Monday, October 17, 2011

Men's Hockey - at Ferris State (14/15 Oct)

There's a lot to the game of hockey. There's hitting, there's speed, there's passing. There's defense, there's goaltending, there's stickhandling. And, of course, there's scoring goals. You can be exceptionally good at all of the other stuff that goes into hockey, but if you aren't scoring goals, you can't win hockey games, and RPI underlined that truth with exclamation points all around it this weekend, playing technically sound hockey for the majority of their long road trip to face Seth Appert's alma mater at Ferris State, but never finding the scoresheet on their way to back-to-back shutouts, 4-0 and 2-0.

Friday
Rogic/Malchuk/Rabbani
McGowan/Neal/Smith
Cullen/Angers-Goulet/Haggerty
Lee/Laliberte/Schroeder

Leonard/Bergin
Leboeuf/Bailen
Curadi/Koudys

Merriam

The big news heading into the weekend continued to be the Engineers' early injury situation. Starting off the season with injury problems is always difficult, and RPI has never been close to being 100% healthy. In practice during the week, Marty O'Grady and Brock Higgs suffered injuries that ultimately put them out for the Ferris State games, though Higgs was at least given the possibility of being in the lineup. The one bit of good news saw Mark McGowan healthy enough to make his Engineers debut on Friday; Greg Burgdoerfer (arm) and Jeremy Coupal are the only Engineers that have yet to see action after four games.

The first game of the weekend was very closely played through the first 40 minutes or so. Both teams were about even in shots and both had plenty of opportunities on the man advantage, but neither was able to convert in part thanks to outstanding play from Bryce Merriam and his counterpart on the other end, Taylor Nelson. Notably, Pat Koudys was called for RPI's first three penalties on the evening - two trips and a cross-check - and neither he nor Appert were very impressed with the calls, with Appert later calling them penalties for hard hits.

Ferris State scored the game's first goal at a very bad time for the Engineers (or for anyone, for that matter) - with just over a minute to go in the second period, when Travis Ouellette got the Bulldogs on the board. When a game is played very closely for so long and the first goal is given up that close to the intermssion, it's a serious blow to the psyche no matter who you are.

A penalty to Joel Malchuk just 35 seconds into the third period didn't do anything to help things, and Ouellette notched his second of the night 40 seconds later to make it 2-0. A Kyle Bonis tally four and a half minutes after that made it 3-0, and from there Ferris State went into lockdown mode, forcing RPI to finish the game with a whimper - just three shots in the final 20 minutes after going down late in the second - and Bonis would add an empty netter with just under three minutes left to play to produce the final 4-0 tally.


Saturday
Tinordi/Angers-Goulet/Smith
Rogic/Malchuk/Rabbani
Cullen/Neal/Haggerty
Lee/Laliberte/Schroeder

Leboeuf/Bailen
Leonard/Bergin
Koudys/Dolan

Merriam

No notable changes despite the shutout were seen the next day - Merriam, who played well on Friday despite the loss, was back in net, and the only lineup changes were Matt Tinordi in for Mark McGowan and Bo Dolan in for Luke Curadi. Matt Neal and Alex Angers-Goulet also swapped the lines they were centering.

It's hard to start a game off much worse than the Engineers did on Saturday night, allowing an unassisted goal on the second shift of the evening, coming off a turnover in the first minute of the game to put Ferris State ahead 1-0.

That's where the game stayed basically throughout the contest. Holding that one goal lead early, Ferris State played ample defense to keep RPI from having decent opportunities throughout the first and second period, and the Engineers were only able to uncork 13 shots across the first 40 minutes of game play despite three power play opportunities.

The third period had RPI pushing harder for the tying goal, and a pair of critical power play opportunities were probably the best chances they had on the entire weekend, but they simply could not put the puck past freshman C.J. Motte, who finished with 26 saves after stopping 13 in the final period. The most golden opportunity came with just under three minutes left in the game after Jordie Johnston tripped up Bryce Merriam (who was having a sensational game of his own). College-type fisticuffs ensued after Josh Rabbani took exception, and the whole thing ended with an RPI power play after C.J. Lee and FSU's Matthew Kirzinger were dismissed as part of the episode.

Late in that power play, Appert pulled Merriam to create a 6-on-4, but that still was not enough to break onto the scoreboard. Ferris State cinched things with an empty netter with 8 seconds left in the game for the final result, leaving RPI to return to Troy completely empty-handed from their trip.

Other junk - To nobody's great surprise, a 1-3 team scoring one goal per game and getting shut out three times is no longer among the teams ranked in the USCHO.com poll. The Engineers somehow managed to still pick up 2 votes in this week's poll, but are certainly nowhere near the point of being ranked, and for cause. There are still, however, four ECAC teams in the top 20, led by #9 Yale (idle, up one with one first place vote), #12 Union (tied Western Michigan twice, down one), #16 Colgate (split with Miami, previously unranked), and #20 Cornell (idle, down one). Other teams on the RPI schedule this season are #4 Colorado College (swept Bemidji State, up three with four first place votes), #6 Notre Dame (split with Ohio State, down four), and #14 Ferris State (previously unranked). Also receiving votes were Quinnipiac (42), Dartmouth (33), UMass-Lowell (12), RIT (9), and Harvard (8).

The numbers are not pretty. RPI is 2-for-26 on the power play, a 7.7% conversion rate. The offense is at 1.00 GPG, and it's worse when you consider that all of the scoring has taken place in one game.

It could certainly be worse, though. New Hampshire has one goal in three games (0.33 GPG), and at least the penalty kill is going well - 21-for-22 (95.5%), tops in the nation for those with more than 10 attempts.

Things do not get easier from here for the Engineers, however. They face three consecutive games against Top 10 teams in Notre Dame and Colorado College. Unless they can pull an upset or two, they could be staring at a 1-5 start. To do that requires finding the back of the net, something the forwards have not done during normal play (with Malchuk's goal coming on an open net) in the first four games.

#20 RPI at Ferris State
Non-Conference Game - Ewigleben Ice Arena (Big Rapids, MI)
10/14/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Ferris State 4, RPI 0

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

RECORD: 1-2-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. F Patrick Cullen, 4 shots
2. G Bryce Merriam, 26 saves
3. D Pat Koudys, E, 2 shots

#20 RPI at Ferris State
Non-Conference Game - Ewigleben Ice Arena (Big Rapids, MI)
10/15/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Ferris State 2, RPI 0

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

RECORD: 1-3-0 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Reale Deals
1. G Bryce Merriam, 28 saves
2. F Jacob Laliberte, 4 shots
3. F Matt Neal, 4 shots

Upcoming games
21 Oct - at #6 Notre Dame
28 Oct - #4 Colorado College
29 Oct - #4 Colorado College
04 Nov - at Clarkson
05 Nov - at St. Lawrence

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