Monday, January 23, 2012

Men's Hockey - at Brown & Yale (20/21 Jan)

Last week, we commented on what a difference four days could make in a team's psyche as they went from a victory to a difficult loss against Union. Well, six days can apparently be a positive aspect, too. The Engineers put in 120 solid minutes of play on the road this past weekend and posted arguably their best two-game result of the season thus far, shutting out Brown for the second time this season with a 3-0 victory over Brown and earning a gritty 2-1 victory over Yale.





Alex Angers-Goulet missed a second consecutive week with an injury he picked up against Harvard, and Matt Neal's bumpy health year continued with a stomach bug that kept him at home all weekend.

Things looked rough for the Engineers early on as they picked up a pair of early penalties that put them on the penalty kill for basically four of the game's first five minutes. C.J. Lee picked up an interference penalty just 14 seconds into the game, followed by a high-sticking call against Greg Burgdoerfer, but the RPI penalty kill successfully snuffed out both Brown advantages. All told, the first period was fairly even, but produced no scoring.

Brown's second period began much the same way RPI's first period began - with a pair of early penalties. The major difference was in the subsequent execution of the ensuing power plays, both of which the Engineers scored on to take control of the contest. Nick Bailen scored his fifth goal of the season 59 seconds into the first power play chance at 1:39 to put RPI on the board, then Marty O'Grady notched his second goal of the year a little less than three minutes later to make it 2-0.

Things threatened to get much worse for Brown as they picked up yet another penalty just 19 seconds after O'Grady's goal, but head coach Brendan Whittet called timeout to rally the troops, and the Bears successfully killed off that power play.

Meanwhile, with the two-goal lead, Bryce Merriam became the star of the game. The junior goaltender stopped 14 shots in the first period and 16 in the third, making a total of 36 saves in all to earn his second career shutout, which also happened to be his second shutout of the season and second shutout of Brown. Merriam stopped all 58 shots that the Bears put on him this season.

Zach Schroeder added an empty netter with 1:30 left in the game to seal the victory, his fourth goal of the year.




You go with what works sometimes in hockey... the lineup was exactly the same on Saturday as it was on Friday, and it paid off in spades for the Engineers.

After a first period in which the teams largely felt each other out, the second period included a barrage of shots from Yale thanks to some very solid puck possession by the Bulldogs. Merriam faced 19 shots in the second period alone, but turned away each and every one of them to maintain the 0-0 score through 40 minutes of play. Yale was able to maintain a 27-11 shooting advantage after two periods.

The main event of the second period involved a serious scrum in front of Merriam after Yale's Clinton Bourbonais ran into him. RPI got a power play out of it, but lost Mike Bergin for 10 minutes after he was assessed a misconduct for leaving the bench during the tussle.

That misconduct proved dangerous for the Engineers early in the third period as Pat Koudys was assessed a tripping penalty, putting the available complement of defensemen for the penalty kill down to four, but the penalty kill and Merriam stood tall once again, as the PK went a perfect 8-for-8 on the weekend.

Despite the wide disparity in shots, RPI was the first onto the scoreboard as Marty O'Grady finally broke the ice 5:45 into the third with his second goal of the weekend. Just over three minutes later, he did it again by stealing the puck right out from under Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm's blocker, putting it into the empty net after Malcolm had thought it was covered, putting RPI up 2-0 on O'Grady's fourth goal of the season and third of the weekend.

Yale pulled Malcolm from the goal with just over two minutes left to play, and with the extra attacker the Bulldogs took complete control of the RPI zone, unleashing an absolute frenzy of shots that had Merriam scrambling to and fro, making save after save. He would finish with 18 saves in the third period for a total of 45 in the game, but he lost his shutout bid on a very weak shot that Yale's Kevin Limbert appeared to miss. Setting into position for the wrister, the puck instead trickled slowly between his legs and into the back of the net, making it 2-1 with 1:42 left in the game. The goal ended a shutout streak of 121:15 for Merriam.

The Bulldogs continued to push for the equalizer, but a tired RPI defense, led again by Merriam, stood up to the challenge and managed to escape with a 2-1 victory, the Engineers' first four-point weekend since hosting Brown and Yale (in that order) on January 28 and 29 of last year - last Freakout! weekend.

The immediate schedule does look promising for RPI if this past weekend's games are more than just a fluke. They have pulled within 2 points of getting themselves out of the cellar, and lo and behold, it's 11th place St. Lawrence, nursing a six-game winless streak in league play, coming to Houston Field House on Friday. After Clarkson on Saturday, it's then Freakout! weekend once again, which kicks off with a very difficult challenge in Cornell, but then features a Colgate team winless since the start of 2012 in the main event. Have we reached a turning point? We'll see.

Other junk - Ranked teams on the RPI schedule this week are #4 Notre Dame (up three), #9 Cornell (no change), #10 Ferris State (up three), #11 UMass-Lowell (up three), #12 Colorado College (down one) and #14 Union (down two). Also receiving votes were Colgate (ex-#18, 43 votes), Quinnipiac (24), Harvard (8) and RIT (7).

ECAC Standings (by win% in parentheses)
1 (1). Cornell - 19 pts (8-1-3)
2 (2). Union - 17 pts (7-3-3)
3 (7). Quinnipiac - 14 pts (5-5-4)
4 (3). Colgate - 13 pts (6-5-1)
5 (4). Clarkson - 13 pts (5-4-3)
6 (6). Brown - 12 pts (5-5-2)
7 (8). Harvard - 12 pts (3-4-6)
8 (10). Princeton - 12 pts (5-8-2)
9 (5). Dartmouth - 11 pts (5-5-1)
10 (9). Yale - 11 pts (5-6-1)
11 (11). St. Lawrence - 9 pts (4-7-1)
12 (12). RPI - 7 pts (3-8-1)

RPI at Brown
ECAC Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
1/20/12- 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 3, Brown 0

RECORD: 5-17-1 (2-8-1 ECAC, 5 pts)

RPI at Yale
ECAC Game -  Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
1/21/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 2, Yale 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 6-17-1 (3-8-1 ECAC, 7 pts)

Upcoming games
27 Jan - St. Lawrence
28 Jan - Clarkson
03 Feb - #9 Cornell
04 Feb - Colgate
10 Feb - at Harvard

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