Monday, November 7, 2011

Men's Hockey - at Clarkson & St. Lawrence (4/5 Nov)

I considered simply copying and pasting Gary's recap of the women's games from the last weekend - after all, the opponents are the same, the results were the same, and quite frankly, the team's problems are the same. For the men, this past weekend was thought to be an opportunity to rebound from a difficult early schedule and show the league what it learned from a grueling October, especially with key players returning from the ranks of the injured. Instead, the death spiral continued, as the team played a terrible game in Potsdam on their way to a 4-1 loss to Clarkson, rebounding the next night to play better but without finding the back of the net, dropping 2-0 to a previously winless St. Lawrence.




The good news coming into the weekend was the return of centers Brock Higgs and Marty O'Grady to a team that was definitely low on healthy men in the middle but which had fought valiantly without them in games against national powers in Notre Dame and Colorado College. It was thought that their injection into the lineup, in addition to nominally weaker opponents than had appeared on the schedule to date in the North Country teams would be just the tonic that ailed the Engineers.

Although the team had a sloppy first period, things appeared to be looking up, both for the team's offensive outlook and the awful power play when freshman Ryan Haggerty scored his first collegiate goal just 16 seconds into RPI's first man advantage of the night. redirecting a blue line blast from Mike Bergin past Paul Karpowich to give RPI a 1-0 lead, their first of the season.

That goal, coming with just under two minutes to play in the first period, would ultimately be the brightest moment of the weekend for RPI. As the clock approached zero in the first, the Engineers visibly stopped playing with intensity, hoping to glide into the locker room with the early edge. Clarkson pounced, making a couple of nice passes out of their zone and burying the puck with 9.8 seconds left on the clock, issuing a dagger of a goal heading into the intermission.

A prolonged opportunity in the RPI zone midway through the second period put Clarkson ahead 2-1, and then things really started to get heated. Mark McGowan laid what appeared to be a clean hit on Clarkson's Mike Garlasco, but the hit came in a bad place as Garlasco hit his head against the stanchion between the Clarkson bench and the Clarkson penalty box, knocking Garlasco out cold. A scuffle ensued, and although the referee's arm hadn't been up before the scuffle, McGowan was assessed a five minute major for charging, though he was not ejected from the game.

Moments later, Clarkson's Kevin Tansey was slapped with a tripping penalty after an intentional knee-to-knee hit on Zach Schroeder, and the game threatened to get out of hand. Making matters worse, after the RPI power play failed to capitalize, a pair of terrible penalties taken by C.J. Lee (an open ice check on Karpowich) and Bryce Merriam (bear hugging a Clarkson player who'd just slashed him) led to a prolonged 5-on-3 opportunity for Clarkson in tandem with the McGowan penalty. The Engineers' penalty kill, as it has done for much of the year, stood strong and kept the Golden Knights off the board.

Another foolish penalty early in the third, this time to Guy Leboeuf for sizing up and then hitting a player who had his back to him the entire time, resulted in Clarkson's third goal of the game, and by that time, the anemic RPI offense didn't really appear close to snapping out of their funk. Clarkson sealed things with an empty netter, the seventh given up by RPI in six games, as they fell to their third straight 4-1 loss.

St. Lawrence



If there was any team struggling as much as the Engineers, it was certainly St. Lawrence, and the difficulties were similar - a very difficult October schedule. They came into the game with losses in their first five contests, including a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Union the previous night. The game was nothing if not desperate for both teams.

RPI's offensive woes continued on Saturday even if the all-around effort was more visible. Throughout the game, both teams blocked a high number of shots, keeping shot totals low. That didn't necessarily bode well for either side, both of which had been struggling to score, but the home team still broke onto the board seven minutes into the game by utilizing their talented top line that included sophomore Greg Carey and junior Kyle Flanagan. A nice pass by Carey to freshman Patrick Doherty in the slot left Merriam unable to reach the perfectly timed one-timer, putting St. Lawrence up 1-0.

A bad break left RPI in a 2-0 hole that, given the scoring issues, felt like 6-0. George Hughes ripped a shot that C.J. Lee tried to block, but the blocked shot only redirected in a way that Bryce Merriam did not expect, caroming into the net in the first minute of the second period.

RPI's bad penalty streak continued in the second period, as O'Grady, Bergin, Higgs, and Patrick Cullen all took a string of minors in the middle stanza, including the creation of a long 5-on-3 to kill with O'Grady and Bergin's penalties, but once more, the RPI penalty kill was strong. Overall, the penalty kill was 13-for-14 on the weekend - defense is not an issue with this team, by and large.

The Engineers got to be the beneficiary of a situation similar to the one they faced defensively on Friday night when Nick Bailen was trucked by SLU freshman Gunnar Hughes, who was slapped with a five for contact to the head and was ejected. Hughes' brother George picked up a slashing call moments later, and RPI had a long 5-on-3 power play. Unfortunately, they never truly came close to being able to score on the two man advantage, which fell by the wayside giving the Saints a boost.

Ryan Haggerty, it should be noted, played with an awful lot of heart. From day one, he's been out on the ice looking for opportunities to score, and late in the game his eagerness ended up costing him a minor for shooting the puck after the whistle and a misconduct. Flying toward the zone, he tried to pick up a pass in the air and exploit open ice on the left side of the goaltender, but the play was whistled offsides. He either didn't hear the whistle or was determined to give it a go anyway.

The Engineers fought hard for a goal with Merriam out of the net, but they could not put anything together in the game's final minutes. St. Lawrence did not score on the empty net, but won 2-0 regardless.

Other junk - Union and Yale swapped places in the poll this week. #9 Union (swept Clarkson and SLU, up four) and #13 Yale (lost to Cornell and beat Colgate, down four) are still the top two ranked teams in the league, but they are joined in the rankings this week by #17 Dartmouth (swept Quinnipiac and Princeton, previously unranked), #18 Colgate (beat Brown and lost to Yale, no change) and #19 Quinnipiac (lost to Dartmouth, tied Harvard, no change). Also ranked this week, #3 Colorado College (split with Nebraska-Omaha, down one), #7 Notre Dame (tied Northern Michigan twice, down one), and #8 Ferris State (swept Bowling Green, up two). Also receiving votes this week were Clarkson (53), Cornell (6), UMass-Lowell (4) and Minnesota State (4).

RPI couldn't have asked for a worse start to the ECAC season. Literally every other team in the league got at least one point out of the opening weekend, leaving the Engineers in last place by themselves. With one goal, RPI starts out at the bottom of the barrel offensively, trailing St. Lawrence who had only two goals on the weekend, both, of course, against RPI.

The 1-8-0 start is the worst in program history. The seven game losing streak is the longest since the infamous 10-game stretch in 2007-08 that was, incidentally, broken with a victory over St. Lawrence in Canton.

The penalty kill is 46-for-52, good enough for a tie with #1 Minnesota in 12th nationally at 88.5%. The power play, however, is now an awful 3-for-50, a 6.0% conversion rate that is better than only five other teams. That's worse than the famously epic 17-for-195 (8.7%) that the 2008-09 season produced, a final tally that left RPI next-to-last in the nation on the man advantage.

But most telling, in nine games, RPI has scored nine goals - and four of them were in their only victory of the season, meaning they've scored five goals in their eight losses. They've been shut out four times. It's not hard to see what the real issue is.

The path ahead certainly doesn't look much easier for the Engineers with Yale and Union coming to town, but nothing will matter until they start scoring goals, and at this point it obviously isn't a function of the teams they've been playing.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 4 pts (2-0-0, +4 GD)
2. Dartmouth - 4 pts (2-0-0, +3 GD)
3. Quinnipiac - 3 pts (1-1-1)
4. Cornell - 2 pts (1-1-0, +3 GD)
5. Clarkson - 2 pts (1-1-0, +1 GD)
6. Colgate - 2 pts (1-1-0, even GD, 5 GF)
7. St. Lawrence - 2 pts (1-1-0, even GD, 2 GF)
8. Brown - 2 pts (1-1-0, -1 GD)
9. Yale - 2 pts (1-1-0, -2 GD)
10. Princeton - 2 pts (1-2-0)
11. Harvard - 1 pt (0-1-1)
12. RPI - 0 pts (0-2-0)

RPI at Clarkson
ECAC Game - Cheel Arena (Potsdam, NY)
11/4/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Clarkson 4, RPI 1



RECORD: 1-7-0 (0-1-0 ECAC, 0 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Ryan Haggerty, 1 G
2. G Bryce Merriam, 28 saves
3. D Mike Bergin, 1 A

RPI at St. Lawrence
ECAC Game - Appleton Arena (Canton, NY)
11/5/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: St. Lawrence 2, RPI 0



RECORD: 1-8-0 (0-2-0 ECAC, 0 pts)

Reale Deals
1. D Nick Bailen, 5 shots
2. F Joel Malchuk, 2 shots
3. G Bryce Merriam, 18 saves

Upcoming games
11 Nov - #13 Yale (Black Friday)
12 Nov - Brown
15 Nov - #9 Union
25 Nov - at RIT
02 Dec - at Princeton

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