Monday, January 9, 2012

Men's Hockey - Dartmouth & Harvard (6/7 Jan)

RPI's long awaited return to Houston Field House took place last weekend, with Friday's game against Dartmouth kicking off live college hockey coverage on the newly named NBC Sports Network. The team didn't disappoint in effort for the most part, but the results are still lacking. RPI scored first both nights, but couldn't recover from a terrible stretch in the second period on Saturday and fell 4-3 to Dartmouth before losing a 2-0 lead on Saturday to settle for a 2-2 tie with Harvard.




Although it was feared that the Dartmouth game could have produced a pretty empty crowd, it actually turned out only 32 fans less than the previous home game against Union - although the Union crowd was likely somewhat depressed from what it could have been since that game was played on a Tuesday. 3,501 was the announced attendance and it didn't look untrue.

Joel Malchuk got the Engineers on the board first with an even strength goal at 12:31 of the first period during a first 15 minutes generally dominated by RPI,  but they were unable to carry that lead over into the first intermission. Dartmouth struck back five minutes later on a wrist shot that not only tied the game, but was also followed by a power play as Mark McGowan had been called on a delayed penalty for hooking.

That was killed off, but the Big Green would also grab the next three goals in the second period, including a pair of soft ones that put the Engineers behind the eight ball. A power play goal just four seconds into a Guy Leboeuf penalty eight and a half minutes into the second made it 2-0 Dartmouth, and then five minutes later RPI gave up two goals in just 1:15, both on odd man rushes, putting the Big Green up 4-1 and  visibly frustrating the team, which had been playing fairly well throughout the game until that pair.

Dartmouth would get into a bit of penalty trouble shortly thereafter, allowing RPI to claw their way back into things. Enjoying a long five-on-three chance, the Engineers struck just under two minutes after going down by three, with Ryan Haggerty scoring his fifth goal of the year (and fifth power play goal) to make it 4-2, and then Matt Tinordi potting his second goal of the season just 21 seconds later on the ensuing five-on-four to bring RPI within one.

Despite a solid third period effort, that was as close as the Engineers would get to tying things back up. One power play opportunity midway through the period was all the advantage they would get. Cab Morris made seven stops, including an absolute monster robbery of C.J. Lee with a diving glove save on an open net, and Nick Bailen hit crossbar during the power play. That was as close as they got - one of those games where with just a couple of more minutes, things could have been different. The 1:15 letdown also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a team can play very well for nearly the entire game, and still lose if the right conditions exist.




The back end of the weekend was not as well attended and included just a few changes in the lineup - Scott Diebold got the nod in net, with Johnny Rogic replacing Patrick Cullen on the Malchuk line and Pat Koudys replacing Luke Curadi on defense.

RPI got off to perhaps their best start of the entire season, notching two goals in the first period for just the second time all season (at Princeton on 12/2) and going up 2-0 also for just the second time all season (at RIT on 11/25). Even more impressively, both goals came at even strength as Zach Schroeder scored 5:11 into the affair with his third goal of the season, followed just 26 seconds later by C.J. Lee with his second of the year, giving the Engineers the early edge.

From there, however, the offensive pressure diminished rapidly. Harvard would pull back within one just two minutes later on the power play with Mike Bergin serving a holding penalty, and the Crimson outshot RPI 12-4 in the first period.

There was no scoring and were no power plays in the second period, but the lopsided shot totals remained. After 40 minutes, the Engineers had just five total shots on goal - that's ONE for the entire second period - trailed 21-5 in shots, and still had the 2-1 lead.

Harvard did not wait long after play resumed to get the tying goal. In a four-on-four situation, the Crimson tied the score just 1:34 into the third period. Harvard picked up the only power play opportunity  of the period - in fact the only one since their first goal of the contest nearly 50 minutes earler - but the Engineers held on. RPI put up more shots in the final 25 minutes (8) than they had in the first two periods, but it was not enough as the team had to settle for a tie.

Diebold finished with 25 saves in a bizarre game that the Engineers led for more than half the contest, but were essentially outplayed in the end, a day after outplaying the opponent for much of the game and losing. That's hockey for you.

Other junk - Ranked teams on the RPI schedule this week are #3 Notre Dame (up two), #8 Colorado College (down two), #9 Cornell (up four), #11 UMass-Lowell (up one), #12 Colgate (down three), #13 Ferris State (up four), and #14 Union (no change). Also receiving votes were Yale (33), Harvard (7) and Quinnipiac (2).

The Engineer offense continues to push its numbers upwards - they have at least two goals in each of their last eight games now - but it still stands next to last in the nation at 1.45 goals per game, just ahead of Alabama-Huntsville's 1.12.

The defense continues to sink. It now stands tied with Wisconsin for 44th (out of 58 teams) at 3.15 goals per game. Combined with the weak offensive numbers, the Engineers are third from the bottom in point differential (-1.7 goals per game), although well ahead of Alabama-Huntsville (-3.04) and Sacred Heart (-3.25).

RPI does actually have a couple of noteworthy players on the national level, though "noteworthy" may be kind of a stretch. Brock Higgs ranks 45th nationally in assists per game (he's putting together two every three games), Ryan Haggerty's five power play goals ranks him 22nd in the nation, and Nick Bailen's 0.60 points per game is 43rd nationally among defensemen.

The first goal of the game is usually the most important, but RPI hasn't made it stick. The Engineers are 2-5-1 when scoring first.

The Harvard tie snapped a six-game losing streak, during which the Engineers gave up at least three goals in each game. RPI is 3-4-1 when holding the opponent under three goals - another oddity.

American International is on a six-game losing streak since beating Brown 3-0 on November 22. This is not a game RPI can afford to lose or even tie if it wants to continue to build momentum. Still, it could prove an important confidence booster heading into the remainder of the season - to include the year's lone road home game out at Houston Field House West in Schenectady this coming Saturday.

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

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/6/12- 7:30pm
RESULT: Dartmouth 4, RPI 3



RECORD: 3-16-0 (1-7-0 ECAC, 2 pts)

Harvard at RPI
ECAC Game -  Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/7/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 2, Harvard 2



RECORD: 3-16-1 (1-7-1 ECAC, 3 pts)

Upcoming games
10 Jan - American International
14 Jan - at #14 Union
20 Jan - at Brown
21 Jan - at Yale
27 Jan - St. Lawrence

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