Monday, October 24, 2011

Men's Hockey - at Notre Dame (21 Oct)

Notre Dame has a truly impressive new cathedral of college hockey - an impressive tribute to the school's commitment to the sport, and RPI was given the honor of being the first opponent in the new rink this past weekend against a Notre Dame team coming off a Frozen Four appearance last season despite being one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Engineers continued their stretch of being banged up against tough squads, playing well given the circumstances but falling for the third consecutive game, 5-2.

Notre Dame



Injuries are still hampering the Engineers significantly, with freshman Jacob Laliberte added to the list of key forwards missing in action. He has the same affliction as Brock Higgs, a broken finger. Meanwhile, Marty O'Grady remains out with concussion symptoms. There was some good news, as Greg Burgdoerfer returned to the lineup.

There was, as expected, an awful lot of hoopla - and much deserved - surrounding the opening of the Compton Family Ice Arena. The place is, quite frankly, gorgeous.

Notre Dame committed to a fearsome forecheck for essentially the entire game and it paid off in spades for them. Once they gained the zone, they made it clear that the Engineers were going to have to fight for every inch of space if they gained control and they used their impressive size up front very well - perhaps a foreshadow of things to come in the future for RPI.

At any rate, it was that forecheck that helped the Irish get on the board first as Anders Lee got one past Bryce Merriam after an extended play in the RPI zone that was lengthened thanks to a forecheck that kept RPI from breaking out despite gaining the puck on two different occasions. That goal was the only major difference in an opening 10 minutes that definitely went both ways, giving the Irish the 1-0 advantage.

About four minutes later, RPI finally broke its scoreless streak thanks to some gritty play behind the Irish net by Joel Malchuk and Alex Angers-Goulet. Winning puck battles and keeping Irish goaltender Mike Johnson guessing, Angers-Goulet eventually worked the puck to Malchuk, who made Johnson guess wrong on which side he was moving to, and Malchuk stuffed it in the cage to tie the game at one.

Notre Dame won this one in the second period, smothering the Engineers defensively and limiting them to just two shots on goal during the entire period, even despite a pair of power plays during the middle frame. Anders Lee scored again early in the period to put the Irish back in front, and a rare defensive breakdown by RPI with about five minutes left in the second put Notre Dame up 3-1 heading into the second intermission.

The hole became 4-1 with another early period goal by the Irish, this time coming on the power play, and it looked like RPI was about to simply get outclassed by a better team. They didn't give up down three, however, and Johnny Rogic, whose play could certainly be described as inspired throughout, picked up his own rebound with about five minutes left to play to bring RPI back within one.

The comeback attempt was immediately muted, however, as Patrick Cullen went off for a slash immediately following the Rogic goal, and after that penalty was extinguished (thanks in part to a waved off goal by Anders Lee that went in off a high stick), RPI was unable to do much with Merriam out of his cage. Lee finished off his hat trick officially with an empty netter, a truly memorable accomplishment for a memorable night in South Bend.

All told, RPI definitely missed Higgs, Laliberte, and O'Grady in this game, but there were some bright moments, like Matt Neal, who won 11 of 15 faceoffs, Rogic's play, and Merriam, who made a number of clutch saves that kept things from getting out of hand against a very talented team. RPI may stand at 1-4-0, but all things being equal, they're still playing some pretty decent hockey against some very tough teams.

Other junk - It doesn't matter what your injury situation or your strength of schedule at this time of year - a 1-4-0 team probably isn't getting votes and that's RPI this week, no votes at all for the first time in quite a while. This time of year, good records get rewarded no matter what, and as evidence, Clarkson's 16 votes for a 4-1-1 record. Never mind that the four wins came against Sacred Heart and American International (with a weekend series at Bentley coming this weekend!). Shrug. They can enjoy them while they last. Ranked ECAC teams this week are #10 Yale (exhibition loss to Waterloo, down one with one first place vote), #11 Union (tied Niagara and beat RIT, up one), #16 Colgate (tied Army, no change), #19 Cornell (exhibition wins over Guelph and Carleton, up one), and #20 Quinnipiac (split at Robert Morris, unranked last week). #3 Colorado College (idle, up one with four first place votes), #5 Notre Dame (up one with one first place vote), and #6 Ferris State (swept Miami, up eight with one first place vote) are also ranked this week. Also receiving votes were Dartmouth (29) and UMass-Lowell (5).

Four different teams on RPI's schedule, including three of October's four non-conference opponents, received first place votes this week and are all ranked in the top 10. Think we've got a pretty solid non-conference slate?

Ken Ralph and Colorado College come to Troy this weekend - it's going to be another tough row to hoe for the Engineers for sure, but hopefully the payoff comes the following weekend where we get a tomato-can tested Clarkson team to kick off the ECAC schedule.

RPI at #6 Notre Dame
Non-Conference Game - Compton Family Ice Arena (South Bend, IN)
10/21/11 - 7:35pm

RESULT: Notre Dame 5, RPI 2



RECORD: 1-4-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Johnny Rogic, 1 G, 3 shots
2. F Joel Malchuk, 1 G
3. G Bryce Merriam, 21 saves

Upcoming games
28 Oct - #3 Colorado College
29 Oct - #3 Colorado College
04 Nov - at Clarkson
05 Nov - at St. Lawrence
11 Nov - #10 Yale (Black Friday)

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