A stern reminder was issued out this week for RPI - if you don't bring your A game on every single night in the ECAC, anyone can beat you. That was the lesson learned on Friday night, as the Engineers fell at home for the first time this season to Clarkson, 3-2 in overtime, before rebounding the next night against St. Lawrence to salvage a weekend split, 5-3.
After rolling 7 defensemen in Alabama, Seth Appert returned to the standard 12/6 skater configuration, and put together an interesting third line centered by former defenseman Bryan Brutlag after seeing the combination with Rabbani and Burgdoerfer on the ice in the second game in Alabama and liking the chemistry.
Clarkson's power play has been pretty bad all season, but if you give any team enough opportunities on the man advantage they're going to make you pay eventually. Spending all kinds of time killing penalties doesn't exactly invigorate your offensive capabilities either, and that's exactly what happened in the first period as RPI took four separate minor penalties in the first 20 minutes, and the Knights capitalized on their 3rd opportunity.
With a tripping call against Mike Bergin following penalties to Nick Bailen and Joel Malchuk, Clarkson got on the board first with a power play tally six seconds after the penalty was called from defenseman Mark Borowiecki, putting RPI down 1-0 for the third consecutive game.
Midway through the second period, the Engineers got themselves back on the board in a 4-on-4 situation. Bergin took another penalty - this time for interference - to nullify RPI's third power play opportunity of the evening, but Nick Bailen came through with one of his patented shots from the point to notch his 8th goal of the season.
The second period was Clarkson's turn to make a parade to the box, but unlike the Knights, RPI was unable to score on four separate power play opportunities in the middle stanza.
A candidate for goal of the year made it 2-1 RPI during the third period as Josh Rabbani scored his second of the season in impressive fashion. Rabbani went airborne trying to cut between two defenders while charging to the net, batting the puck out of mid-air Bobby Orr style and putting it past Clarkson goaltender Paul Karpowich.
Unfortunately, that was the last good result for RPI, as the Knights would tie the score just two and a half minutes later on a goal from Corey Tamblyn. Even though there were plenty of penalties in the first two periods, a lone interference call against John Kennedy early in the period was the only special teams play of the third, something that has been fairly common among ECAC refs in the past.
Ultimately, the Engineers picked the worst possible part of the game to play their poorest - overtime. Clarkson outshot RPI 4-0 in the extra frame, which ended on Tamblyn's second goal of the night at 3:16.
The combination of the penalties in the first, the inability to score on the power play in the second, and a lousy overtime really conspired to do in the Engineers on Friday. The loss snapped a four game winning streak.
The only real lineup change from Friday was a move back to 7 defensemen - Guy Leboeuf dressed in place of Justin Smith.
Things started rather ominously, as St. Lawrence scored on their second shift of the game to go up 1-0 43 seconds into the contest, making it four in a row that the Engineers have gone down 1-0. It was a weak shot on York's glove side from SLU freshman phenom Greg Carey, and yet another uncharacteristic York goal. The Saints proceeded to swarm immediately and look for goal number two in the proceeding couple of minutes, but York stood tall until the Engineers could get their puck possession dialed up.
Johnny Rogic netted his second goal of the season midway through the period to pull RPI square again, ripping a shot from the slot that evaded SLU's Matt Weninger. Then, in the final minute of the first period, Jeff Foss earned his first goal of the season by one-timing back a big rebound that came into the left-side faceoff circle. The referees initially waved the goal off, much to the vocal disagreement of the home crowd, pretty much every single one of which saw the puck in the net. After conferring with the goal judge, the wave off was overturned.
The Engineers wasted no time in getting in trouble in the second period, however. A very questionable call against C.J. Lee was followed up by an only marginally questionable call against Bryan Brutlag, giving SLU a long five-on-three which, as we've seen, have been practically automatic goals for the opposition in the last couple of years, and although RPI did manage to kill a minute of the two-man advantage, the Saints still scored to make it 2-2.
In keeping with ECAC tradition, of course, the Engineers got a 5-on-3 of their own a few minutes later, though it was nowhere near as long as the one St. Lawrence enjoyed - a mere 16 seconds. RPI capitalized anyway, as Nick Bailen rung a shot off the crossbar that bounced down to Patrick Cullen just to the left of the crease. After initially whiffing on the one-time attempt, he connected on his second chance, putting it in the top of the net before Weninger could get in position, and RPI was back up 3-2 with 1 second remaining on the two-man advantage.
The Engineers took a two-goal lead a few minutes later on a really terrible defensive lapse by St. Lawrence. Greg Burgdoerfer corralled the puck in the corner and then skated back toward the blue line with it. As he dropped back, the men marking the puck faded toward the strong side of the ice, leaving Burgdoerfer practically alone with tons of space. Unchallenged, he simply took a couple of strides forward and blasted the puck toward a screen in front, and beat Weninger on the short side.
Less than a minute later, the lead was back to one as the Engineers experienced a letdown of their own. Carey got behind the RPI defense, then received a pass that split the RPI defenders to have possession alone in front of York. He then poked it home to make it 4-3 RPI.
But that was as close as St. Lawrence would be able to get. Late in the third period, Chase Polacek and C.J. Lee came into the zone on a two-on-one, and Polacek simply kept the puck and rifled it into the net to give the Engineers a much needed two-goal cushion back with just over five minutes left to play. York made 8 stops in the final period to preserve the victory, which for the fourth time this year put the Engineers back at .500 in ECAC play.
Losing at home is never good, and losing to Clarkson always sucks, but to come back the next night, go down 1-0 from the outset, and still fight back to claim a win is important for the Engineers moving forward. They need some weekend sweeps in the near future to stay in the hunt for the first round bye, and sweeps on the road can be huge. That makes this weekend's games at Cornell and Colgate a good opportunity to start moving up the ECAC table. Cornell is hard at home no matter how bad they are, and RPI hasn't won in Hamilton in almost a decade, but despite Cornell's road sweep at Quinnipiac and Princeton this past weekend, this should still be one of the best opportunities on the season for the Engineers to do exactly that.
Other junk - Despite the loss on Friday, the Engineers held court in the weekly USCHO.com poll, standing pat in 10th thanks in part to horrible weekends by a couple of teams ranked above them last week, Miami and Maine. Yale remains #1, still with 45 of 50 first place votes after knocking off Harvard and Dartmouth. Union is up one spot to #14 after sweeping St. Lawrence and Clarkson, while ex-#19 Princeton fell out of the rankings after losing to Cornell and having to come back against Colgate. Other RPI opponents ranked this week are #16 Boston University (down two) and #17 Colorado College (up one). Also receiving votes this week were Princeton (44), Dartmouth (26), Clarkson (4), and RIT (1).
Chase Polacek's rise through the record books rolls on unabated. His goal on Saturday gave him 140 points for his career, moving him past Dale Watson '69 for 27th place in RPI history. Next up is George Servinis '85 (141), Ray Belasky '60 (142), Kevin Croxton '06 (143), and the man who will be the next inductee into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor, former coach Garry Kearns '58 (144). It's worth mentioning, of course, that most of the players Polacek has passed recently played far fewer games than he has - Watson achieved his total in 67 games, Polacek has played more than twice that number (136), but it's a different game all around than it was back then. Belasky got his total in just 51 games.
Croxton may be the only player near Polacek with a comparable number of games with 147, which right now is the school record for total games in an RPI sweater. Both Polacek and Jeff Foss will break that record by the end of the regular season if they stay healthy, since they are both at 136 games played and the Engineers have at least 16 games left to play including the playoffs. Bryan Brutlag, who is at 134 career games, would also break Croxton's record if he stays healthy.
And while we're on the topic of games played, Allen York's appearance on Saturday was his 68th game in the Cherry and White, ranking him 9th all-time among RPI goaltenders.
1. Yale - 8-0-0 (16 pts)
2. Princeton - 7-4-1 (15 pts)
3. Dartmouth - 6-3-1 (13 pts)
4. Quinnipiac - 5-6-2 (12 pts)
5. Union - 5-2-1 (11 pts)
6. Clarkson - 5-3-1 (11 pts)
7. RPI - 4-4-0 (8 pts)
8. Cornell - 4-4-0 (8 pts)
9. Brown - 3-4-1 (7 pts)
8. St. Lawrence - 3-6-0 (6 pts)
11. Harvard - 2-9-0 (4 pts)
12. Colgate - 0-7-1 (1 pt)
1. Yale (1.000)
2. Union (.688)
3. Dartmouth (.650)
4. Princeton (.625)
5. Clarkson (.611)
6. RPI (.500)
7. Cornell (.500)
8. Quinnipiac (.462)
9. Brown (.438)
10. St. Lawrence (.333)
11. Harvard (.182)
12. Colgate (.062)
Clarkson at #10 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/7/11 - 7:00pm
RESULT: Clarkson 3, RPI 2 (OT)
College Hockey Stats
Watertown Daily Times
RPI TV (whole game)
YouTube (goals only, no audio)
RECORD: 11-5-3 (3-4-0 ECAC, 6 pts)
1. F Josh Rabbani, 1 G
2. D Nick Bailen, 1 G
3. F Alex Angers-Goulet, 1 A
St. Lawrence at #10 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/8/11 - 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 5, St. Lawrence 3
College Hockey Stats
Albany Times Union
North Country Now
RPI TV (full game)
YouTube (goals, no audio)
RECORD: 12-5-3 (4-4-0 ECAC, 8 pts)
1. F Chase Polacek, 1 G, 2 A
2. D Nick Bailen, 2 A
3. D Mike Bergin, 2 A
14 Jan - at Cornell
15 Jan - at Colgate
21 Jan - Harvard
22 Jan - Dartmouth
28 Jan - Brown