Monday, October 31, 2011

Men's Hockey - Colorado College (28/29 Oct)

For the third consecutive weekend, the Engineers have gone up against one of the top teams in the nation, and for the third consecutive weekend, they've walked away without a win. This past weekend, it was a pair of 4-1 losses to the then-third ranked Colorado College Tigers, but just as with the other two weekends, they were in games that were filled with optimistic signs for RPI.

Friday
Angers-Goulet/Rogic/Lee
Tinordi/Schroeder/Haggerty
Cullen/Burgdoerfer/Smith
McGowan/Malchuk/Rabbani

Bergin/Bailen
Leonard/Koudys
Leboeuf/Dolan

Merriam

The injury bug continues to be a problem for the Engineers, and it got a bit worse when it was revealed late Friday that freshman Matt Neal, who had just gone 11-for-14 at the faceoff dot against Notre Dame, would be out with injury. Brock Higgs missed his fourth consecutive game, as did Marty O'Grady, while Jacob Laliberte was out for the second straight match. All four of those guys are either regular centers, or have been capable replacements, leaving RPI with a dearth of their best guys in the circle.

Colorado College got out of the box quickly with a nice cross-crease pass from Scott Winkler to Rylan Schwartz that the elder Schwartz brother one-timed to the back of the net, giving the Tigers the lead just 4:10 into things. The first period, however, proved to be fairly even outside of the scoring, as RPI leveled 10 shots on CC's Joe Howe, just one less than the Tigers fired at Bryce Merriam.

While the RPI power play has struggled all season to date, it certainly didn't help any that on all of their first three opportunities on Friday, they took a penalty themselves to negate the advantage - which led to shortened opportunities for CC on three of their first four power plays. When Josh Rabbani was called for boarding to negate an RPI power play, the Tigers converted once their player was out of the box, and it was Rylan Schwartz doing it again with 14 seconds left in the second period, putting the Tigers up 2-0.

It could have been the worst possible time to allow a goal, but the Engineers pounced on a Tigers squad that looked like it had one leg back in the dressing room already. Only 10 seconds after CC went up by two, Patrick Cullen scored his first goal of the season from Guy Leboeuf to bring RPI back within one and send the teams off for the second intermission with a charged up crowd.

RPI finally got what would be its only full two-minute power play opportunity of the game midway through the third period, but they were unable to convert, as Joe Howe made a number of big saves to keep his team on top throughout the final frame. With just over two minutes left in regulation and a faceoff coming in the CC zone, RPI called timeout and pulled Merriam for the extra skater, but a boarding call against C.J. Lee just 14 seconds after the puck dropped disrupted the Engineers' plans significantly. Once RPI cleared the puck, Merriam was pulled again, but the Tigers would pick up a pair of empty netters in the final 30 seconds - the first a very slow dribbler that the RPI defense simply couldn't catch up to - for a 4-1 final score.

That score certainly didn't underscore the closeness of the game, which, given the number of injuries the Engineers were in the process of enduring, was a pretty solid result against one of the best teams in the nation when you remove the empty netters. Both of their goals were scored by one of the best lines in the nation, featuring Winkler and the Schwartz brothers.

Saturday
Cullen/Malchuk/Rabbani
Tinordi/Schroeder/Haggerty
Angers-Goulet/Rogic/Lee
McGowan/Smith/Burgdoerfer

Leonard/Koudys
Bergin/Bailen
Leboeuf/Dolan

Diebold

Scott Diebold making his second career start was the only lineup change overall for the Engineers on Saturday, and, much as in his first start, the freshman goaltender had a sharp game that was well played but was not enough to result in a victory.

CC's first goal on Saturday was a bit of a fluky one, though they count just as much as the pretty ones do. During RPI's second power play opportunity midway through the first period, Alexander Krushelnyski was stopped on a shorthanded opportunity with a beautiful save by Diebold, and then flung the puck back on net from a practically impossible angle, the puck curling behind Diebold and into the net - the RPI goaltender never saw the shot, and in fact was still looking for the play for a couple of seconds before realizing the puck had somehow ended up behind him.

RPI played a physical game on Friday, but it was even more physical on Saturday for sure. They seemed to have a goal of punishing anyone in black who even looked at the puck, and it helped keep them in the game even if it generally kept shot totals down on both sides of the ice.

About a minute after C.J. Lee picked up his third penalty of the weekend, the Engineers picked up a shorthanded goal to compliment CC's shorty earlier in the game, this one coming from senior Alex Angers-Goulet, who has long been one of RPI's better penalty killers anyway. His goal from Nick Bailen tied things up at one, but the Engineers still had over a minute left to kill on the Lee penalty.

The Tigers bounced back right away with a laser of a pinpointed shot from Winkler, who placed the puck perfectly in the corner of the net past a screened Diebold to give CC the lead once again just 51 seconds later. CC dominated the shot count in the second period, but Diebold came up big with 12 saves to keep RPI firmly in the game heading into the third.

A defensive breakdown took place in the middle part of the third period leading to CC's third goal - and given that the beat-up Engineers had been skating with the prolifically speedy Tigers all weekend, it's not surprising that the sixth period would expose a mistake at some point. Rylan Schwartz picked up his third goal of the weekend (and fifth in four games against RPI in the last two years) after Diebold and Leboeuf were left alone in the RPI zone, giving CC a 3-1 edge.

RPI certainly refused to go away, and they continued working to crawl back within one. A decent opportunity on the power play three minutes after the Schwartz goal created good opportunities, but again Joe Howe showed why he is one of the best goaltenders in the nation with some excellent play keeping RPI out of the back of the net.

As he's shown all year long, Seth Appert is not afraid to go for it, even down by two, and Diebold was pulled from the net with just over two minutes left to play, and for the fifth straight game, an empty netter was the result as Jaden Schwartz, popularly considered the better of the brothers, picked up his only goal of the weekend.

So despite running with one of the best teams in the nation for the better part of 120 minutes, the far-less-than-100% Engineers still walked away with their fourth and fifth straight losses, and yet, as the ECAC schedule gets underway next weekend, there's still plenty to be optimistic about going forward. The team has played great physical hockey, decent defense, and they have shown an ability to move the puck. The biggest issue thus far has been finishing, which was difficult even in the first weekend against Minnesota State, but next to impossible against top defenses like Ferris State and Colorado College (both tied for 5th in the nation on D).

Other junk - The sweep of RPI, coupled with Denver's 1-point weekend against Michigan Tech, pushed the Tigers from #3 to #2 with five first place votes, still behind #1 Boston College. Ranked ECAC teams this week are #9 Yale (tied Princeton and beat Dartmouth, up one with one first place vote), #13 Union (lost to UNH and beat AIC, down two), #18 Colgate (split with Niagara, down two) and #19 Quinnipiac (idle, up one). Also ranked are #6 Notre Dame (swept Bowling Green, down one) and #10 Ferris State (swept by #3 Michigan, down four). Also receiving votes were Clarkson (47), Dartmouth (30), Cornell (ex-#19, 11), and Harvard (7).

#3 Colorado College at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/28/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colorado College 4, RPI 1

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

VIDEO

RECORD: 1-5-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. G Bryce Merriam, 30 saves
2. F Patrick Cullen, 1 G
3. D Pat Koudys, 2 shots, +1


#3 Colorado College at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
10/29/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colorado College 4, RPI 1

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

VIDEO

RECORD: 1-6-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Alex Angers-Goulet, 1 G
2. G Scott Diebold, 23 saves
3. F Ryan Haggerty, 4 shots


Upcoming games
04 Nov - at Clarkson
05 Nov - at St. Lawrence
11 Nov - #9 Yale (Black Friday)
12 Nov - Brown
15 Nov - #13 Union

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