Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lost in the Desert

The Army "juggernaut" rolls on. That's two losses in a row for RPI against the Black Knights.


2011 can't end soon enough. The Engineers' total record this calendar year is 12-24-2, with fully half of those wins coming in January. Yeah.

Only three teams in the nation register worse in KRACH right now than RPI - American International, Alabama-Huntsville, and Sacred Heart. That means the Engineers, as of right now, are the underdog in every game they will play for the rest of the year, except for the AIC game in which they are slight favorites (at the moment).

Friday, December 30, 2011

In the Fetal Position

A gutsy move to sit some upperclassmen in favor of younger players didn't quite pay off yesterday, but a lot of credit to Lowell - they're a solid team. They perfectly exploited a serious problem we've been having.

What was the problem? I think we might have talked about it recently.

Oh well. On to Army this afternoon. And if we can't beat Army... yeah.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oh. Hockey. Right!

Gosh... this was a first for us here at WaP. The last two winter breaks were full of RPI hockey goodness, what with Jerry D'Amigo playing in the World Junior Championships and, last year, the big exhibition against the US WJC team.

(For what it's worth, the Canadians are still cheering against whoever's playing the Stars and Stripes out of pure, unadulterated fear. They probably think D'Amigo will come back and squash them again.)

This year, with the team struggling and no one to dote on in the tournament... a little less going on. So we took a quick breather to recharge the batteries. But we're back, and the second half starts now.

There's great news to share - the team's finally at 100% injury wise, which is what we'd hoped to hear heading into the break. From Seth Appert's recent comments, it looks like the younger guys are going to get a bigger role going forward as well.

Hope springs eternal. Can the team wash away the stank of a horrible first three months? They can start this afternoon as they face nationally ranked UMass-Lowell in UConn's (almost literal) barn.

Let's get excited... nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reality Check?

Let's not mince words when it comes to the men's team. If the team continues on its current path, it will be the first season with fewer than 10 wins since 1982 (in which the team played 29 games), and the second worst winning percentage in the modern era of the program, following the 1966 season largely considered the worst in school history.

This is for a team that, coming into the season, had the pundits believing that despite the much ballyhooed losses of Chase Polacek and Allen York, RPI was going to vie for a first-round bye (4th in the coaches poll, 5th in the media poll). We weren't even that optimistic, but we thought sixth was a pretty strong likelihood.

A lot can change in two and a half months, but those pre-season projections don't lie - this should not be a team that could be considered one of the worst in program history. And at its base, that is what makes what has transpired to date all the more frustrating. In Seth Appert's first three years with the program, there was a lot of hemming and hawing over the Engineers' troubles (they were 31-68-14 in those years), but watching the games, it was apparent that the guys were just getting beat by better teams for the most part. Today, that isn't the case. 3/4 of this team has been on a 20-game winning NCAA tournament squad, many in integral roles.

There is a very recent comparison that can be made - Colgate, last year. The Raiders were chosen to finish 4th in the media poll (with 2 voters feeling they had the chops to finish first) and 5th in the coaches poll a year after a 4th place finish that ended with an ECAC tournament upset. They finished dead last, and for much of the season, it wasn't close. Their issue wasn't so much a problem scoring as much as it was keeping the puck out of their own net for much of the year, but the effect was the same. Colgate did salvage their season in March (requiring a pair of Game 3 overtime goals in the Capital District), but it was still mostly a lost season. That team had seven NHL draft picks, but was losing a star player in David McIntyre. As with Polacek and York, that absence alone certainly did not explain why a team with high expectations languished so miserably all year long, including a nine-game losing streak that was part of a 1-20-2 run from November to early February.

This year, while RPI has already matched their loss total from last season with 13 losses, Colgate has already matched their win total from last year before Christmas with 11 wins in 17 outings. Eight of the team's top nine scorers and both goaltenders were on last year's squad.

Fortunately, history isn't necessarily doomed to repeat itself. There's still time for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction - but there's plenty of work to be done in order to achieve that.

Scoring - We've hashed this out pretty well, so let's just put this in historic context. The Engineers went 11 straight games without reaching what in college hockey is frequently the "magic" three goal mark - that is, if you can regularly pump three pucks to the back of the net, you're going to win more frequently than not. That's a school record for a single season. The last time they even went 5 straight games without reaching three was the dismal 2008-09 season (they did that twice), and they managed 9 straight in 2007-08, which had been the single season record before this year. The longest such streak in school history was a 12-game stretch between 1912 and 1916... but it was a very different game back then, of course.

There are absolute signs of improvement here, especially among the talented set of freshman forwards who appear to be adjusting well to the college game as the season goes along. Jacob Laliberte was hurt early on, but has been showing the ability that RPI fans have been waiting years to see over the last few games and has broken onto the scoresheet solidly. Ryan Haggerty was one of the earliest to "catch on" and is still the top goal-scoring forward on the team despite missing three games. Zach Schroeder and Mark McGowan potted their first career goals in the last two weeks after increasingly impressive performances.

Appert has frequently eschewed the use of the term "freshman" once the second half of the season begins, given that they have mostly gained the experience they need to be competitive by that point, so we'll have to see if the forwards are able to shoulder a heavier load going forward.

Finishing - Especially in October, it was apparent at times during the first half that the team wasn't playing all that poorly. We noted that they were basically doing everything right except for scoring goals. There were plenty of whiffs up and down on one-timer chances and rebound tries. That's certainly changing - the Haggerty goal at RIT was a great one-timed shot, and Schroeder and McGowan each put one home on textbook rebounders.

Including instances in which RPI allowed one or more empty net goals while being down by a single goal, the Engineers are 1-5 in one-goal games. With a little better finishing, we could have been looking at a team at least a little closer to .500.

Defensive breakdowns - The Engineers have only seven defensemen on their roster, and all but two are either freshmen or sophomores. Practically by definition, that's a young d-corps. Regardless, they have done a wonderful job for the most part of keeping the team in games, especially from the beginning of the season through late November. One or two times a weekend (and more frequently of late), however, we have seen defensive blunders creating odd-man rushes or straight up breakaway opportunities for the opponent, and those seem to be leading to goals more often than not. Worse, a worrisome number of these breakdowns have been from the two upperclassmen.

Goaltending - Bryce Merriam and Scott Diebold have done a fine job in net, all things considered. The one concern is on those defensive breakdowns, and perhaps this is the one area in which Allen York is missed. The goaltenders have typically been very solid when the defense is doing things right, but when hung out to dry we haven't seen a high number of "wow, he bailed them out there," type saves as York regularly made. Diebold is a freshman and has seen only four games in net. Merriam is a junior and could use a little more confidence in these situations.

Penalties - This, more than anything, may be the root of the team's current struggle. In interviews, Appert has said that the team must balance the physical game that they want to play with penalty discipline, and so far it seems that it's either one or the other. The penalty kill has been one of the shining lights on this team, and having a good penalty kill helps you maintain that physical presence by being a bit less apprehensive about dishing out that big hit, but when you spend too much time on the kill it keeps your offense from getting into a good rhythm and frequently keeps some of your better scorers off the ice.

RPI has been on the penalty kill an average of 5.5 times per game thus far. Although not all penalty kills last two minutes for whatever reason (some are majors, some start as an opponent comes out of the box, some end with a goal), that factors out to around 11 minutes of penalty kill per game, and it's not all at once. That's not good.

On the flip side, when the team isn't taking penalties, the physical aspect has not been as prevalent. A balance must be reached.

Upperclassmen - Gotta call out the juniors and seniors here. The top four forwards in scoring are all freshmen and sophomores. Not all of those juniors and seniors are supposed to be scorers - Alex Angers-Goulet and Joel Malchuk, for instance, have usually made their most important contributions defensively rather than offensively - but Appert has always pointed to his older players as the key leaders of the team. Some seem to be trying to do too much on their own, while others seem content to let others take the lead.

Injuries - It's worth mentioning that at no point during the season have the Engineers been at 100% healthwise which draws some comparison to Princeton two campaigns ago, who also underwhelmed despite strong pre-season expectations. Only eight players have played in all 16 contests - that compares to only four who made it through 38 games last season (Polacek, Helfrich, Bailen and Foss), but nine who made it through 39 games two years ago. Right now, the only known injuries are Ryan Haggerty (who we were told was sick but has missed the last three games) and Matt Neal (who's missed 11 straight with an ankle injury). Pat Cullen, Marty O'Grady, Brock Higgs, Jacob Laliberte, Mark McGowan, Greg Burgdoerfer, and Bryce Merriam have all missed at least one game due to injury this season.

Hopefully, the nearly three week layoff between Lake Placid and Storrs will help get this team to that elusive 100% readiness.

That's a lot to fix, but bear in mind - this team has the ability to fix it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Men's Hockey - vs. Union (10 Dec)

On the big ice at Lake Placid, the Engineers had one last opportunity to gain a little bit of redemption before going into a nearly three-week winter break. For nearly 35 minutes, RPI looked like they were ready to give Union a run for their money in the annual non-conference matchup, but a slew of bad penalties and rough goals buried the team and doomed them to their 13th loss of the season - the same number as all of last year - before Christmas, falling 5-2.




Not too many changes to the lineup from the Quinnipiac game - Merriam returned in net, Cullen returned to replace Burgdoerfer on the Laliberte line, and Guy Leboeuf returned in place of Pat Koudys, whose absence was not explained. Otherwise, basically the same lines. Ryan Haggerty remained out with what has been reported as a bout of the flu, missing his third straight game, while Matt Neal remained out for the 11th straight outing with an ankle injury.

For the fifth time in six games, the Engineers got the all important first goal. Following a very early penalty kill, RPI struck first just as their first power play of the game was expiring. A blast by Jacob Laliberte was redirected in front by C.J. Lee, the junior's first goal of the season (though it was originally noted as Laliberte's goal, which would have been his third in as many games).

While scoring the first goal hasn't been a problem lately, only once - in RPI's game against RIT, scoring twice on a major power play - have the Engineers been able to take control by going up 2-0. That was not to be on Saturday afternoon, either, as Union got the tying goal with just under five minutes left in the first period, depriving RPI of a much needed first intermission boost - the Engineers have never led after one period in 16 games thus far.

Union made it 2-1 four minutes into the second period, but the Engineers, to their credit, did not back off as they did after giving up the lead in Troy against the Dutchmen. On the counter attack, a shot by Matt Tinordi was initially saved, and Mark McGowan was there to rifle home the rebound, tying the game up at two with McGowan's first career goal.

As the period wore on and the Engineers killed another penalty, it was beginning to look like they had an opportunity to fight for a win in the third period, but then the specter of bad penalties came down and snuffed out any opportunity to stay in things.

A cross-checking penalty was called against Guy Leboeuf with about five and a half minutes left in the second period, and while arguing the call, Seth Appert was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that for some reason was served by Guy Leboeuf as part of a new double minor. Making matters worse, Alex Angers-Goulet, one of the team's most crucial penalty killers, was called for boarding less than a minute later, giving Union a long 5-on-3 power play. It took more than a minute, but the Dutchmen eventually capitalized on the two man advantage, and then made it 4-2 with a minute and a half left in the period after a blown defensive assignment by Mike Bergin left Union with a breakaway which they capitalized on.

RPI got a pair of power plays early in the third period, but neither were even remotely successful. The Dutchmen added a third straight goal midway through the third to lock things down tight. RPI managed a total of 25 shots on goal in the game, and the Engineers got 10 on net in the third, but by that time they were already facing a deep deficit. Bryce Merriam made 27 saves in the loss.

Other junk - Want further proof of RPI's fall from grace? Union's win was their only game of the week, and yet they fell one spot and are now only ranked #11. Also ranked this week: #6 Notre Dame (split with Ferris State, up one), #7 Colorado College (split with Alaska-Anchorage, down one), #10 Ferris State (down one), #12 Colgate (tied Merrimack, no change), #13 Cornell (idle, up three), #17 UMass-Lowell (beat BC, lost to Northeastern, up one), and #19 Yale (lost to UMass, down two). Also receiving votes, Quinnipiac (45), Harvard (9), Clarkson (4) and RIT (3).

With 9 goals in the last 4 games - at least 2 in each for the first time since doing it 7 times in a row late last year - the Engineers offense is slowly improving, but is still among the bottom five offenses in the nation, all scoring under two goals per game.

The Engineers started the season by falling behind 1-0 in their first seven games and understandably went 1-6 during that stretch. They have since gone up 1-0 in six of the nine games since, but are 2-3 in those games, with the two being shutouts. The Engineers still have given up only one goal in games they've won, the first goal of the game in the second Minnesota State outing.

Matt Neal, who has played only four games due to injury, is the only freshman forward who has yet to record his first career goal. Freshmen have scored 7 of the team's 15 goals by forwards.

ECAC Standings (by win% in parentheses)
1 (1). Cornell - 13 pts (6-1-1)
2 (2). Colgate - 12 pts (6-2-0)
3 (8). Quinnipiac - 9 pts (3-4-3)
4 (3). Yale - 8 pts (4-2-0)
5 (4). Union - 8 pts (3-2-2)
6 (7). Harvard - 8 pts (3-3-2)
7 (10). St. Lawrence - 8 pts (4-5-0)
8 (9). Clarkson - 8 pts (3-4-2)
9 (6). Dartmouth - 7 pts (3-3-1)
10 (11). Princeton - 7 pts (3-7-1)
11 (5). Brown - 6 pts (3-3-0)
12 (12). RPI - 2 pts (1-6-0)

#10 Union vs. RPI
Non-Conference Game - Herb Brooks Arena (Lake Placid, NY)
12/10/11 - 4:00pm
RESULT: Union 5, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 3-13-0 (1-6-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

Upcoming games
29 Dec - vs. #17 UMass-Lowell (Storrs, CT)
30 Dec - vs. Army OR at UConn (Storrs, CT)
06 Jan - Dartmouth
07 Jan - Harvard
10 Jan - American International

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Olympic Dreams

Same pumpup as last year. Hey, it fits.

Rumor has it that both of Union's top goaltenders are questionable for tonight. If neither can go, their untested third string gets his shot. Do you believe in miracles?

I don't, not anymore really.

Here's something harder if the brilliance of John Williams isn't enough to get your blood pumping. You're welcome. (Content Warning - language)

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Shall Call Him... Mini WaP

For your reading pleasure (or pain - we make no judgments here about your lifestyle), you can now take Without a Peer on the road with you.

We are delighted to announce that WaP can now be viewed with relative ease on your mobile device. Simply surf on over here with your smartphone and it'll automatically appear in a mobile friendly format.

Lookin' out for the little guy.

Also, not much has happened lately worth blogging about. Shoot us an email if you've got any ideas or news, or maybe if you're just bored... tomyousieve (at) gmail [dat] com.

Oh... one other thing... the podcast for yesterday's Slap Schotts (featuring WaP's Tom Reale) is available on demand at this link.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Spirit of Radio

In lieu of this week's podcast, tune in to Fox Sports 980 on Thursday at 11:05am as Without a Peer's Tom Reale joins Union radio man Brian Unger to discuss the Festivus Faceoff with the Daily Gazette's Ken Schott on "Slap Schotts," the weekly college hockey segment of Rodger Wyland's "Big Board Sportstalk."

Union is coming off a disappointing two tie weekend, which isn't horrible considering how beat up they were, but... they probably still should have picked up four points. And of course, we know RPI's troubles. Last year in Lake Placid, these teams had another classic, with Union scoring in the last 10 seconds of regulation to earn the tie. Then again, both teams were doing pretty well heading into that one.

Anyway, we'll be talking about that and I'm sure we'll probably talk a little bit about the Engineers' struggles to date as well.

If you're away from your computer, that's AM 980 on your radio dial - click here to see if it'll work where you are.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No Joy in Mudville

Gordon Bombay: You think this is funny? You think losing is funny?
Les Averman: Well, not at first, but once you get the hang of it.
- The Mighty Ducks

There's honestly not much more to say about the last weekend. The women gave up 13 consecutive goals in four periods before (sort of) turning things around in the final two. The men took zero points from games that probably could have resulted in four points and managed to lose on Saturday almost literally at the last second.

They have a combined record of 7-24-4.

So hopefully, you'll excuse us if we are a little punch drunk at this point.

As self appointed court jesters, we're doing our best to find humor in all of this, even if it's dark humor. Gary and I both realized after the Quinnipiac game that as the season goes on, we get less and less annoyed at losing.

That's probably a bad thing.

Anyway, expect some more broader scoped stuff out of me in the coming weeks as we try to not sound like a broken record. Last year we were able to run a weekly feature on the PairWise Rankings. This year we're kind of... not. So expect some more "wide world of college hockey" if this trend continues. Which it probably will.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Men's Hockey - at Princeton & Quinnipiac (2/3 Dec)

Things are officially getting worse for RPI even as certain elements get better. The offense, given the output of the games this past weekend, is certainly beginning to awaken from its slumber, hitting one-timers and getting to rebounds where they had not been earlier in the season. However, just in time for the offense to start firing, the defense became lax as the Engineers dropped their 11th and 12th games of the season - in 15 total outings - to move within one of last year's final number in the loss column during the first weekend in December. On Friday, three goals was not enough to overcome Princeton (5-3), while a last-second goal for Quinnipiac doomed the Engineers on Saturday (3-2).




Friday's lineup featured the same exact group sent out against RIT with two exceptions - Bryce Merriam returned between the pipes, and Patrick Cullen returned from injury, replacing leading scorer Ryan Haggerty, who missed the weekend with an undisclosed illness.

The even strength drought finally ended about six and a half minutes into the first period as Jacob Laliberte finally notched his first career goal, unassisted, to put RPI ahead 1-0. It was the fourth straight game in which the Engineers had struck first.

The lead lasted for about four minutes before Princeton struck back on a shot Bryce Merriam probably would like back. Jack Berger put it just over Merriam's glove and in to tie the game at one, and the Tigers struck quickly just over two minutes later on the power play, picking up a bad clearance by Nick Bailen and converting just 23 seconds into their first power play of the night to go up 2-1.

RPI fought back three minutes later as Matt Tinordi notched his first goal of the season and second of his career on a putback of a Josh Rabbani tip, knotting things up at two. Before the second period was over, it was already just the second RPI game of the season in which both teams reached two goals.

Last year's ECAC rookie of the year, Andrew Calof, made the score 3-2 seven minutes into the second period with a goal on another RPI turnover, but RPI again fought back to tie the game before the end of the middle frame. Marty O'Grady scored his first goal of the season from C.J. Lee and Zach Schroeder to square things once more.

That was as close as the Engineers could get in just their second time on the year reaching three goals. Calof scored again seven minutes into the third period to put Princeton up 4-3, and with the net empty, the Engineers could not convert despite a number of excellent opportunities. A bad move by Bailen to keep the puck in the zone ended up giving it to Princeton, and Berger scored into the empty net to finish the game at 5-3.

An offensive awakening coupled with a number of bad defensive turnovers that previously had been limited to only about one per week. Merriam did not fare terribly well in net - he faced only 23 shots on the evening but allowed four goals.





Haggerty was not ready to return on Saturday and Pat Cullen was removed from the lineup, possibly not ready to return from his injury suffered against Union. The only other change was in net as freshman Scott Diebold picked up his second start in three games.

The first period started out horribly for RPI. They were kept pinned in their own end for much of the first 20 minutes, and late in the period were being outshot by an eyepopping 12-3 tally. An early power play opportunity went nowhere, followed by a goal five minutes later by Quinnipiac freshman phenom Matthew Peca, who put a bouncing puck past Diebold to put the Bobcats ahead.

Despite the lousy start, the Engineers were fortunate to get into the locker room tied at one as Jacob Laliberte followed up his Friday goal with another one five minutes after RPI went down. Bailen and Higgs assisted to make the score 1-1 heading into the break.

The major event of the second period was certainly a serious contact to the head incident involving freshman Luke Curadi. He put a Quinnipiac player to the ice and the referees quickly issued a five minute penalty and a game misconduct. A retaliatory penalty on Quinnipiac meant that the Bobcat power play was reduced to three minutes, but RPI ended up down two men before the end of the kill with a cross-checking call against Bo Dolan. The Engineer penalty kill, long one of the few bright lights, hunkered down and got back to five a side with no damage.

The Engineers took their second lead of the weekend four minutes into the third quarter as a Brock Higgs shot was saved by Quinnipiac's Eric Hartzell but picked up in the slot by Zach Schroeder, who forcefully launched the rebound into the open net for his first career goal.

Unfortunately, that was when the defensive issues from Friday began to creep in. Two and a half minutes later, sustained pressure in the RPI zone led to a goal after the Engineers failed to clear the puck on two occasions. That tied the game at two, and RPI could not regain the lead despite some decent pressure late.

Despite some very sloppy defense throughout - and repeated bailouts by Diebold, who shined with 35 saves, including 14 in the final period - the game appeared to be heading into overtime before the Engineers iced the puck in the waning moments. They gained a clearance, but then seemed to stop playing with intensity and the Bobcats, playing to the horn, went for broke. A bad attempt at taking out the puck carrier, Ben Arnt, left him alone with Yuri Bouharevich, who placed the puck perfectly into the net with just 2.4 seconds remaining on the clock, giving the Bobcats a 3-2 victory.

Ultimately, the Engineers lost a game they probably deserved to lose due to generally bad play for long stretches, but it was still a game they were very much in until the very end. It's a tough loss to swallow and an especially tough sweep to have to swallow given that both games were not only well within reach, but were downright winnable thanks to the rejuvenated offense.

Other junk - The reigning national champions, Minnesota-Duluth, are the #1 team in the nation this week following Merrimack's first two losses of the season at the hands of Providence. Ranked ECAC teams are #10 Union (tied Quinnipiac/Princeton, down one), #12 Colgate (swept Clarkson/SLU, up three), #16 Cornell (beat Clarkson and tied SLU, up one), and #17 Yale (split home and home with Brown, down three). Also ranked this week are #6 Colorado College (beat Denver, up two), #7 Notre Dame (swept by Northeastern, down five with one first place vote), #9 Ferris State (swept by Western Michigan, down three), and #18 UMass-Lowell (swept UNH, previously unranked). Also receiving votes were Quinnipiac (17) and Harvard (3).

RPI ultimately went 446:48 without scoring an even strength goal between Patrick Cullen's goal late in the 2nd period against Colorado College on October 28 and Jacob Laliberte's first career goal in the 1st period against Princeton on December 2. All five RPI goals this weekend were even strength, which doubled the team total for the season as a whole. They went 0-for-3 on the power play. That's right, only three power plays in 120 minutes. The penalty kill did OK, going 6-for-7 including the big major kill.

The abyss gets deeper now: the Engineers are in last place, and the rest of the league is four points clear - which means RPI could sweep a weekend series and they'd still only possibly be tied for 9th at best. Another problem: The next chance to do that doesn't crop up until after the new year. Next up is another game against Union on the big sheet at Lake Placid. The Dutchmen are banged up right now, but if things go the way they did this past weekend (and in the last game between these teams) it probably isn't going to matter. Then comes a tournament at UConn that looked like a cakewalk at the beginning of the season and now looks like another tough order as UMass-Lowell has looked very good this year.

ECAC Standings
1. Cornell - 13 pts (6-1-1)
2. Colgate - 12 pts (6-2-0)
3. Yale - 8 pts (4-2-0)
4. Union - 8 pts (3-2-2)
5. St. Lawrence - 8 pts (4-4-0)
6. Dartmouth - 7 pts (3-3-1)

7. Princeton - 7 pts (3-5-1)
8. Quinnipiac - 7 pts (2-4-3)
9. Brown - 6 pts (3-3-0)
10. Harvard - 6 pts (2-3-2)

11. Clarkson - 6 pts (2-4-2)
12. RPI - 2 pts (1-6-0)

RPI at Princeton
ECAC Game - Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
12/2/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Princeton 5, RPI 3

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 3-11-0 (1-5-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

RPI at Quinnipiac
ECAC Game - TD Bank Sports Center (Hamden, CT)
12/3/11 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Quinnipiac 3, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 3-12-0 (1-6-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

Upcoming games
10 Dec - vs. #10 Union (Lake Placid, NY)
29 Dec - vs. #18 UMass-Lowell (Storrs, CT)
30 Dec - vs. Army OR at UConn (Storrs, CT)
06 Jan - Dartmouth
07 Jan - Harvard

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Women's Hockey - at Clarkson & St. Lawrence (2/3 Dec)

RPI needed a strong showing in the North Country to help get their season back on track prior to a long holiday layoff, but they certainly didn't get it this weekend in a pair of dismal losses, getting thrashed 10-0 by Clarkson on Friday night before watching a comeback attempt fall far short in a 6-3 loss to St. Lawrence on Saturday.



Le Donne/Schilter


A hat trick by Jamie Lee Rattray and a 5-goal first period were among the highlights for the Golden Knights as they dominated the Engineers in a manner that even the top teams in the country have not historically been able to do. Even in their 8-2 loss to #1 Wisconsin, RPI managed 29 shots compared to just 11 against Clarkson. The 10-0 win for Clarkson is the second largest margin in the program's history, behind an 11-0 victory over Sacred Heart, in the Pioneers' first Division I season.

While Clarkson didn't open the scoring until near the midpoint of the first period, they had racked up a five goal lead by the first intermission, with Juana Baribeau opening the scoring by putting home her own rebound. Rattray notched the next two goals, less than two minutes apart, before Vanessa Gagnon picked up another just over a minute later when she deflected a puck past Kelly O'Brien to make it 4-0.

With Piper sent in to relieve O'Brien, the Engineers took their first penalty of the game, and Clarkson capitalized on the opportunity with Katelyn Ptolemy fired one in from the point for a power play goal and the 5-0 lead.

O'Brien returned to the net for the second period, which saw the Golden Knights notch another two tallies. Danielle Skirrow redirected a slapshot from Jennifer Shields at 8:13 to make it 6-0, and Rattray completed her first career hat trick, carrying the puck to the net and putting it past O'Brien for a 7-0 lead.

Christine Lambert picked up another power play goal early in the third, and the Golden Knights added a shorthanded marker at 10:03 by Baribeau along with one more goal by Brittany Styner at 15:29 to close out the scoring with a 10-goal advantage.

At the final buzzer, the Engineers had been outshot 37-11, and the 10-0 margin was the Engineers' worst defeat since an 11-0 loss at Harvard in October 2006. There was really nothing positive at all to take from this one, rather one can only hope that this was the definitive low point of the season and there is nowhere to go but up.

St. Lawrence


Le Donne/Schilter


While the Engineers put forth a much stronger effort on Saturday than they did the night before, it wasn't enough to stop the offensive output of St. Lawrence, who doubled up RPI in a 6-3 victory despite a 24-24 tally in shots on goal.

The Saints dominated the opening frame much the same as Clarkson had the day before, jumping out to a 3-0 lead behind a 10-3 edge in shots. Rylee Smith scored unassisted on a breakaway at 7:50 for the game's first goal, while Kelly Sabatine and Mel Desrochers added a pair of goals just over two minutes apart in the tail end of the first period to make it 3-0 heading into the locker room.

A SLU penalty just 10 seconds into the second period gave RPI a chance to get on the board, and Andie Le Donne scored the Engineers' first goal on the weekend just 24 seconds later, with a slap shot that beat goalie Carmen MacDonald to cut the Saints' lead to 3-1.

SLU opened that lead back up later in the second period as Sabatine and Michelle Ng notched a pair of goals to make it 5-1. RPI held the edge in shots, 11-6 in the period, but was outscored 2-1 in the period as they couldn't catch a break on the weekend.

RPI tried desperately to get back into the game in the third period, picking up a pair of goals in the first five minutes from Jill Vandegrift and Alisa Harrison, with Vandegrift putting home a rebound and Harrison scoring on a breakaway to cut the Saints' lead to 5-3.

Just 18 seconds after pulling Piper in favor of the extra attacker late in the third, the Saints got an empty netter from Smith to make it 6-3, a score that held up through the final buzzer. The Engineers again outshot the Saints, 10-8 in the third, but the effort was not enough to recover from falling in the hole early.

With the pair of losses on the weekend, the Engineers fall to 4-12-4 on the season, and 1-5-2 in ECAC play, leaving them in 10th place as most of the league breaks for the holidays. All is not lost for the Engineers, who are just a point behind 8th place Colgate and Brown, but play will absolutely need to pick up after the new year to salvage a shot at making the playoffs - a potentially tall order given the Engineers have six games to be played against Cornell, Harvard, and Dartmouth among the remaining league schedule. It's possible nothing will be more important than the four games against Yale, Brown, and Union (twice), which will truly be must-win affairs to be able to push ahead of the rest of the pack in the fight to reach eighth place and secure a playoff spot.

RPI returns to action just over a month from now, with a home series against Colgate and Cornell on January 6th and 7th of the new year. Both games will be at 3pm as the men will also be home facing Dartmouth and Harvard at 7pm each evening.


RPI at Clarkson
ECAC Hockey Game – Cheel Arena (Potsdam, NY)
12/2/11 – 7:00pm
Clarkson 10, RPI 0



RECORD: 4-11-4 (1-4-2 ECAC)


RPI at St. Lawrence
ECAC Hockey Game – Appleton Arena (Canton, NY)
12/3/11 – 4:00pm
SLU 6, RPI 3



RECORD: 4-12-4 (1-5-2 ECAC)


ECAC Standings
                GP    Pts     Conf    All
Quinnipiac 10 15 7-2-1 11-7-1
Clarkson 10 13 6-3-1 10-4-4
Cornell 7 12 6-1 10-2
Harvard 8 12 6-2 6-4
St. Lawrence 10 11 5-4-1 8-7-3
Princeton 10 11 5-4-1 6-7-1
Dartmouth 8 9 4-3-1 5-5-1
Colgate 7 5 2-4-1 6-10-1
Brown 8 5 1-4-3 3-5-5
RPI 8 4 1-5-2 4-12-4
Union 8 3 1-6-1 3-13-1
Yale 8 2 1-7 1-14

Upcoming Games

Jan. 6 - Colgate (3pm)
Jan. 7 - Cornell (3pm)
Jan. 13 - at Dartmouth (7pm)
Jan. 14 - at Harvard (4pm)
Jan. 20 - Yale (7pm)
Jan. 21 - Brown (4pm)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Point of No Return

Every weekend is a big weekend in the ECAC, it seems, especially for RPI. This weekend, given the current state of the league standings, it's more of a "crossing the Rubicon" moment.

The men are in last place, there's not much that can sugar coat that, but they're playing a couple of teams are are not far away in 10th and 11th place Princeton and Quinnipiac, and a pair of wins would be enough to give them six points in seven games - the same tally as 7th place (and idle) Harvard. That's a move from last place to almost .500 and right back into the thick of things despite the horrid start, if they can grow on their offensive output from last week against RIT and actually bury some pucks at even strength.

The women, meanwhile, are finishing up the season series against the North Country in early December, a definite rarity. Right now, the Engineers sit in 10th place, out of a playoff spot, and while road games are always tougher to earn points than home games, they're practically a necessity now after picking up just one point in four ECAC home games to start the season. Two of those games were against Clarkson and St. Lawrence and while they didn't win or tie those games, they didn't exactly play poorly, either. The opportunity is out there to pull back into the hunt.

No special meaning for today's pump-up. Just a great song that'll get the blood pumping as both teams wrap their first semester league schedules.