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.

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

Leboeuf/Kennedy
Bergin/Foss
Bailen/Dolan

York

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.

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

Bergin/Foss
Leboeuf/Kennedy
Bailen/Dolan

York

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.

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

Bergin/Foss
Bailen/Kennedy
Koudys/Dolan

York

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

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette

VIDEO
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

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette


VIDEO
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)

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECAPS
RPI
Troy Record
Albany Times Union
Schenectady Daily Gazette


VIDEO
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

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