - 3-2-1 (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 - 2-7-0 (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. Quinnipiac (.450)
8. St. Lawrence (.429)
9. Brown (.417)
10. Cornell (.333)
11. Harvard (.222)
12. Colgate (.083)

U.S. Junior National Team at #14 RPI
Exhibition Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/19/10 - 4:o0pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Team USA 3 (RPI wins shootout, 5-4 in 12 rounds)

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
USA Hockey
Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Gazette
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Ithaca Journal
Buffalo News
WGRZ-TV (Buffalo)

VIDEO
Goals (including shootout goals)
Entire shootout (with WRPI commentary)

Post-game interviews (Schenectady Gazette)


RECORD: 9-4-3 (3-3-0 ECAC, 6 pts)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 34 saves
2. F C.J. Lee - 1 G, 2 shootout goals
3. F Marty O'Grady - shootout winner

Upcoming games
30 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
31 Dec - at Alabama-Huntsville
07 Jan - Clarkson
08 Jan - St. Lawrence
14 Jan - at Cornell

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