Monday, February 28, 2011

Men's Hockey - Princeton and Quinnipiac (25/26 Feb)

Coming into the final six games of the regular season, the Engineers had only failed to win once at home, with four home games left, so things were looking pretty good. Going 0-3-1 in those four home games is a recipe for failure no matter how well your team is doing, however, and that's exactly what happened to the Engineers to close out the 2010-11 regular season. After the embarrassment of being swept at home by the likes of Colgate and Cornell two weeks prior, RPI laid another egg on senior weekend, losing to Princeton at home for the fourth time in a row, and earning only a tie with Quinnipiac when a win would have delivered them into the ECAC Quarterfinals with their first ever bye.

Instead, the Engineers now have to play Colgate in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, with a trip to Cornell the reward for victory.

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

Bergin/Foss
Koudys/Kennedy
Leboeuf/Bailen

York

The big news on Friday night was that Mike Bergin was making his return to the lineup after missing all of February to that point after being injured in the Freakout - his return was expected to provide a major boost to an RPI defense that had been noticeably exposed in recent games.

RPI got the first power play of the game, but were down 1-0 just 25 seconds into their own man advantage when Princeton freshman Andrew Calof stole the puck from Chase Polacek at center ice and went in all alone on York, coolly wristing a backhander to the top of the cage to put the Tigers ahead, an ominous sign for the Engineers. RPI would get the goal back as a product of the same power play chance as Brock Higgs scored his 7th goal of the year just a few seconds after the advantage ended to tie the game back up.

That was short lived. Princeton would score practically off a faceoff in the RPI zone less than two minutes later to regain their lead.

Princeton made it 3-1 five minutes into the second period by scoring on a relatively weak shot that Allen York probably should have had, and things were starting to look pretty bleak for RPI. The Tigers began to dominate puck control and the two goal lead looked like it may as well have been 20.

An RPI power play midway through the period made it look like that could change, as Matt Tinordi scored his first collegiate goal to bring RPI back within one. The Engineers looked like they had a little bit of life, but unfortunately it was an unforced error by Tinordi that led to another sour turn of events. Tinordi took a roughing penalty that negated what had been a productive power play for the Engineers, and eventually led to a power play that produced a goal for Princeton just before the last minute of the second period. The turn of events felt like a definite dagger.

Johnny Rogic netted his fourth goal of the year with about five minutes left in the third period, but the Engineers were unable to find the equalizer even after Princeton was called for interference with 1:45 left and even with Allen York on the bench creating a 6-on-4 situation for over a minute and a half of that time.

One could look at the game's last sequence as being the fourth consecutive game with a long two-man advantage that the Engineers not only failed to convert, but also helped lose the game. It's a complete head-scratcher why this team, which has gotten so many two-man advantages of late, just can't score on them. There's no excuse.

RPI gave up far too many shots, as well. Allen York gave up 4 goals, but had 40 saves. This could have been far worse.

Quinnipiac
Higgs/Polacek/Brutlag
Rabbani/Rogic/Helfrich
Angers-Goulet/O'Grady/Halpern
Cullen/Malchuk/Burgdoerfer

Bergin/Foss
Leboeuf/Kennedy
Bailen/Dolan

York

Despite the bad result on Friday, RPI still was very much in a position where they could land the bye, especially given the high likelihood of other games going their way - RPI was essentially rooting for Union and Yale over Princeton and Cornell, the two top teams in the league.

The pre-game concern was for Chase Polacek. He reportedly was ill on Saturday and there seemed a very real possibility that the senior would be a scratch for the first time in his collegiate career. He skated in the pre-game warmup and was deemed ready to go, so he did indeed start on senior night.

Things looked good early on as RPI got a goal from an unlikely source. Just one week removed from his first career goal (into an empty net), Guy Leboeuf beat the goaltender this time just two minutes into the game to put the Engineers up 1-0. Even more impressively, the first assist went to another stay-at-home defenseman, John Kennedy.

RPI led 1-0 after one period, and it was becoming clear looking at games elsewhere that they were in very good position to grab that first round bye, as Princeton and Cornell both were losing in their games. However, the Engineers had a horrible first 10 minutes of the second period, allowing two goals about five minutes apart to go down 2-1. To make matters worse, Leboeuf and Patrick Cullen were both called for cross-checking a mere 45 seconds after giving up the go-ahead goal, meaning RPI had a two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes.

Fortunately, RPI got through unscathed and even tied the game back up two minutes later on Joel Malchuk's sixth goal of the year. Things were looking up for the Engineers again, and all they needed was another goal and they'd be taking the next weekend off.

Unfortunately, that goal never came. The third period was full of opportunities for RPI as they had three distinct power plays in the final 20 minutes, but they simply could not finish. Quinnipiac bottled the puck up in the RPI zone for much of the remainder of the game, including the overtime period, which featured just one shot on goal by either team. The Bobcats were doing what they needed to do, because they came into the game really only needing a tie for home-ice (although they could have reached 7th with a win).

Despite the game being tied, Seth Appert pulled Allen York with about 30 seconds left in the overtime period, but it did not lead to a goal. Everything went right for RPI except for their own game, and they finished in a three-way tie for 4th place with Cornell and Princeton, losing the tiebreaker with the Big Red but winning it with the Tigers to end up as the 5th seed.

Just one more point over 22 games would have seen RPI have this coming weekend off. There are plenty of places that point could have been picked up over the year, and we're not just talking about the two screwjob losses (although those do now seem even more upsetting now). The bottom line is, this team needs to decide whether it wants to be tough or not. We know they can be, the question is whether they still have enough gas in the tank to show it.

Other junk - The one-point home weekend caused another drop in the polls, as RPI is now ranked #16 in the nation, down two from last week. #3 Yale (1 first place vote, no change), #4 Union (1 first place vote, up one), #13 Boston University (up two), #17 Colorado College (up two), and #20 Dartmouth (down two) are also ranked this week. Receiving votes were Princeton (18), RIT (6), and Cornell (3).

Chase Polacek has only one point in the last four games. That point does move him into 20th by himself with 156 points. He needs one point to tie Larry Landon '81 for 19th with 157.

That does still put Polacek and Jeff Foss are still on pace to set the all-time record for games played as an Engineer provided they stay healthy. They will tie Peter Merth's record on Friday and they would break the record in the team's second playoff game.

Final ECAC Standings
1. Union - 17-3-2 (36 pts)
2. Yale - 17-4-1 (35 pts)
3. Dartmouth - 12-8-2 (26 pts)
4. Cornell - 11-9-2 (24 pts)
5. RPI - 11-9-2 (24 pts)
6. Princeton - 11-9-2 (24 pts)
7. Clarkson - 9-12-1 (19 pts)
8. Quinnipiac - 6-9-7 (19 pts)
9. Brown - 8-12-2 (18 pts)
10. Harvard - 7-14-1 (15 pts)
11. St. Lawrence - 6-15-1 (13 pts)
12. Colgate - 4-15-3 (11 pts)

Princeton at #14 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/25/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Princeton 4, RPI 3

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats

USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union

VIDEO
YouTube (post-game press conference)

YouTube (goals, no audio)
RPI TV (full game)

RECORD: 19-10-4 (11-8-1 ECAC, 23 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Brock Higgs, 1 G
2. F Tyler Helfrich, 1 A
3. G Allen York, 40 saves

Quinnipiac at #14 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/26/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Quinnipiac 2

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union

VIDEO
RPI TV (full game)


RECORD: 19-10-5 (11-9-2 ECAC, 24 pts)

Reale Deals
1. D Guy Leboeuf, 1 G
2. F Joel Malchuk, 1 G
3. D John Kennedy, 1 A

Upcoming games
04 Mar - Colgate (ECAC First Round Game 1)
05 Mar - Colgate (ECAC First Round Game 2)
06 Mar - Colgate (ECAC First Round Game 3, if necessary)
11 Mar - at Cornell (ECAC Quarterfinal Game 1, if qualified)
12 Mar - at Cornell (ECAC Quarterfinal Game 2, if qualified)

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