Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Men's Hockey - vs. North Dakota (26 Mar)

They got very little attention ahead of what was possibly the biggest (easily, the latest) game in the program's recent history - at least since the turn of the millennium - but it turned out there was plenty of cause for that lack of attention. The North Dakota Fighting Sioux, ranked #1 in the country, put on a clinic of efficient hockey that, while never thoroughly dominating on the ice, was certainly dominating on the scoreboard. RPI ran into a more well-rounded and talent-laden team in the first round of their first NCAA tournament experience in 16 years, but the only truly disappointing element to the game was the team's inability, for the third consecutive NCAA appearance, to not score a goal as the Engineers fell 6-0 to North Dakota.

North Dakota



The 20-day layoff that the Engineers experienced between their last ECAC tournament game and their NCAA regional appearance represented the longest break between games since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003. Some expected RPI to be rusty due to the layoff, others expected them to have more energy. Neither truly ended up being true, but the Engineers did seem to be able to at the very least run with North Dakota in the first period, and actually controlled play to some extent during portions of the opening 20 minutes.

RPI actually had the game's first decent scoring opportunity just seconds into the affair, forcing UND goaltender Aaron Dell to be sharp right away to keep the Engineers off the scoresheet. RPI was ready, willing, and able to set the physical tone early on, though that did lead to a penalty to Bryan Brutlag just 45 seconds into the game. That penalty was killed off, and a big, bruising hit by Josh Rabbani that leveled UND defenseman Brock Nelson (and led to his being helped off the ice, not to return) could have signaled a serious momentum shift, but North Dakota turned around rather quickly and notched the game's first goal on a bit of a dribbling puck. Brad Malone picked up a slow mover that he placed between Allen York's pads. York got a piece of it, but could not stop it from eventually crossing the line.

That would be the only goal of the first period, but the Engineers certainly had their chances, most notably on a shot taken by Chase Polacek that rang off the post loud enough to reverberate in the Resch Center. Brock Higgs also had an opportunity to light the lamp in the first period after finding the puck at his stick with Dell well out of the net, but he was unable to pull the trigger thanks in part to a solid backup from the UND defense.

Malone scored again early in the second period, this time on the power play, to put UND up 2-0, but the Engineers were still largely hanging with the Sioux. The game's turning point, however, came midway through the period. Shortly after killing off a short 5-on-3 after penalties to Brock Higgs and Jeff Foss - in fact, just seven seconds after Foss exited the penalty box to allow RPI to escape the penalty kill unscathed - UND's Danny Kristo scored a nifty goal on a toe drag, blunting any potential momentum from the penalty kill and giving the Sioux a comfortable 3-0 lead.

From there, the game was mostly academic. RPI began to look a little gassed, having given their all during the game's first 30 minutes to keep up with the Sioux and getting nothing to show for it. North Dakota would score on the next two penalties, netting a power play goal on a second penalty to Jeff Foss and a shorthanded goal with their captain, Chay Genoway, in the penalty box late in the second. While the end of the first saw the Engineers trailing only 1-0, the end of the second saw them back 5-0, a comeback looking quite unlikely even with 20 minutes left.

The coupe de grace came just 32 seconds into the third when Hobey Baker favorite Matt Frattin scored despite drawing a slashing penalty against Mike Bergin in the process - he was not about to be stopped. From there, the Sioux relented slightly, preferring to work for the shutout instead. The Engineers, meanwhile, were completely gassed. Their only offensive opportunities of the third period came on three power plays, but RPI still was unable to put anything home. In fact, on some of the man advantages, North Dakota continued to have a pretty solid control of the puck, occasionally pulling up rather than taking shots on Allen York. They put only eight shots on net after 14 in the first and 18 in the second.

Ultimately, RPI didn't play poorly despite their long layoff - they didn't seem rusty at all and they even seemed to play the type of game they set out to play. The only truly ugly element of the entire game was on the scoreboard. Who knows what could have happened if Higgs or Polacek had been able to put the puck home in the first period - but that is neither here nor there. Not scoring a goal, in the end, was the toughest part for RPI fans to have to swallow. The last goal RPI has scored in the NCAA tournament was the famous goal by George Servinis that won the 1985 national championship.

And so ends a remarkable season that had its share of highs and lows, characterized by the lowest of the low being followed by one of the highest highs in March. Seven seniors - Chase Polacek, Tyler Helfrich, Jeff Foss, Bryan Brutlag, John Kennedy, Scott Halpern, and Kevin Beauregard, have played their final games in an RPI sweater. Joel Malchuk is expected to return for his redshirt season - but there is one key underclassman who we know will not be returning.

Allen York on Tuesday signed a pro contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, forgoing his senior season and becoming the fourth Engineer to sign his first NHL contract this season, following Jerry D'Amigo, Brandon Pirri, and Kirk MacDonald. That leaves a big gap for RPI next season, but fortunately Seth Appert has six months to decide what to do in net. Most likely, junior-to-be Bryce Merriam will be the man between the pipes, but another goaltender will be needed to come in on the roster. That could be the already-recruited Jason Kasdorf, who had been expected to replace York in 2012, or it could be another goaltender yet to be added, with Kasdorf replacing instead Jeremy Coupal on the roster when the practice goalie graduates next year.

Other junk - Chase Polacek finishes his career with 160 points, 19th place among all time scorers at RPI.

With 106 points, Tyler Helfrich finishes his career tied with Norm Bean '70 and Joe Ens '78 for 50th all-time.

Allen York finishes his career at RPI as the top goaltender in program history in goals against average with 2.47.

Greg Burgdoerfer has now been on the roster for three NCAA tournament games - two with Air Force in his freshman season, and one with RPI this year - but did not dress in any of them.

#4 RPI vs. #1 North Dakota
NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal - Resch Center (Green Bay, WI)
3/26/11 - 1:30pm

RESULT: North Dakota 6, RPI 0

2. F Brock Higgs, 4 shots
3. F Chase Polacek, 3 shots

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Not The Way It Was Drawn Up

Didn't get that goal we wanted, in the end. Doesn't much matter. North Dakota's like a runaway truck. They played their game and didn't give us a seam.

So ends a remarkable season, an important benchmark on the road back to respectability. There is more work to be done, and we'll get started on that in October.

The Dream is Alive

Last year, we had a bonafide champion in Rensselaer County. The Averill Park girls basketball team won not only the state championship in Class A, but also the federation championship, which pits the public school champion against the very best from New York City. That made them the best of the best throughout the entire state.

That team had practically all of its best players leave at the end of the year. After starting off this season with a mediocre 7-7 record, they lost their last four games of the season and limped into the sectional tournament as a relatively low seed, an afterthought.

Then they won a game. And another, this time against an undefeated team considered one of the best in the state. They won another to claim an improbable sectional championship. Then they won again to kick off the state tournament. They were told they were in over their heads against a second undefeated team, but they managed to win that one too at the very end to reach the state semifinals. That followed on with another juggernaut they were supposed to lose to, and they won that game on a last-second shot at the buzzer to find themselves in a place no one, not even themselves, most likely, expected them to be just three weeks prior: defending their state championship.

"We just got tired of losing," more than one of the team's players said. "We wanted to prove everyone wrong."

It didn't matter how their season ended. They got their chance in a single-elimination tournament, and they made it count. Repeatedly. All it took was a team effort and a refusal to lose, even when no one thought they had a prayer.

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." - Henry Ford

16 years.

That's a long time to wait for another chance. The last three weeks, of course, have been agonizing as well. But the waiting is over.

As long as there is time left on the clock, the dream is alive.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Low-Seeded and Rusty

So, the Engineers are a #4 seed. They also didn't play last week (or the week before that, but that's beside the point). Some would say... well, they're going to be rusty and they're a low seed, so they're going to get bounced with no problem. And maybe they're right.

But... maybe neither of those are particularly relevant, either.

How have #4 seeds and teams that have had extra rest fared in the tournament lately? Well... pretty good actually. #4 seeds are in bold, teams playing with extra rest are in italics.

Bemidji State - Lost to Wisconsin
Colorado College - Lost to Cornell
Holy Cross - Defeated Minnesota, lost to North Dakota
Nebraska-Omaha - Lost to Boston University
New Hampshire - Lost to Michigan

Air Force - Lost to Minnesota
Alabama-Huntsville - Lost to Notre Dame (2 OT)
Maine - Defeated St. Cloud State, defeated UMass, lost to Michigan State
Miami - Defeated New Hampshire, lost to Boston College
UMass - Defeated Clarkson, lost to Maine

Air Force - Lost to Miami
Clarkson - Defeated St. Cloud State, lost to Michigan
Michigan State - Defeated Colorado College, lost to Notre Dame
Niagara - Lost to Michigan
Notre Dame - Defeated New Hampshire, defeated Michigan State, defeated Michigan, lost to Boston College
Princeton - Lost to North Dakota
Wisconsin - Defeated Denver, lost to North Dakota

Air Force - Defeated Michigan, lost to Vermont
Bemidji State - Defeated Notre Dame, defeated Cornell, lost to Miami
Miami - Defeated Denver, defeated Minnesota-Duluth, defeated Bemidji State, lost to Boston University
New Hampshire - Defeated North Dakota, lost to Boston University
Ohio State - Lost to Boston University
Vermont - Defeated Yale, defeated Air Force, lost to Boston University

Alabama-Huntsville - Lost to Miami
Alaska - Lost to Boston College
Bemidji State - Lost to Michigan
New Hampshire - Defeated Cornell, lost to RIT
RIT - Defeated Denver, defeated New Hampshire, lost to Wisconsin
Yale - Defeated North Dakota, lost to Boston College
Vermont - Lost to Wisconsin

Air Force
Colorado College

New Hampshire


#4 seeds are 8-12 in the first round since 2006, while teams that were off the previous week are 10-9 in the same stretch. Meanwhile, at least one #4 seed has won in the opening round in every tournament since 2006, and at least two supposedly "rusty" teams have won in the opening round against a team fresh from the fight in each of the last four years - not to mention that North Dakota has suffered losses to such teams in each of the last two tournaments (though neither were as a #1 seed).

Oh, and we've had at least one team in the Frozen Four for the last four years running that were either a #4 seed or were rested heading into the tournament (or both).

Hockey isn't basketball - a low seed isn't necessarily a killer. We'll see what happens tomorrow, we're just over 24 hours to go until we tangle with the Sioux.


Today, games get underway in the East and West regionals in Bridgeport and St. Louis. There's the potential for an all-ECAC final in Bridgeport if Yale and Union, the higher seeds, win their games. Yale and Air Force have met once before this season, and it ended in Yale's first loss out in Colorado in a game they were winning 3-0 with 15 minutes left to play. Now in their backyard, I don't see this ending the same way. Meanwhile, Union and Minnesota-Duluth provides one of the truest toss-up games of the first round, as 8/9 matchups frequently do. This one's probably anyone's game, the Dutchmen have the stronger team while Duluth has the stronger individual players.

Out in St. Louis, it's Boston College and Colorado College in an interesting high/low matchup. The Eagles are certainly favored, but the Tigers seem like they could at least provide an interesting game if nothing more. Finally, there's Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha. Michigan shows up every year, but they rarely have been bringing home the national championship, with their only two championships during their long stretch of NCAA tournament appearances coming in 1996 and 1998. Omaha, meanwhile, had a pretty decent season overall but simply could not beat Bemidji State to save their lives this year (fully 1/3 of their losses this year are to the Beavers, including two in the WCHA playoffs). Dean Blais vs. Red Berenson has all the makings of a barnburner in this matchup between teams that were CCHA rivals just last year.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

So Sioux Me

I usually try to keep politics and political stances away from this blog - we're an equal opportunity provider of RPI and college hockey news and information. Fortunately, most of the time we don't even get within a mile of political issues, but with a game with North Dakota now on the horizon, especially given what that game could mean for UND if they lose, there's an issue that I'd rather not just avoid - the Fighting Sioux nickname.

In response to continued pressure from the NCAA, among other entities, the University of North Dakota announced in 2009 that the nickname would be retired, a decision which has understandably upset the majority of UND supporters, given their dedication and love for the school's programs, especially when it comes to their flagship hockey program.

The argument put forward by the NCAA and those who have campaigned against the name is always pretty much the same: that calling the team the "Fighting Sioux" is somehow offensive or degrading to Native Americans. The term "hostile and abusive" was specifically used by the NCAA.

Before I get into whether that makes sense or not, let's look at the evolution of the rather American concept of having official team nicknames. During the turn of the 20th century, most professional teams didn't have nicknames other than those basically assigned to them by the newspapers that covered them. The "Yankees," for instance, grew from the fact that the team was New York's entry in the American League, a name that transitioned from the team's old name, the "Highlanders," which came into being due to the team's original stadium location at Hilltop Park in Manhattan. Both were originally used only by the media to describe them.

RPI had a similar occurrence that helped lead to their current name. The Institute's sports teams were frequently called the "Bachelors" in antiquity, perhaps in part because the school was essentially all-male at the time. That transitioned into the name the school currently uses, the "Engineers," naturally, because the school is renowned for its engineering programs and has always placed a very firm emphasis on that field of study.

We've had our own issues with nicknames (remember the chicken?), but at least ours weren't tinged with accusations of bigotry and racism - they were just an attempt to be more inclusive to other fields of study. Even that didn't go over very well, and this Lally School of Management graduate is quite satisfied with cheering on a team called the Engineers.

In North Dakota, the discussion went far beyond the one at RPI. Supporters of the Fighting Sioux name were called every pejorative in the book by those opposing it, with "racist" seeming to be the term du jour. Why? Are there too many assumptions being made?

In what way is the Fighting Sioux name "hostile and abusive" to the Sioux tribes? Teams and schools do not take on monikers to mock those which they associate with. Did Denver take on their name to be hostile toward the pioneers who explored and settled the west? Does Alaska's use of the Inuit word "nanook," which means polar bear, constitute abusive conduct since the term is sometimes used by the ignorant to refer to Arctic tribes? No, of course not.

And yet, for some reason, "Fighting Sioux" is. Whenever I've heard the name used, the imagery it conjures up should actually be considered flattering. When the Sioux tribes had their land, their way of life, and their very lives threatened by European expansion, they did not meekly submit. They resisted to the end. That is the spirit by which the Fighting Sioux name is quite clearly used.

The university has not used an actual "mascot" since the early 1970s, which was a good move to spike something that seems like it could be actually hostile and abusive. But now, at the conclusion of this season, UND has announced that they will be discontinuing the name, finally capitulating after decades of pressure, increased over the past 10 years by the NCAA (which, incidentally, is not pressuring the BCS conference Florida State Seminoles or the Illinois Fighting Illini to change their names).

Thus, if the Engineers emerge victorious on Saturday, it will likely spell the end of the Fighting Sioux era, and that's a true shame (not that it wouldn't potentially end two weeks later after the Frozen Four anyway, of course). The name has already been associated with seven national championships in men's hockey and is truly legendary in our sport.

It doesn't sound like they've settled on a new name. Some have suggested returning to the name "Flickertails," which is what was in use prior to the adoption of "Sioux" (basically cute little squirrels). Others, tongue firmly in cheek, have suggested the name Suhaki as a workaround, although that doesn't work real well for the university's other sports. (For what it's worth, the people behind "Save our Suhaki" have installed a method for finding out if your own name is "hostile and abusive.")

So, "Fighting Sioux" is "hostile and abusive," eh? OK, so that must necessarily mean that nicknames using groups of people are, by their very nature, hostile and abusive. Thus, to make amends for being hostile and abusive for so long, UND should change their name in order to be hostile and abusive toward the Sioux's greatest enemy instead. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the North Dakota Cavalry. It's a name that reflects the area's history and it even adheres to that fad that never quite went away whereby new sport team names do not end in "s." Best of all, it's hostile and abusive to those that drove the Sioux from their land. Just change the primary color from green to blue. Everyone wins!

Is my logic wrong? Whatever. They'll always be the Fighting Sioux to me - and I will continue to refer to them as such whether the NCAA likes it or not.

UPDATE, 6:04 p.m.: Hmm. This is interesting. Just reading now that a supermajority in both the North Dakota House and Senate passed on legislation to Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordering UND to keep the name Fighting Sioux, and that the governor signed the measure on March 15. I'm sure this will eventually cause another round of bellyaching by the NCAA - hopefully, the name is allowed to stand this time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tonight's Podcast: Joe Paisley

With the Engineers off to the NCAA tournament, it's time to bring back the podcast - and who better to talk to than Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Joe Paisley? After all, he's one of the few guys out there that have seen both RPI and North Dakota this season. Besides, we owe him an appearance, since we tried to have him on at the beginning of the season before the RPI/CC series and failed due to technical issues.

Before the season started, few observers would have pegged that RPI/CC series as one between teams that would still be playing in late March, and yet here we are. Joe is in St. Louis getting set to cover the Tigers' game against Boston College. We'll ask him about the Engineers, the Fighting Sioux, the Tigers, and the Denver Pioneers, who lurk as a potential opponent on Sunday if RPI can pull off the upset. We'll also break down the NCAA tournament and provide a wrap-up on the women's NCAA tournament.

We hit the "airwaves" at 9pm Eastern tonight, and we'll talk to Joe around 9:30. Don't miss it! Click "Listen to Without a Peer" in the upper right hand corner of the page at the appropriate time to listen in live.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Know Your Enemy: North Dakota

Well. This wasn't on the schedule at the beginning of the year. Must have missed this one.

Actually, it technically was, since we always put the schedule out to include the entire NCAA tournament (you know, just in case), but at any rate, it's time to take a close look at the opponents for Saturday's contest in Green Bay. There's no such thing as an easy opponent this time of year, but the first test for the Engineers is a tall one indeed - the #1 team in the nation, if not in the tournament.

North Dakota
Nickname: Fighting Sioux
Location: Grand Forks, ND
Founded: 1883
Conference: WCHA
National Championships: 7 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2010
Last Frozen Four: 2008
Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season)
2010-11 Record: 30-8-3 (21-6-1 WCHA, 1st place)
Series: North Dakota leads, 7-1-0
First Game: January 2, 1960 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: November 24, 1984 (Grand Forks, ND)
Last UND win: January 13, 1990 (Grand Forks, ND)

2010-11 game: March 26, 2011 (Green Bay, WI)
Key players: D Derek Forbort, fr. (0-15--15), F Matt Frattin, sr. (35-22--57), D Chay Genoway, sr. (6-26--32), F Jason Gregoire, jr. (24-17--41), F Corban Knight, so. (13-29--42), F Brad Malone, sr. (16-21--37), F Evan Trupp, sr. (16-21--37), G Aaron Dell (28-6-2, 1.87, .921)

The names are what stand out in UND's hockey history - names like Ed Belfour, Craig Ludwig, Troy Murray, David Christian, and Tony Hrkac. Today's NHL ranks are littered with former Sioux - Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie... the list goes on.

Hockey has been synonymous with North Dakota since the end of World War II, when the school hired student John Jamieson as the team's first hockey coach in 1946. It didn't take long for UND to establish itself as a worthy hockey power, taking down a Michigan team that was just a month away from becoming the first NCAA champion by a 6-5 score in Ann Arbor in 1948.

The upward trend continued into the 1950s, where the school was one of the founding members of the WIHL, the forerunner of the WCHA. They reached their first Frozen Four in 1958, blasting Harvard 9-1 in the semifinal before falling to Denver, but the next season the Sioux broke through, claiming their first national championship in the 1959 Frozen Four at RPI Field House, where they won a pair of heart-stopping 4-3 overtime games over St. Lawrence and Michigan State.

Head coach Barry Thorndycraft was behind the bench in Troy, and he would earn a second national championship in 1963. That was the last national crown the Sioux earned for nearly 20 years, but the team stayed competitive through the 1960s.

One thing RPI and North Dakota have in common are ruinous tenures by UND alum Rube Bjorkman. He spent one year at RPI in 1964, leading the Engineers to the Frozen Four that season but nearly causing the program to die when he left for New Hampshire. Bjorkman had moderate success in Durham, but while at his alma mater, the team entered a 10-year period of mediocrity.

That period ended as soon as Bjorkman stepped down in early 1978. His repalcement, Gino Gasparini, returned the team to the Frozen Four in 1979, his first season behind the bench. Under Gasparini, the Sioux returned to prominence, winning three national championships during his tenure from 1978 to 1994. That stretch included a much-remembered pair of upsets (at RPI, anyway) in Troy in the NCAA tournament, as the Sioux twice defeated an RPI team that entered the tournament with a record of 32-4 as one of the favorites for the national championship.

The Fighting Sioux are arguably in the midst of their greatest sustained success in the history of their program. Since the 1996-97 season, they have scored seven MacNaughton Cups as WCHA regular season champions, five Broadmoor Trophies as WCHA tournament champs, and have only missed 20 wins and the NCAA tournament once (2001-02, their first season in the college hockey cathedral known as Ralph Englestad Arena). During that stretch, they have reached the Frozen Four seven times, winning two national championships in 1997 and 2000.

North Dakota has completed the WCHA sweep (regular season and playoffs) three times. The first two times, in 1987 and 1997, they won the national championship. 2011 is the third.

This team has all kinds of experienced offense, led by Hobey Baker Award favorite Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, and Corban Knight, and their defense is keyed by Aaron Dell, who was the backup to Brad Eidsness heading into the season. Dell has been superb all season long, however, being named the WCHA's goaltender of the year. The team is deep enough to roll with four dangerous lines that will burn you if you take a shift off. That's a key reason why they come into the NCAA tournament with a 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1).

What does RPI have going for them? Well, they didn't just emerge from the all-out war that is the WCHA tournament. They will have had almost three weeks for their minor bumps and bruises to heal - and in recent years, teams that have had a couple of weeks off before their NCAA tournament have found success, usually quite unexpected (that would seem to bode well for Nebraska-Omaha and Union, too). They've shown resiliency this season as well against top teams, including a victory over then-#1 Yale (who boasts the only goaltender with better numbers than Dell this year). Of course, the Engineers also have a Hobey Baker candidate of their own and a goaltender who has been known to keep his team in practically every game he's played this season.

Let there be no doubt as to which team in this matchup has the pressure on them. Anything short of the national championship for North Dakota, especially given their dismissive demeanors after winning the MacNaughton and the Broadmoor, will be a failure. The Engineers, while they surely are going to go for the win, are merely happy to still be playing. That alone, or even combined with the elements above, isn't going to suddenly make RPI favorites, but there's something to be said for the freedom that comes with using house money.

We'll see what happens on Saturday. North Dakota are the favorites and rightfully so, but there's no reason not to go into this game without hope. If RPI goes for broke and Allen York has a strong game, anything's possible.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Were Right

Clearly, the committee read WaP last night, saw that it made sense, and started drinking High Lifes.

Actually, there wasn't much else they could do, and the one change we made to the natural bracket was just common sense.

So it's Green Bay.

Can't wait for Barry Melrose's DU/UND matchup. Hopefully the Sioux are overlooking us as much as ESPN did.

Obviously, more to come this week. Stay tuned. Stay pumped. Find a flight.

The Show Must Go On

True story*: I talked to my uncle's best friend's cousin's neighbor's dog groomer's brother-in-law's uncle, Ozzy Osbourne about RPI's recent playoff loss to Colgate and the possibility that they would make the NCAA tournament anyway. He wrote this song about them.

* - Note: Not a true story.

My friends, the moment has arrived. We will be playing in the NCAA tournament. Hooah.

Here is the official WaP projection of the bracket, which will be announced tomorrow.

#1 seeds: Yale, North Dakota, Boston College, Miami
#2 seeds: Michigan, Merrimack, Denver, Union
#3 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska-Omaha
#4 seeds: New Hampshire, Colorado College, RPI, Air Force

East Regional (Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport, CT)
E4. Air Force vs. E1. Yale
E3. Minnesota-Duluth vs. E2. Union

Midwest Regional (Resch Center, Green Bay, WI)
MW4. RPI vs. MW1 North Dakota
MW3. Western Michigan vs. MW2 Denver

West Regional (Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO)
W4. Colorado College vs. W1. Boston College
W3. Nebraska-Omaha vs. W2. Michigan

Northeast Regional (Verizon Wireless Center, Manchester, NH)
NE4. New Hampshire vs. NE1. Miami
NE3. Notre Dame vs. NE2. Merrimack

These are the teams in the field, there's no denying that. There are a few things the committee could do.

1) I've taken my base prediction (which is actually exactly the same as that of CHN) and swapped the Michigan/UNO matchup, which would take place in Manchester in a more perfectly integral bracket, and moved it to St. Louis in place of Merrimack/Notre Dame, thereby turning a situation with three teams playing outside of their regions to only one.

2) The committee could choose to send North Dakota to St. Louis, a logistically easier location, as a reward for finishing as the #2 overall seed. That would basically swap the entire St. Louis and Green Bay brackets.

Therefore, we project that the Engineers will play in Green Bay on Saturday against North Dakota. The only other possibility that exists besides Green Bay is St. Louis.

Yes, there is zero chance of RPI playing in the East. This is because of the host requirements in Manchester and Bridgeport. In Manchester, hosts UNH must be placed there, and since UNH and RPI are both #4 seeds, RPI cannot go there. In Bridgeport, hosts Yale must be placed there, and since Yale is a #1 seed and would play a #4 seed, RPI cannot go there because there cannot be intra-conference matchups in the first round.

Therefore, the only options are Green Bay and St. Louis. The Engineers would end up in St. Louis if the committee decides to place the Sioux in St. Louis instead of Green Bay. That's not outside the realm of possibility, so keep that in the back of your mind. But given all the information that we have received, we expect RPI to play UND in Green Bay.

The selection show is Sunday morning at 11:30 am. You had better be watching.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Judgment Day

We're going to be live blogging the final games of the tournament. Know right away whether RPI is in or out right here, and feel free to add your own comments. We're going to get started at about 3:30pm or so.

Here's the current list of seeds. Teams in bold will be one of the listed seeds. Teams in italics will be the listed seeds if they qualify for the tournament.

Potential #1 seeds: Yale, North Dakota, Boston College, Miami, Merrimack, Denver, Michigan
Potential #2 seeds: Miami, Merrimack, Denver, Michigan, Union
Potential #3 seeds: Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, Western Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska-Omaha, RPI
Potential #4 seeds: New Hampshire, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, RPI, Cornell, RIT, Air Force

It All Comes Down to This

We've been saying it since the beginning. We need Cornell to lose.

Guess what? It's true to the very end.

If Yale beats Cornell to win the ECAC championship for the second time in three years, nothing, and I mean nothing else will matter. The Engineers will be playing in the NCAA tournament.

RPI presently has an 83.0507% chance of making the tournament according to Reilly Hamilton's numbers, but that number plummets significantly if Cornell beats Yale - to 22.0463% before any other game is considered, and by that time the other games we will have wanted to go our way will already be over, so we will know if we're in or out - or if we even require a Yale win.

Let's look at the PairWise before we get into the goods.

1. Yale*
2. North Dakota*
3. Boston College*
4. Miami*
5. Merrimack
6. Denver
7. Michigan
8. Union
9. Minnesota-Duluth
10. Notre Dame
11. Western Michigan
12. New Hampshire
13. Nebraska-Omaha
14. Colorado College
15. Rensselaer
22. Cornell
24. RIT*
29. Air Force

Where's the rest of the PairWise, you ask? Truncated to the teams who are still alive for the tournament. Be mindful that Dartmouth and Maine are there, and TUCs, but neither will make the tournament. They're simply making life difficult for the Engineers right now.

The Maine comparison is lost due to Colorado College's loss to North Dakota on Friday. That leaves only two comparisons left to worry about that can be flipped: Notre Dame and Dartmouth.

First off, let's look at upsets. There is only one remaining potential "upset" champion - that is, the teams competing for the WCHA, CCHA, Hockey East, and ECAC championships will all be playing next weekend regardless of what happens with only one exception: Cornell. The Big Red must win in order to play next weekend. Therefore, the 12, 13, and 14 PWR teams at the end of Saturday WILL be in the tournament.

As of right now, the top 12 teams in the PWR are all guaranteed positions in the tournament. If Yale defeats Cornell, it will guarantee a spot for CC, UNO, and RPI, the only bubble teams left.

RIT or Air Force will be the #16 seed, depending on who wins the Atlantic Hockey championship. Cornell will be the #15 seed if they defeat Yale, bouncing one of CC, UNO, or RPI, most likely RPI unless the ECAC and CCHA consolation games go their way.

The Engineers can still finish as high as 12th in the PairWise, and it wouldn't take much to accomplish it. Here's what we need.

Engineer Cheering Section
Colgate over Dartmouth
Michigan over Notre Dame
(a tie is acceptable, in some rare cases preferable)
Yale over Cornell
Western Michigan over Miami
Denver over North Dakota
Merrimack over Boston College
RIT over Air Force

The highlighted games are the most important. The first two are the ECAC and CCHA consolations, and will be the first games of the day.

At this point, I don't really understand why WMU beating Miami is important for RPI's chances at a #3 seed, but that's what the PairWise predictor says, so let's roll with it. It's not highlighted because the goal is simply making the tournament. The first three games are of the utmost importance - especially the ECAC championship if we don't get good results from the ECAC and CCHA consolations.

Notre Dame: The Engineers are now winning this comparison, but if Notre Dame defeats Michigan it will flip back due to TUC. A Michigan win or tie means Rensselaer wins this one.

Dartmouth: The Big Green lose to Colgate, and this one flips back to the Engineers on RPI/H2H. A tie does not get the job done.

If Cornell defeats Yale for the ECAC title, the Engineers almost certainly must win both of these comparisons to reach the NCAA tournament. No other comparison that the Engineers have, whether winning or losing, can be flipped. There is no more TUC cliff - what you see is what you get.

There is one scenario where the Engineers get in despite a Yale win even if Dartmouth wins or ties the consolation. It requires a tie in the CCHA consolation game and a Western Michigan victory over Miami. That flips one of UNO's comparisons and pushes them down into 15th. So we might more accurately be rooting for a tie in the CCHA consolation, but if there's a winner, we certainly want it to be Michigan. There's no scenario where Cornell and Notre Dame winning ends well.

The Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey, and WCHA title games don't really appear to mean much to us, if anything.

With all of that said, this is what the tournament currently looks like.

1. Yale
2. Union
3. Notre Dame
4. RIT

St. Louis
1. North Dakota
2. Michigan
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Rensselaer

1. Boston College
2. Denver
3. New Hampshire
4. Colorado College

Green Bay
1. Miami
2. Merrimack
3. Western Michigan
4. Nebraska-Omaha

Yale will be the #1 overall seed and as hosts, will be placed in Bridgeport. Union is not likely to move much from where they are now, so they are likely to go to Bridgeport too. This means that there is no chance for RPI to end up in Connecticut as a tournament team if they do not reach #12 in the PairWise. They're still exceptionally unlikely to end up in Bridgeport anyway due to Union and bracket integrity. Go ahead and cross Connecticut off your list.

Boston College and North Dakota will be the 2/3 overall seeds in either order. Functionally, this means that Boston College will be in Manchester as the #1 seed there (unless New Hampshire falls to a #4, which is likely if the Engineers get to #12 PWR), and that North Dakota will be the #1 seed in St. Louis if what I have been led to believe is correct. If the Engineers stay where they are at #15 PWR and still make the tournament, they would play in either Manchester or St. Louis (with a possibility of Green Bay if the Sioux end up there instead).

#4 PWR, the final top seed, will be one of Miami, Merrimack, Denver, or Michigan. They will be the top seed in whichever western regional the Sioux are not sent to (unless New Hampshire becomes a 4 seed, in which case they will be the top seed in Manchester - then unless it's Merrimack, and then North Dakota has no choice but to go to Manchester, making Boston College and Merrimack the top seeds in the western regionals).

As long as my understanding about North Dakota going to St. Louis is accurate, the Gateway city is my best guess at RPI's most likely potential destination if they make the tournament. Manchester is next most likely, Green Bay after that, and Bridgeport is extremely unlikely, if not completely impossible.

Bottom line - Yale wins, we're in. Cornell wins, we need some help but can still make it in as long as things went our way earlier in the day.

If we're out... there is no scenario out there where we won't at least have the slight consolation of being the "first team out." The Engineers will finish no worse than where they are now.

Let's go Eli! Let's go Raiders! Go Blue!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two Down, 17 to Go

We went 0-for-2 in our cheering section last night. Minnesota-Duluth, a team that could help ensure a non-upset in the WCHA, lost out to Bemidji State, a team that would be a potential upset winner, but more importantly, Colorado College defeated Alaska-Anchorage. This had two end results, one good, one bad. The bad news is that Colorado College has essentially guaranteed their place in the tournament, in part because the comparison with the Engineers is now permanently in their favor. The good news is that UAA is no longer a potential problem champion.

The bad does outweigh the good. By virtue of the two unfortunate results, the Engineers' chances of making the NCAA tournament are down about 13%. They now stand at 68.5010% according to Reilly Hamilton's KRACH-weighted prediction program. Before you start to worry, remember... that's still better than 2 in 3. This time last week, you would have been ecstatic at that figure.


So RPI can no longer finish in 10th, but we knew that wasn't probably going to happen anyway. They can no longer be 18th or 19th either, but that wasn't ever going to matter either.

RPI remains 16th in the PairWise, but that can and will change if we can flip one or more of the remaining flippable comparisions: Notre Dame, Dartmouth, and/or Maine.

So here's our new cheering section, with explanations to follow.
Denver over Bemidji State
Colorado College over North Dakota

Michigan over Western Michigan
Miami over Notre Dame

Cornell over Dartmouth
Yale over Colgate

Hockey East
Merrimack over New Hampshire
Boston College over Northeastern

Atlantic Hockey
RIT over UConn
Air Force over Holy Cross

So there it is. I have highlighted the four most important games of the day for the Engineers.

Wait, you say. Aren't CC and Cornell supposed to be sworn enemies of ours?

Well, they were. But not anymore. In CC's case, again.

We've bounced back and forth on the Tigers because they're a previous opponent who happened to be very close to us in the PWR. After last night's win, they are almost certainly going to be in the tournament, which is disappointing from our perspective, but there's also nothing we can do about it. Since they're also not a potential upset champion in the WCHA, we can fall back to our original position that we dwelled on in Engineer Bracketology for the last three months: you root for teams you played outside the conference during the season.

In this case, a CC victory over North Dakota would help the Engineers' RPI to an extent that it would flip the comparison with Maine - which right now, the Black Bears are winning by a margin of .0001. Additionally, the Fighting Sioux played Maine twice earlier this season as well, so there's a double bonus here. Colorado College vs. North Dakota is a proxy game between Rensselaer and Maine, with CC playing the role of the Engineers and North Dakota taking on the part of the Black Bears. The winner wins the comparison, most likely.

So when it comes to the WCHA, we're actually big Tigers fans now. If they win the Broadmoor Trophy tomorrow, it's hard to see the Engineers not playing next weekend, and it's all because of the mere existence of the first two games of the year.

Cornell? We've been harping on how bad Cornell is for the Engineers practically the entire span of Engineer Bracketology. And yes, if they lost twice this weekend, their RPI could fall below .5000, but from where we're sitting right now, that's not something we absolutely need. Yes, it would flip the Notre Dame comparison back, but Notre Dame losing twice or losing tonight and tying tomorrow would accomplish the same thing. Meanwhile, we want a crack at flipping that Dartmouth comparison, and the only way for that to happen is for the Big Green to lose twice.

That's playing with fire, because Dartmouth is a potential upset stifler, while Cornell would be an upset champion if they won twice. We definitely don't want that. So Cornell, for one night only, gets our support, but then we become Yale fans, assuming that they beat Colgate. If Cornell and Colgate both win... gulp.

The other ones, you know about. UNH gets bounced, that locks our comparison with the Wildcats, which we really need now that we can't flip the CC comparison. If Western Michigan loses twice, the Engineers are probably going to move ahead of them in the PWR by virtue of WMU losing comparisons to other teams. And of course, we want Notre Dame to lose twice. That can't happen in conjunction with WMU losing twice, of course, but if we can get one or the other to happen, that's fantastic for the Engineers. Basically, if Miami and Michigan both win tonight, the CCHA will turn out positive results.

Oh, and you want to know about the Atlantic Hockey part? Meh. Mr. Hamilton's KRACH machine tells us that these two results incrementally help the Engineers, while the opposite result incrementally hurts them. Every little bit helps at this point, but generally they're not too important. If RIT (or UConn) were playing, say, Holy Cross, it would be a little more important, because they could help boost the Engineers' RPI with a win, but as it is they're playing another previous opponent in UConn (or RIT), so it cancels out.

Northeastern, as a previous opponent, could help us out, but we don't want them becoming a TUC or an upset champion. That supersedes the benefit we could get from them beating Boston College.

That's it. Keep those fingers crossed and keep an eye on our Twitter feed tonight. We'll have live updates on what's going on and how it effects RPI.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hacking the PairWise

What happens when you combine a mathematically defined system for selecting the NCAA field, the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world, and two weeks of waiting around to see if said university (or Institute, if you prefer) is going to get a bid to the tournament?

Well, you get this: a program that runs all of the permutations heading into the final three days of games before the field is chosen.

Reilly Hamilton, an enterprising CompSci/Economics major from RPI's Class of 2012 (and a key component of RPI TV's broadcasts as president), took it upon himself to write a program that essentially played the remaining 19 games to each potential overall result, then weighted those results using KRACH, the best statistic available for determining the likelihood of one team beating another (which we've discussed here before).

Those results can be found here.
They include numbers for every team that is either still playing or can still potentially make the tournament. If your team isn't listed here... sorry. Your season's definitively over.

Now, this isn't perfect for a couple of reasons. First, in these calculations, KRACH doesn't change as the games are played. To do that would require a whole new set of calculations taking up a heck of a lot more time... and the games start tonight, so time is something we don't have a lot of. The second is that KRACH really doesn't have a good way of predicting the likelihood of a tie, and there are two games this weekend - the ECAC and CCHA consolation games - that could potentially end in a tie. But they are at the very least a rough estimate of the likelihood of teams making the tournament, and what seed they're likely to be.

The unweighted listings are very simple: they are a list of the total number of scenarios that could result after the 19 games this weekend are played.

Since we're an RPI-centric site, here are the Engineers' results. They are in the tournament in permutations listed in green, out in the ones listed in red.


As you can see, RPI could finish as high as 10th in the PWR, but that's not only highly unlikely (68 possible scenarios out of 1,179,648 overall scenarios), the situation is also fairly fanciful, because the weighted percentage is less than the unweighted percentage.

A simple way to explain this is to look at Colgate's tournament chances. Given that they will only be in the tournament if they win the ECAC title, their unweighted chances of making the tournament are 25%, because in 25% of the possible scenarios, they win the ECAC tournament. However, not all teams are created equal, and in the scope of the entirety of the season, their chances of actually winning the tournament isn't really great.

With that said, the Engineers, according to this model have an 81.3656% chance of playing next weekend. Slightly better than 4 in 5? What's not to be excited about there? It's not a given, which would be better, but beggars can't be choosers. Their unweighted chances are 74.3808%, which means that even if you treated every scenario as being equally likely, they're still in almost 3 times out of 4.

This analysis proves what we already knew about teams that are already in the tournament: Yale, North Dakota, Boston College, Miami, Michigan, Denver, Union, Merrimack, and Minnesota-Duluth can't miss the tournament.

It also shows that the bandied about scenarios of Notre Dame or New Hampshire missing the tournament are extremely fanciful. Barring something extremely, extremely unlikely, both teams are in.

Nebraska-Omaha, for all of its problems, is also almost certainly in.

That leaves the teams that are firmly on the bubble, and that's RPI, Western Michigan, Colorado College, and Dartmouth. Depending on the number of upset champions, there will be between 0 and 3 at-large bids that will go to these teams, discounting the fact that BU, Alaska-Anchorage, and Maine are also alive in this group but with much worse chances of making it. Of that group, the Engineers stand the best chance of emerging in the tournament field. That's a wonderful place to be.

So special thanks to Reilly Hamilton for putting in the time and effort needed to create this program. He has promised some updates over the course of the weekend, and we'll be glad to bring them to you here.

Go Seawolves (tonight)!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recruiting RPI Hockey

With all this talk of where RPI stands in the national tournament picture, and the fact that the school to the west is in the middle of the same talk, I wanted to shift gears a little bit.

Recently, a friend of mine said that he was going to disown the NCAA basketball tournament due to the fact that it is way too big and there are no local teams to root for this year, so I let him know about college hockey's upcoming Big Dance and the peripherals of the local team(s) that will be involved. Needless to say, he was very intrigued and wanted more information.

This got me to wondering... if he was new to the area and wanted a team and a sport to root for, what would I tell him? This is of course, assuming that said person likes Division I college athletics.

First, there is UAlbany and Siena, the darlings of the area. Both schools are Division I in every sport they play, so there's that going for them. So what sport do you pick? Basketball? Both teams have had their successful years, most recently Siena. Both schools have been the doormat of their leagues, most recently UAlbany.

Not a basketball fan? OK, then there's lacrosse at both schools. Siena's program has been on the rise, but they have barely scratched the surface in the MAAC, let alone nationally. Siena is the type of team you play when you are a big powerhouse team that wants a meaningful scrimmage game. Albany? They have been and are currently nationally ranked, and has even been to a national semifinal where they lost to Cornell, so that's a distinct possibility, but lacrosse isn't a mainstream sport, so that's out. I'm sure baseball at both schools is very good, but with all the snow we have had, both teams are already about six months behind the 8 ball.

Thus, we transition to another niche sport, college hockey. There are only two division I men's teams to cheer for, so which one do we choose? Union, since 1991, has only recently made their strides. Since Nate Leaman has come along, Union has consistently finished above RPI in the rankings. Since Nate Leaman has come along, Union has amazingly beat out bigger schools with recruits. But let me ask you a question real quick. Who is the only player from Union to leave early from school to sign a pro contract? If you said T.J. Fox, I'll buy you a drink of your choice. Who? My thoughts exactly.

While even I don't particularly remember Mr. Fox's playing days with the Dutchmen, I'm sure he was a fine player. That brings me to RPI. Three league championships, eight (hopefully nine) NCAA tournament appearances; five Frozen Four appearances; and finally, two national championships. If you are familiar with hockey, then the names Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, Kevin Constantine, and Daren Puppa are familiar to you. There are, of course, other pros. Some had above average careers, and some had a cup of coffee in the NHL, but at least they were pros. In addition, the first NHL player of Jamaican descent was a graduate of the school. If I were new to the area and a fan of all sports, there's no question where my allegiance would be pledged.

How about you, how would you recruit the team to a new fan? Think about it. Think about why you became a fan in the first place, and enjoy the ride that is RPI Hockey.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Engineer Bracketology: Week 10

We've basically become the Bracketology blog lately, and we're OK with that.

With one week to go, the Engineers are not currently in the tournament field, but that could well change. The PairWise, as it exists now:

1. Yale*
2. North Dakota*
3. Boston College*
4. Michigan*
5. Miami
6. Denver
7. Minnesota-Duluth
8. Merrimack
9. Union
10. Notre Dame
11. New Hampshire
12. Western Michigan
13. Nebraska-Omaha
14. Colorado College
15. Dartmouth
16. Rensselaer
17. Boston University
18. Maine
19. Minnesota
20. Alaska-Anchorage
21. St. Cloud State
22. Alaska
23. Ferris State
24. Wisconsin
25. Princeton
26. RIT*
27. Cornell
28. Bemidji State
29. Air Force
30. Quinnipiac

So the Engineers are just outside of the field if the tournament started today. Fortunately, the tournament doesn't start today.

There are only 19 games left to be played. That makes figuring out what we need a whole lot easier, although there are still tens of thousands of permutations of what is possible.

Let's look at the Engineers' comparisons that can still be affected - and the news here is mostly good.

New Hampshire: This is the one comparison that Rensselaer is winning that it could forseeably lose, but it will only happen if UNH wins the Hockey East championship.

Colorado College: This one comes down to a single game - Thursday's play-in game between Alaska-Anchorage. If the Seawolves win, the Engineers win the comparison. If the Tigers win, they will win the comparison. It's that excessively simple. If UAA beats CC, Rensselaer's chances of making the tournament improve dramatically.

Dartmouth: This one's tricky. We're looking for the Big Green to tank - that is, lose twice. That's not easy. Pretty much anything else and Dartmouth wins this one.

Notre Dame: This flipped back to the Irish after Minnesota State dropped out as a TUC, but all is not lost. If ND loses to Miami on Friday and then either loses or ties the consolation game, this flips back to the Engineers.

That's it. Those are the only four comparisons we're really looking at, and we're only winning one of them right now, so that means the Engineers are going to be hard-pressed to fall much farther from where they are right now. The more likely question is, do they stay where they are or do they move up?

These two could also flip, but are not worth worrying about.

Maine: This one could be flipped back to the Engineers, but in order to flip it, New Hampshire and Notre Dame must both be doing well enough to flip/keep their comparisons against Rensselaer in their favor. So winning the Maine comparison would actually just be a small consolation. I did find a sequence which would give the Engineers comparison wins over both UNH and Maine, but it's fairly unrealistic.

Alaska-Anchorage: If the Engineers lose this one - and it would require the Seawolves winning the WCHA championship - there won't be anything else to worry about, because they're going to be out of the tournament. So we want UAA to beat CC, but lose ASAP after that. They're like the new Wisconsin (who could have had the Engineers looking extremely good if they'd held on for the victory last night).

Remember, teams ahead of us in the PWR could also suddenly lose comparisons with other teams, and that can move the Engineers up just as much as winning comparisons. The best part is, basically every worthwhile team behind them (with the exception of Alaska-Anchorage) is out of their tournament.

Fortunately, the Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota comparisons have been flipped to the Engineers, and as far as I can tell both will not flip back. I believe every comparison not listed above will not change from where it is right now - that is, if the Engineers are losing them now, they will be losing them after Saturday, and vice versa.

We have to worry about upsets, too. It's possible that one or two upsets might still allow the Engineers to get in depending on who's doing the upsetting and when, but generally, these are the teams we do NOT want to win their respective league titles.

ECAC: Cornell or Colgate
Hockey East: Northeastern
WCHA: Alaska-Anchorage or Bemidji State

The good news is, the CCHA champion will not be an upset winner. Although WMU could still miss the tournament, they will be in the Top 15 if they win their tournament. Same goes for Dartmouth in the ECAC. This essentially means that #12 PWR is now a 100% safe position, while #13 is almost certainly going to be in no matter what. The Engineers aren't likely to get that high, but it's possible.

As far as I know (and thanks to Tim Vanderpoel, Yuri Koester, Reilly Hamilton, Chris Behrens, Steven Burek, and Rob Tricchinelli for all the assistance on this), RPI can finish as high as #10 in the PWR and as low as #17, though both of those extremes are pretty fanciful. There are some not so fantastic scenarios by which the Engineers could finish as high as #11 or #12. There are a lot of scenarios where they finish #13 through #15.

Notably, the Engineers would make the tournament if 100% of the higher seeds won. They'd also make the tournament if 100% of the lower seeds won. The end result will certainly be something inbetween, but when you're in the tournament on both extreme ends... things are looking good.

Finally, the TUC cliff is pretty much irrelevant, because what you see is what you're going to get with TUCs with only two possible exceptions (again, as far as I know). Cornell could drop out still, and Northeastern could become a TUC. We'd rather neither were TUCs, of course, but there's a catch to the former now, as explained below.

Care to prove me wrong about anything? Please do. Try the PairWise Calculator and come up with new and interesting ways for the Engineers to make or not make the tournament. If you discover anything, please be sure to let me know, along with the combination you used to get there (it will be listed at the bottom of the projected PWR). Shoot me an email at tomyousieve (at) gmail (dot) com.

Anyway, here's the cheering section for Thursday and the Friday games that we know about - I will update on Friday with the WCHA games after we know who is playing.

Minnesota-Duluth over Bemidji State
Alaska-Anchorage over Colorado College

Cornell over Dartmouth
Yale over Colgate
Boston College over Northeastern
Merrimack over New Hampshire
Miami over Notre Dame
Michigan over Western Michigan

If someone wants to prove to me that Bemidji State could potentially fall out of the TUC ranks with a loss to Minnesota-Duluth, I'd love to see it and I'd switch that game to the Beavers if it's possible. We do need them as a TUC but I don't think they can fall out.

Cornell is tricky. If they lose to Dartmouth, we want them to lose the consolation game, too. If Notre Dame loses twice (or ties the consolation), it won't matter unless UNH wins the Hockey East title, because that would be a way of keeping the UNH comparison with the Engineers. After all this time wishing nothing but bad things on Cornell, they can actually help us this week.

Honestly, we don't care what happens in Atlantic Hockey anymore. Niagara is done, and RIT could lose to UConn on Friday without dropping out as a TUC. So they can go ahead and crown their champion, it won't matter to us who that is. They're going to be the #16 seed in the tournament, but we've known since January that #16 PWR was out.

What's it boil down to? Well... if I had to place a wager on the Engineers making the tournament or not making the tournament... my money's on a tournament appearance. Just understand that nothing's decided yet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Bracketology

The Engineers are now back to 16th and out of the NCAA field, but a bunch of good things happened yesterday.

* Minnesota lost. This flipped the comparison with the Gophers back to the Engineers, and since neither team has any games remaining, the Engineers will win this comparison.

* Colorado College won. This flipped the comparison with the Tigers back to CC, but only by the most razor thin margins (less than .0001 RPI). It did, however, have the desired effect of locking up the comparison win against the Badgers.

* Maine lost. This did not, unfortunately, flip the comparison with the Black Bears into the Engineers' favor, but it does at least leave Maine behind Rensselaer in the PairWise with no games left. RPI is close (which would flip the comparison if the Engineers get ahead), but not close enough to reasonably be able to help Rensselaer.

* Minnesota State lost. This has the unfortunate effect of flipping the comparison with Notre Dame into the Fighting Irish's favor, but it had a bonus effect of flipping the comparison with Nebraska-Omaha into the Engineers' favor. Why? Because UNO lost two TUC wins when Minnesota State dropped out as a TUC. So it's a zero-sum prospect for the time being, with the potential to regain the Notre Dame comparison next weekend. Adding Bemidji State as a TUC gives UNO a monstrous FIVE TUC losses, so things have really gone downhill for them this weekend even before you consider that they got swept.

* Cornell lost. I was skeptical yesterday that Cornell could cease to be a TUC, but now I suspect that a Quinnipiac victory tonight would indeed drop the Big Red out of the TUC ranks. That would flip the Notre Dame comparison back and firm up a whole slew of other comparisons.

The TUC cliff:

28. Air Force (.5056)
29. Bemidji State (.5052)
30. Cornell (.5021)
31. Robert Morris (.4985)
32. Minnesota State (.4983)
33. Lake Superior State (.4973)
34. Niagara (.4968)
35. Northeastern (.4952)

So, what do we want tonight?
* Yale, Union, and Notre Dame wins. This speaks to the desire to have no upsets in the conference tournaments. For Notre Dame, we are hoping they advance to play and lose to a TUC.

* Quinnipiac and Harvard wins. Anyone who comes out of these series will be a potential upset, but we want Cornell out as a TUC and a Dartmouth loss could flip the comparison with the Big Green (or at least keep them from winning more comparisons on their own).

* Northeastern and Ferris State wins, as explained yesterday.

* A Wisconsin win, which is weird since we were rooting against them yesterday. The Badgers can't hurt the Engineers anymore unless they win the WCHA championship. Tonight, they can flip the CC comparison back to the Engineers for good if they win - thus, Rensselaer would get to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to the Badgers and Tigers series.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mid-Weekend Engineer Bracketology

This isn't a full Bracketology, but more a quick update of where we stand. There are only a handful of playing days remaining before the national tournament (today, tomorrow, then Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of next week, so... five), teams are going to start having their seasons end (which makes the PWR way more easy to examine) and the Engineers aren't playing anymore, so it's worth taking a look at what happened on each night and see where that leaves us.

Where we stand:
* For the most part, they went very well for RPI. The Engineers are now back up into a three-way tie for 13th place with Dartmouth and BU. That nominally leaves them in 15th place, the final at-large position assuming that there are no upset champions.

No celebration yet, still a long way to go.

We're not going to do a bracket projection right now. We'll give you one if they're still in a tournament position on Monday. However, do understand that if the Engineers do make the NCAA tournament, they will be drawn against one of the teams favored to win the national championship. That means they'll play either Boston College, North Dakota, Michigan, Denver, or Miami. Take what you can get.

The good:
* Minnesota, Dartmouth, St. Cloud State, Maine, Western Michigan, and Colorado College all lost. Union, Michigan, Miami, Denver, North Dakota, Boston College, Notre Dame, RIT, and Bemidji State all won.

The bad:
* Cornell, BU, UNH, and Wisconsin won, Yale and Minnesota State lost.

So clearly, the good outweighs the bad. Now what are we looking for tonight?

* We could really use something out of Minnesota State. Observe the TUC cliff.

26. Cornell (.5061)
27. RIT (.5050)
28. Quinnipiac (.5039)
29. Air Force (.5035)
30. Bemidji State (.5016)
31. Minnesota State (.5002)
32. Robert Morris (.4983)
33. Niagara (.4961)
34. Northeastern (.4956)

See that? That's the Mavericks a loss away from their season ending on the other end of the TUC cliff. If that happens, Notre Dame drops a TUC loss, and their comparison with the Engineers flips in their favor, pushing Rensselaer away from an at-large bid. On the other hand, if the Mavericks could win tonight, that would probably save them, even if they go on to lose on Sunday.

What's the contingency if Mankato loses tonight? Well, that's actually a good reason to root for Notre Dame - we could get some help if a TUC beats them in the CCHA semifinals in Detroit. A TUC like... oh... Miami. That's why we're rooting for Notre Dame against Lake State (who almost certainly will not be a TUC after their loss tonight).

* Wisconsin beat CC last night. Good. That pushes CC's RPI down below that of the Engineers, flipping the comparison back to Rensselaer and ultimately, putting them back in the field. So what do we want to see tonight? GO TIGERS!

What? Yes, we're still hoping for the Badgers in THREE in this one. Not two, three. If Wisconsin wins tonight, that will flip their comparison with Rensselaer permanently in their favor on COp. A CC win tonight pretty much seals that comparison for the Engineers.

But, you say, wouldn't that then flip the CC comparison back to the Tigers? Yes, sadly it probably would. But, there's a great way to fix that! If Wisconsin then wins in a game on Sunday, we're sitting pretty with both CC and Wisconsin. It's such a tangled web we weave.

* Cornell, I'm sorry to say, is probably going to be a TUC no matter what after their win last night. I'm not 100% sure of that, but even if Quinnipiac comes back to sweep the next two games, I doubt we're going to be rid of the Big Red. Could we get rid of the Bobcats instead? That would marginally (very marginally) help the Engineers' TUC record if we could do that, but I tend to doubt that as well. The only thing I know 100% would doom us to being stuck with both of them would be if Quinnipiac won tonight and Cornell won on Sunday. If Quinnipiac sweeps the next two games, there's a slight chance of being rid of Cornell. If Cornell wins tonight, there's a slight chance of being rid of Quinnipiac. Pick your poison. I don't see either actually happening. We're not worried about losing comparisons with either of these teams, so that's not an element.

Incidentally, even with Bemidji State beating Nebraska-Omaha for the 4th time this season and becoming a TUC, the Nebraska-Omaha comparison can't be flipped if we can't get rid of Cornell (or Quinnipiac), even if UNO loses again tonight.

* The BU/NU series is tied 1-1 with game 3 coming on Sunday due to the BU women playing tonight in the NCAA tournament. BU advancing doesn't do anything but potentially hurt the Engineers, and their TUC record is already in the toilet, so there's not much adding potential TUC losses down the road can do to them. Of course, their potential for picking up TUC wins down the road (which could flip the Engineers comparison) shouldn't be discounted. So we're still rooting for Northeastern.

Now of course, we can see Northeastern creeping up on the TUC cliff, and we know that one tie added into the Engineers' TUC record would hurt a little. So we root for NU now (one win won't make them a TUC), and then hope they lose later.

* Watch tonight for Dartmouth and Minnesota. If they both lose, that should be a boon for the Engineers - I would expect the comparisons with both of those teams to flip while simultaneously ending their seasons. That would be so money.

The Western Michigan comparison could flip if they lose again tonight, but I doubt it. I suspect that would at least make RPI so close that the whole comparison would come down to "what random RPI effect does this combination of game results have on the comparison?" That's hard to predict, but it's better than WMU winning some more games and basically putting them in control of this one. By the way, thanks, Union, for dropping those two games in December (voice dripping with sarcasm).

* Don't worry too much about St. Cloud State and Alaska right now. Even if they come back to win their series, the Engineers will still win the comparisons with them, and we can hope they lose in the semis to complete the comparison wins.

* The ECAC would have four teams in the tournament right now - Yale, Union, RPI, and Dartmouth, but I tend to doubt that RPI and Dartmouth could both make the tournament in the end unless something odd happens.

* Everything else is still pretty much as it appears in the Engineer Cheering Section. We simply know we're rooting for Colorado College and Minnesota State tonight and their opponents on Sunday night if it gets that far.

* As an aside, Yale can absolutely lock up the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament by losing again tonight against St. Lawrence. Yeah.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Men's Hockey - ECAC First Round (4/5/6 Mar)

Once again, the season has ended abruptly and in a wholly unsatisfying manner - probably. The Engineers, for the second consecutive year, lost in three games at home in the first round to a team they were widely expected to beat. This year, the culprit was last place Colgate, which bounced back from a 4-2 loss on Friday to beat RPI in the next two games, 5-2 and 2-1, the latter coming in a double-overtime contest.

It's "probably" because the Engineers aren't mathematically eliminated from contention for NCAA tournament just yet, but it doesn't look likely. Ultimately, poor play down the stretch doomed the team.




The word on RPI heading into things was that they were finally at 100% after long stretches of injuries in February. Those injuries, to some extent, contributed to the team's failure to achieve the first-round bye for the first time.

Things started off very well for the Engineers, as they managed the first goal of the contest just 1:15 into the affair, coming off of the stick of Marty O'Grady. The sophomore notched his seventh goal of the campaign to give RPI an early 1-0 lead.

RPI would earn two more goals during the period as Brock Higgs finally converted a long 5-on-3 opportunity, the Engineers' first in several tries with the two-man advantage. That one came with five minutes left to play in the first. The third goal came on yet another power play that arrived just two minutes after the Higgs goal, and it was scored via Chase Polacek. Nick Bailen and Tyler Helfrich assisted on both power play tallies. Up 3-0 after the first period in game one, it looked like the Engineers' struggles were a thing of the past.

That started to turn around during the second period, as Colgate began to take more of the flow away from RPI after being thoroughly dominated in the first 20 minutes, but Allen York looked like Allen York, turning back 11 Raider shots during the middle stanza. That left RPI with a 3-0 lead heading into the third.

Slowly but surely, Colgate clawed their way back into contention. They scored about five minutes into the third to cut the RPI lead to two, then picked up a power play goal with less than two minutes left in the game to make the Engineer lead just one. Seth Appert immediately called timeout to set up a defensive plan.

The best defense, of course, can often be a good offense, and that's exactly what RPI responded with as Higgs scored his second of the game just 39 seconds after Colgate had drawn within one, and with the Colgate goaltender still in the net. That essentially cinched things up for RPI, who took a 1-0 lead in the series.




While Game 1 got off to a great start for the Engineers, Game 2 was anything but. Another quick goal arrived on Saturday, but this time the goal went to Colgate, and it was off of a horrifyingly bad turnover by Guy Leboeuf behind his own net. It was the only goal of what was otherwise a fairly dominant period for the Engineers, so despite being down 1-0 after the first, things were still generally looking good.

Things looked even brighter about six minutes into the second period when the Engineers got on the board via a Chase Polacek goal in a shorthanded situation, knotting the game at one. RPI had been continuing to control play for much of the game's first half or so, and all seemed well.

The bottom began to fall out about three minutes after Polacek's goal, however. Colgate scored another even strength goal on another turnover to go back up 2-1, and scored again with three minutes left in the second to take a two-goal edge.

Polacek popped in a power play goal just over two minutes later to bring RPI back within one, but that was as close as the Engineers would get in this one. Colgate went into lock-down trapping mode in the third period and RPI never had much room to operate despite being able to uncork 10 shots on goal during the period. The Raiders added two empty netters at the end of the third to provide a final edge of 5-2.




Game 3, like the first two games, started out with a lot of RPI dominance in the first period, but like Game 2, that period ended with the Engineers trailing 1-0 thanks to a horrifying turnover. This time, the turnover was at center ice while RPI was enjoying a power play opportunity, and it came off the stick of Chase Polacek. Colgate immediately took it the other way 2-on-0, and it was academic at that point.

Tyler Helfrich scored with just over a minute to go in the second period to bring things level again, but that would be the final goal scored in the game for almost 50 minutes. Allen York stood on his head during the third period and into what became a full 20 minute overtime, stopping 22 shots by Colgate during that time period. RPI looked very much out of gas and were unable to put the puck on the net, though they did have a number of excellent scoring opportunities during the third period and the first overtime that could have ended things in their favor if they'd just been able to get to loose pucks or poke home rebounds that invariably ended up going wide.

Midway into the second overtime period, Colgate ended it on what could normally have been called a defensive breakdown, but ultimately was a function of just gassed players. The Raiders dominated possession throughout the roughly 10 minute overtime period, and ended the series 2-1 in their favor with a 2-1 double overtime victory that for the second consecutive season prematurely ended RPI's season at home in the first round. The game was the third longest in RPI history.

In all likelihood, that will be the final, unsatisfying game of the 2010-11 campaign, but unlike last year, there is some hope that the Engineers will qualify for the NCAA tournament despite the early exit. We've got to wait two weeks to find out if they can make it (they wouldn't be in if the season was over today), but hope springs eternal.

Other junk - Chase Polacek has 160 points for his career. If the Engineers do not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, he will finish his career in 19th place among all time scorers at RPI. He surpassed Larry Landon '81 (157) last weekend. 18th is Marty Dallman '84 who graduated with 163 points.

With 106 points, Tyler Helfrich is tied with Norm Bean '70 and Joe Ens '78 for 50th all-time.

Polacek and Foss both broke Peter Merth's record for total games on Saturday and now have a two-game edge on everyone else.

The Engineers are continuing to practice with the hope that they will still have another game down the road in the NCAA tournament.

Colgate at #16 RPI
ECAC First Round Game 1 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/4/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Colgate 2

College Hockey Stats

Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette

RPI TV (full game)
RPI TV (highlights)

YouTube (post-game press conference)

RECORD: 20-10-5 (11-9-2 ECAC, 24 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Brock Higgs, 2 G
2. F Chase Polacek, 1 G, 1 A
3. G Allen York, 24 saves

Colgate at #16 RPI
ECAC First Round Game 2 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/5/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colgate 5, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette

RPI TV (full game)
RPI TV (highlights)
YouTube (post-game press conference)

RECORD: 20-11-5 (11-9-2 ECAC, 24 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Chase Polacek, 2 G
2. F C.J. Lee, 1 A
3. D Nick Bailen, 1 A, 8 shots

Colgate at #16 RPI
ECAC First Round Game 3 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/6/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colgate 2, RPI 1 (2OT)

College Hockey Stats

Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette

RPI TV (full game)
YouTube (post-game press conference)
YouTube (goals, no audio)

RECORD: 20-12-5 (11-9-2 ECAC, 24 pts)

Reale Deals
1. G Allen York, 37 saves
2. F Tyler Helfrich, 1 G
3. D Jeff Foss, 1 A