Monday, February 14, 2011

Men's Hockey - Colgate and Cornell (11/12 Feb)

There are a number of good ways to go about securing a first-round bye. Getting swept at home certainly isn't one of them, especially when that sweep is at the hands of the last-place team in the league and a team that had been thoroughly embarrassed the night before in Schenectady. Both were close games that were ultimately decided in overtime, but the razor's edge, where the Engineers have spent plenty of time this season, finally hurt RPI as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Colgate on Friday and a 3-2 game to Cornell on Saturday, dropping them into fifth place.

Colgate
Angers-Goulet/O'Grady/Brutlag
Cullen/Higgs/Lee
Rabbani/Polacek/Helfrich
Tinordi/Rogic/Malchuk

Kennedy/Foss
Koudys/Dolan
Leboeuf/Bailen

Merriam

Allen York was generally declared to be "OK" by Seth Appert, but did not dress this weekend due to some lingering effects of his concussion. Mike Bergin also continued to be sidelined with his injury, and to some extent, their absences were a big part of what happened.

Colgate kicked the game off with a march to the penalty box, taking four penalties during the first period against none to the Engineers. RPI did not capitalize on any of them, though they did score midway through the period at even strength on a goal by Joel Malchuk, assisted by Nick Bailen and C.J. Lee. That gave RPI a 1-0 lead which they nursed for the majority of the game.

RPI's only two penalties of the evening came midway through the second period, as the Engineers spent about four minutes out of five killing penalties to freshmen defensemen Guy Lebeouf and Pat Koudys. Bryce Merriam stood up against an onslaught of shots by the Raiders in the second period, saving all 13 shots that he faced and looking a lot like the same Merriam that stood on his head to pick up the win against Princeton.

Colgate finally broke onto the board on a goal that was more of a defensive breakdown than anything else as the Raiders scored on a give-and-go to tie the game at one early in the third period.

Unlike most games we've seen from RPI, the goal allowed did not spark any kind of rejuvenated effort. All told, the Engineers only fired a total of 19 shots on net across the span of the entire game, one important reason why they were struggling against the last-place Raiders. They had one power play in both the second and the third periods, but capitalized on neither to go 0-for-6 on the man advantage against a Colgate team that doesn't exactly have the world's greatest penalty kill.

Colgate pulled off the upset in the overtime period to make up for their heartbreaking loss in Hamilton at the hands of the Engineers, as yet another defensive breakdown led to an odd-man rush for the Raiders, which they buried - a second goal on the night that wasn't really Merriam's fault.

RPI really didn't have much time to lament the loss - they had to turn around for the second consecutive week and face the Cornell Big Red, 4-0 losers on Friday at the hands of Union, who moved into first place thanks to Yale's loss to St. Lawrence in the North Country.

Cornell
Lee/Polacek/Helfrich
Cullen/Higgs/Rabbani
Angers-Goulet/O'Grady/Brutlag
Tinordi/Malchuk/Smith

Leboeuf/Bailen
Kennedy/Dolan
Koudys/Foss

Merriam

Only a few tinkers were made to the RPI lineup because, frankly, there wasn't much that can be done to lines this late in the season, especially with a goaltender and a defenseman out with injuries. The only difference in the lineup was Johnny Rogic's scratch in favor of Justin Smith, undoubtedly a move to beef up the checking line a bit with Cornell on the ledger.

The Big Red scored first on RPI's third goal given up on a defensive breakdown of the weekend, and it was captain John Kennedy's bad move that led the Big Red to take a 1-0 lead 6:50 into the game. Less than a minute later, however, a Cornell penalty set up the Engineers with a power play that Chase Polacek converted on, pinging one in off the iron to tie things up just 1:44 after the Cornell goal.

Cornell would answer back quickly on a soft one that more than likely should have been stopped by Merriam, as the Big Red put it just over his glove and into the net to go up 2-1. At that point, it was RPI's turn to start taking penalties, hitting the box three times in the last 10 minutes of the period, including a 33 second 5-on-3 with Malchuk and Polacek, two of the team's top penalty-killers, in the box, but the Engineers escaped unscathed.

Alex Angers-Goulet scored his fifth goal of the season about five minutes into the second, at even strength, to tie the game back up at two, and it would be the last goal of regulation. That's not to say that both teams didn't have their golden opportunities. Cornell had a penalty called behind the play as Angers-Goulet scored, giving RPI an immediate opportunity to take the lead that was not converted. RPI then had a 5-on-3 for over a minute and a half not long after, and while they came oh-so-close a number of times on the two-man advantage, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

For a game in which the teams had each racked up 9 penalties in the first two periods, they must have suddenly been on their very best behavior, because neither team was whistled for the first 15 minutes of the third, a stretch that was largely dominated by Cornell. Merriam stood tall in net throughout, keeping the game scoreless.

The penalty free stretch ended on an interference call against Bryan Brutlag (while entering the attacking zone) that gave Cornell a late power play. A minute into it, however, the Big Red were whistled for a brutal hit from behind that left John Kennedy laid out on the ice. That prematurely ended not only Kennedy's night, but Greg Miller's as well as he was sent to the locker room and assessed the required five-minute major.

That major penalty eventually carried over into the extra session. Late in the first minute of overtime, Cornell's Sean Collins got an offensive break during the penalty kill as he came into the zone with Nick Bailen and Merriam to beat. Collins, going full speed and making no effort to stop, plowed directly into Merriam with such force that Merriam and the net ended up at the backboards. Merriam was down on the ice and being attended to for some time, a nightmare scenario for RPI, which had only practice goaltender Jeremy Coupal in reserve. Merriam stayed in the game, but Collins was only called for a goaltender interference minor, and to everyone's surprise, Bailen was also called for interference.

The RPI power play continued, but shortly before it was due to end, another penalty was called, and it was another interference call against Bryan Brutlag, once again while entering the attacking zone. This one was significantly more controversial than the previous one, especially in light of the events that had taken place in Merriam's crease. That eventually gave Cornell their own opportunity on the power play in overtime, which they converted on to take the 3-2 victory. That touched off a rowdy dogpile celebration at center ice by the Big Red.

Incensed RPI fans lustily booed officials Tim Kotyra and Peter Feola, many hurling their Whiteout towels in their direction. They got a police escort off the ice.

More importantly, the twin overtime losses represented RPI's first time being swept all season. Ultimately, they have no one to blame but themselves - they needed to shoot the puck more against Colgate, and didn't convert on golden opportunities in the second period with the 5-on-3 and late in the third and into the overtime on a bad mistake by Cornell in taking that major.

It doesn't get easier from here. Next up is the North Country trip, which is always difficult no matter how good or bad Clarkson and St. Lawrence are. As mentioned, St. Lawrence knocked off Yale at home on Friday, so they've got the ability to run with anyone. These are now, without question, must win games for RPI.

Other junk - To no one's surprise, losing twice at home, with one of the losses coming against the worst team in the standings, caused RPI to plummet down the rankings this week. They fell six spots (which is pretty rare), all the way down to #14 in the nation for this week. Other ranked ECAC teams are #3 Yale (down one, lost to SLU and beat Clarkson), #7 Union (swept Cornell/Colgate), and #16 Dartmouth (up one, swept Quinnipiac/Princeton). Princeton dropped out of the rankings after tying Harvard and losing to Dartmouth. Other RPI opponents in the rankings are #15 Boston University (down one), and #18 Colorado College (up one). Also receiving votes this week were RIT (36), Princeton (35), and Cornell (5).

The paucity of scoring this weekend meant only one point for Chase Polacek, his goal against Cornell. That ties him with Barry Martinelli '76, for 20th with 155 points. Larry Landon '81 is in 19th with 157.

As mentioned last week, Polacek and Jeff Foss are now tied for second with Brad Farynuk '06 for second place all time in total games played in an RPI uniform. Assuming they're in the lineup on Friday (a safe assumption unless there's an injury in practice), they will tie Kevin Croxton '06 for the all-time lead on Friday in Canton, and move into first place by themselves on Saturday in Potsdam.

Former player and coach Garry Kearns '58 was inducted into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor during the first intermission of the Cornell game. The crowd obliged with a "Garry! Garry!" chant after the ceremony.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 14-3-1 (29 pts)
2. Yale - 14-4-0 (28 pts)
3. Dartmouth - 11-5-2 (24 pts)
4. Cornell - 10-6-2 (22 pts)
5. RPI - 10-7-1 (21 pts)
6. Princeton - 9-7-2 (20 pts)
7. Quinnipiac - 6-8-4 (16 pts)
8. Clarkson - 7-9-1 (15 pts)
9. Brown - 6-10-1 (13 pts)
10. St. Lawrence - 5-11-1 (11 pts)
11. Harvard - 3-13-1 (7 pts)
12. Colgate - 2-14-2 (6 pts)

Colgate at #8 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/11/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colgate 2, RPI 1 (OT)

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record

Albany Times Union

VIDEO
RPI TV (full game)
YouTube (post-game interview)


RECORD: 18-7-4 (10-6-1 ECAC, 21 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Joel Malchuk, 1 G
2. G Bryce Merriam, 27 saves
3. D Nick Bailen, 1 A

Cornell at #8 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/12/11 - 3:30pm

RESULT: Cornell 3, RPI 2 (OT)

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Ithaca Journal

RECORD: 18-8-4 (10-7-1 ECAC, 21 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Alex-Angers Goulet, 1 G
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 G
3. D Nick Bailen, 1 A

Upcoming games
18 Feb - at St. Lawrence
19 Feb - at Clarkson
25 Feb - Princeton
26 Feb - Quinnipiac (Senior Night)
04 Mar - ECAC First Round (if necessary)

1 comment:

  1. This coming weekend might not be as bad as we anticipate. Clarkson and St. Lawrence face off against each other tomorrow night, having played two each this past weekend. When we face St. Lawrence on Friday, it will only be on 3 days' rest for them, and Clarkson on Saturday will be playing their 5th game in 8 days.

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