Monday, January 30, 2012

Men's Hockey - St. Lawrence & Clarkson (27/28 Jan)

There's still a long way to go in the ECAC schedule - 8 games, which can be an eternity in the standings as it represents over 1/3 of the season - but RPI may well be turning the corner on what has generally been a dog of a season lately. They had to settle for a weekend split with a 4-0 victory over St. Lawrence and a 3-2 loss to Clarkson, but the effort shown in both games may well indicate that the Engineers have, at long last, found themselves as a hockey team and could well be ready to charge into the last segment of the season with some confidence, even with half of those eight games to come against the back-to-dangerous Central New York duo.

St. Lawrence



Despite the road sweep the weekend prior, some changes were made to the RPI lineup, especially the return of Alex Angers-Goulet, who had missed several games with a leg injury. His return pushed Greg Burgdoerfer out, but the lines were further jumbled a bit, with Jacob Laliberte moving to center over Marty O'Grady.

No scoring took place in the first period despite three power plays (2 for RPI, 1 for St. Lawrence), and a very well played 20 minutes by the Engineers, who were able to pick up a 7-3 edge in shots heading into the first intermission.

RPI had 23 seconds of power play time bleed into the second period, and once that ended, St. Lawrence managed a pretty solid stretch in the RPI zone for a couple of minutes, ending with an RPI icing. Seth Appert called timeout to give the guys out on the ice an opportunity to catch their breath, but a hooking penalty against Guy Leboeuf (after his man managed to get past him deep in the zone), threatened to allow the suddenly resurgent Saints the opportunity to score first. The penalty kill, however, held up, which helped the tide turn significantly in RPI's favor.

Just under a minute after the Leboeuf penalty expired, Patrick Cullen finally snapped his long point drought by putting the Engineers up 1-0 with a shot through traffic in the slot. Cullen was then instrumental in setting up RPI's second goal just over a minute later on the power play, taking a one-timer from near the blue line that was redirected in front by Matt Tinordi, with the rebound being powered home by Marty O'Grady, extending his goal scoring streak to three straight (and four in three games) to make it 2-0.

On RPI's next power play about three and a half minutes later, Cullen again played the playmaker role, setting up a C.J. Lee one-timer that found the back of the net to give RPI a 3-0 lead. Entering the game with just a single goal on the season for his point spread, Cullen racked up three big points in less than five minutes of game time to help the Engineers reach a commanding lead just past the game's halfway point.

The Engineers tightened their grip with just over two minutes to play in the second, as Bo Dolan notched his first goal of the season on a shot from the top of the faceoff circles, putting RPI up 4-0 for the first time this season. It was the first time RPI had scored four goals in one period since the third period at Clarkson on February 19, 2011 and the first time they'd scored four without an empty netter since the third period against UConn in the RPI tournament on November 26, 2010 (the first in league play since November 13, 2009... also at Clarkson).

With the solid lead in his back pocket, Bryce Merriam worked an outstanding final two periods. He didn't have to overexert himself, but he made 16 stops in the last 40 minutes to pick up the shutout victory.

The win moved RPI into a tie for 11th with St. Lawrence.

With his second shutout in three games, Merriam had recorded 100 saves on 101 shots in that stretch, an outstanding save percentage of .990.





No changes whatsoever to the RPI lineup between Friday and Saturday - the Engineers put together a complete 60 minutes against an admittedly weak St. Lawrence team, and went to work immediately against a much tougher squad from Clarkson, who had just had their heads handed to them the night before in Schenectady.

Unfortunately, the early work was overshadowed by a tough goal to give up just two and a half minutes into the affair. A good screen kept Merriam from seeing a shot from the point, and the Golden Knights took an early 1-0 lead.

Things got worse about six minutes later, as C.J. Lee was called for a boarding major after hitting Clarkson's Kevin Tansey behind the Knights' net. Tansey stayed down motionless after what was likely a minor penalty, drawing the extra three minutes. After Lee was assessed the penalty - fortunately for the Engineers, not including a game misconduct - Tansey skated back to the Clarkson bench and didn't miss a shift.

The bit of acting paid off well for Clarkson, who netted their second goal three minutes into the major penalty to go up 2-0.

RPI, who had been playing well before the Lee hit, did not give in at that point as two-goal deficits had commonly done earlier in the season. Guy Leboeuf got things started with his second goal of the season from the top of the slot just over two minutes later to cut the Clarkson lead in half, making it 2-1 after one period.

Midway through the second period, RPI tied things up with Matt Tinordi's third goal of the season, coming on the power play on a redirected shot by Patrick Cullen, making it 2-2. The assist was Cullen's fourth of the weekend, and of the season.

The Engineers played some dominant hockey from there on out, but could not get another one past Paul Karpowich, who played some very solid hockey and bailed his team out very well, slightly reminicient of Merriam's play a week prior in New Haven. A two-on-one break for Clarkson eventually gave the Knights the lead once again with about seven minutes left, and RPI was unable to break the trap that Clarkson fell back into after retaking the lead.

RPI produced several opportunities with Merriam out of the net in the final minute of the game, but couldn't find the third goal even after getting a power play chance with 20 seconds left. Karpowich finished with 29 saves to get his team the victory despite some exceptional play by the Engineers throughout.

The 3 goals on 17 shots was significantly off his pace from the previous three games, but Merriam still has a save percentage over the last two weeks of .966 and a GAA slightly less than 1.00 (when you consider the 1:52 of empty net time on Saturday night) in four games. Not too shabby.

Other junk - Ranked teams on the RPI schedule this week are #6 Ferris State (up four, with one first place vote), #8 Notre Dame (down four), #9 UMass-Lowell (up two), Co-#11 Colorado College (up one), Co-#11 Union (up three), #14 Cornell (down five), and #20 Colgate (re-entering the rankings). Also receiving votes were RIT (15), Quinnipiac (5), and Harvard (4).

While no Engineer has more than five goals this season (Nick Bailen, Marty O'Grady, and Ryan Haggerty), only five skaters have yet to dent the twine - Josh Rabbani, Mike Bergin, Greg Burgdoerfer, Justin Smith, and Luke Curadi. Interestingly, with Bo Dolan's goal against SLU, six of seven defensemen have scored. Curadi, in his defense, doesn't take an awful lot of shots and has only made 10 appearances. In fact, only Rabbani and Bergin on the list of non-goal scorers have more than 10 games in the lineup.

It's now Freakout! weekend, and RPI has won four of their last six games, and they've played very well in four straight. Two tough, ranked opponents in Cornell and Colgate await the Engineers. Points may be at a premium, but if they play as they did the last two weeks, they may be available nonetheless.

ECAC Standings (by win% in parentheses)
1 (1). Union - 21 pts (9-3-3)
2 (2). Cornell - 19 pts (8-3-3)
3 (3). Colgate - 17 pts (8-5-1)
4 (5). Harvard - 16 pts (5-4-6)
5 (4). Clarkson - 15 pts (6-5-3)
6 (7). Quinnipiac - 14 pts (5-5-4)

7 (7). Dartmouth - 13 pts (6-6-1)
8 (8). Yale - 13 pts (5-6-1)
9 (9). Brown - 12 pts (5-7-2)
10 (10). Princeton - 12 pts (5-8-2)
11 (11). RPI - 9 pts (4-9-1, -11 GD)
12 (12). St. Lawrence - 9 pts (4-9-1, -20 GD)

St. Lawrence at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/27/12- 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 4, St. Lawrence 0

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 7-17-1 (4-8-1 ECAC, 9 pts)

Clarkson at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/28/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT: Clarkson 3, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 7-18-1 (4-9-1 ECAC, 9 pts)

Upcoming games
03 Feb - #14 Cornell
04 Feb - #20 Colgate (Big Red Freakout!)
09 Feb - at Harvard
10 Feb - at Dartmouth
16 Feb - Quinnipiac

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