Monday, November 14, 2011

Men's Hockey - Yale & Brown (11/12 Nov)

Snapping a long losing streak often brings a sigh of relief, but RPI's first victory in nine games, which came on Saturday, was anything but relief for a team still struggling to put the puck in the net. The offensive woes returned in RPI's second league weekend, marring an otherwise outstanding game on Friday as the Engineers fell on Black Friday for the first time, dropping a closely played 2-0 contest with first-place Yale, but RPI's lone goal of the weekend on Saturday was enough to put the team in the win column for the first time in over a month as Bryce Merriam picked up his first career shutout in a 1-0 victory over Brown.




Black Friday is always an optimistic time for the Engineers, and with Jacob Laliberte returning to the lineup, the team became as close to 100% as they could possibly get, with freshman Matt Neal the only player still out with injury. Even with a tough task in Yale coming into the Field House, there was at least a little optimism that this could be the week that the Engineers made it out of their funk.

Unfortunately, the Engineers got behind early thanks to a bad defensive maneuver. Pat Koudys gave the puck away to Yale senior Josh Balch, who came in unmolested against Bryce Merriam, and the senior coolly faked Merriam out and stuck it in to give Yale a 1-0 lead just 1:51 into the game. When a team is struggling to score, scoring first can be a big help. But just like that, RPI was already in the hole.

From there, the game was actually pretty tight the rest of the way. The Engineers got plenty of power play opportunities practically start to finish, but the offensive woes, which have extended to the man advantage, continued. Despite 12 full minutes of power play chances, RPI simply could not put one in the net. Yale's outstanding penalty kill no doubt had much to do with it, but nothing at all was going to beat Yale's Jeff Malcolm, who appears to be stepping in to answer Yale's overriding question coming into the season about offense. He is on fire early this season, with three consecutive shutouts. Malcolm made 27 stops, including 13 in the second period, to keep RPI off the board for the second straight game.

Clinton Bourbonais (no relation to RPI recruit Riley Bourbonnais) gave Yale a two-goal cushion to seal it with under two minutes to play following an untimely slashing call against Ryan Haggerty. Merriam, who made 14 saves in the third period to keep RPI in the game, was pulled for the final 90 seconds, but RPI could not break Malcolm. For the second straight contest, a lengthy extra attacker situation did not result in an empty netter and ended in a 2-0 loss for the Engineers.




Despite the struggles, only one change came down for Saturday's lineup against a Brown team that had upset Union the previous night - freshman Mark McGowan was replaced by sophomore Matt Tinordi, an expected move for a team that tends to play a more physical game like the Bears.

The first period was a veritable parade to the penalty box for RPI, as three penalties resulted in three power plays for Brown, but Merriam and the penalty killers stood tall as they have done all year - the penalty kill went 8-for-9 on the weekend. Merriam made 10 saves, but the RPI offense was stymied, racking up a ninth straight period without scoring a goal.

It appeared likely that the second period would become the 10th straight without a goal despite 11 shots in the middle frame, but a late penalty to Brown freshman Massimo Lamacchia put RPI on its second power play of the night, and Ryan Haggerty finally broke a scoreless streak of just over 200 minutes in the final minute with a laser of a one-timer from Nick Bailen and Jacob Laliberte to get RPI on the board and give them a 1-0 lead for only the second time this season.

The goal, however, was not enough to fully jumpstart the offense, which remains a concern going forward. Two early opportunities to grab a cushion with power plays starting in the second and fourth minutes of the third went for naught. RPI successfully killed two penalties later in the period, and though they couldn't put the puck in the net despite 1:26 of extra attacker time at the end of the period for Brown, the Engineers still held on for the 1-0 victory, gaining their first two points in league play.

The victory is obviously important for RPI as they try to regain their confidence, but just one goal on the weekend, and only two in the last two weekends, both by Ryan Haggerty, leads one to believe that there is still more work to be done to shake the offensive problems that have plagued the team.

It's a quick turnaround for RPI, as they host Route 7 rivals Union tomorrow night in the fall semester finale at Houston Field House. The Engineers have, for several years, always "gotten up" for Union, and we've seen some real doozies between RPI and the Dutchmen over the last couple of seasons, including three memorable meetings last season. Might this be the moment that offense breaks loose from the icy grip of despair? We'll see. These are two important points, with the Engineers currently sitting in last place after four games. A win would at least bounce them out of the doldrums.

Other junk - For the second week in a row, Union and Yale have swapped positions in the USCHO poll - meaning they're back where they started the ECAC season. #9 Yale (swept RPI/Union, up four) and #13 Union (swept by Brown/Yale, down four) are joined in the rankings this week by #17 Colgate (beat Dartmouth, lost to Harvard, up one) and #18 Cornell (swept Harvard/Dartmouth, previously unranked). Also ranked this week are #4 Notre Dame (swept Alaska, up three with one first place vote), #5 Colorado College (lost to #11 Denver, down two), and #6 Ferris State (beat and tied #12 Lake Superior State, up two). Receiving votes this week were Ex-#19 Quinnipiac (56), Ex-#17 Dartmouth (37), Clarkson (26), and Harvard (3).

RPI's offense is about to hit rock bottom, with 10 goals in 11 games, their 0.91 goals per game average is besting only Alabama-Huntsville's 0.83 (10 in 12 games). Every other team in the nation is scoring at least a goal and a half per game.

Fueling the problem is a total of four goals in the last six contests, and the Engineers haven't scored an even strength goal since Patrick Cullen's tally with 4 seconds left in the second period in the first game against Colorado College - a drought of 320:04, over five hours of game time. Also, it's worth recalling that a full 40% of RPI's goals scored this year came in just one of their games, the 4-1 victory over Minnesota State. We're certainly a long way from that 7-0 goal bonanza of an exhibition game against Acadia.

And, oh yeah. We're a third of the way through the season already.

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

#13 Yale at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/11/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Yale 2, RPI 0



RECORD: 1-9-0 (0-3-0 ECAC, 0 pts)

Reale Deals
1. G Bryce Merriam, 27 saves
2. F Brock Higgs, 6 shots
3. D Nick Bailen, 5 shots

Brown at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/12/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 1, Brown 0



RECORD: 2-9-0 (1-3-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

Reale Deals
1. F Ryan Haggerty, 1 G
2. G Bryce Merriam, 22 saves, SO
3. F Jacob Laliberte, 1 A

Upcoming games
15 Nov - #13 Union
25 Nov - at RIT
02 Dec - at Princeton
03 Dec - at Quinnipiac
10 Dec - vs. Union (Lake Placid, NY)

1 comment:

  1. "Pat Koudys gave the puck away to Yale senior Josh Balch, who came in unmolested against Bryce Merriam"

    Interesting choice of words in the wake of the Penn State Scandal ;)


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