Monday, February 13, 2012

Men's Hockey - at Harvard & Dartmouth (10/11 Feb)

Perhaps it is time to start calling RPI the "road warriors." After a mediocre four-game homestand bookended by a solid win and an awful loss, the Engineers managed to extend their road unbeaten streak to four straight games by riding a defense rebounding from the Freakout nightmare to a 3-point weekend on the road, battling back to pick up a 2-2 tie with the fit-to-be-tied Crimson on Friday, then coming back to pick up a 2-1 win the next night at Dartmouth to pass a plummeting Brown and move out of the ECAC cellar.




The top line of C.J. Lee, Mark McGowan, and Marty O'Grady has been together for some time now, but the rest of the forward lines have been jumbled a bit. Matt Tinordi, Greg Burgdoerfer, Johnny Rogic, and Pat Koudys were removed from the Friday lineup after having played in the Freakout, and were replaced with Matt Neal, Jacob Laliberte, Josh Rabbani, and Luke Curadi.

The Engineers got out to the 1-0 lead, scoring the game's opening goal for the first time since the 4-0 win at home over St. Lawrence with Lee's team-lead-tying sixth goal of the season from O'Grady and McGowan    about 15 and a half minutes into the game, but the lead only lasted a short time as the Crimson answered back to tie the game just 1:43 later.

RPI weathered the storm in the second period as Bryce Merriam made 11 saves to keep the game knotted at one heading into the final period, where the Engineers began to take more control of the game, and yet they still ended up falling behind. Harvard coach Ted Donato called timeout shortly after RPI failed to score on their second power play opportunity of the game, and just under two minutes later, the Crimson grabbed the lead.

That goal was followed just over a minute later by a questionable tripping call against Luke Curadi, but the Engineer penalty kill held strong, giving RPI the opportunity to stick around. After the Curadi penalty expired, the Engineers started getting some good puck control and had a number of good opportunities on a subsequent power play, but as time ticked down, they still trailed 2-1.

Following an icing call against Harvard, Seth Appert used his timeout and pulled Merriam from the cage - not an uncommon sight this season, but the script was changed this time. For the first time this season, RPI scored an extra attacker goal, coming off the stick of Brock Higgs, who with 1:03 left on the clock, tied the game at two with just his second goal of the season.

The Engineers dominated the overtime period, but could not find the game winner and settled for their second straight 2-2 tie with Harvard. Interestingly, the tie was the Crimson's 10th of the season (in 24 games), tying an NCAA record. As opposed to the tie in January in which RPI blew a 2-0 lead, this one was a little easier to swallow, but the Engineers surely would have hoped for the win given the way the first and third periods went.

Bryce Merriam finished with 29 saves on the night.




Rogic and Tinordi returned to the lineup on Saturday night, replacing Rabbani and Ryan Haggerty.

As with Friday night, the Engineers jumped out to the 1-0 lead in the first period, and this time they were able to make it stick for a bit longer. Joel Malchuk's fifth goal of the season 9:23 into the game put RPI ahead, and the team killed off the only penalty of the period late to hold the lead into the second thanks in part to some very sloppy play by the Big Green.

Jacob Laliberte struck on the power play about six minutes into the second to give the Engineers a 2-0 edge, but that lead was cut in half about four minutes later, shortly after RPI was unable to convert on another power play opportunity. Dartmouth's Brandon McNally scored just seconds after getting out of the box on a boarding call to make it 2-1, but it was the only high point for the Big Green in the second period, as their overall anemic play carried over into the second overall. Dartmouth managed only two shots on goal in the second period.

Things picked up dramatically in the third period. While RPI put up 14 shots against Dartmouth's 9 in the first two periods, both teams went to work in the final stanza, throwing all kinds of pucks on net. Big Green netminder James Mello made 14 saves in the third, while Merriam threw up 11 of his own.

Both teams had a pair of power play opportunities each in the final frame, but none was more important than Mike Bergin's interference penalty with 1:04 left in regulation. Dartmouth called timeout, and went to work on a 6-on-4 power play which the Engineers were able to break a couple of times with clearances (and open shots on an empty net without the fear of icing), but largely kept RPI hemmed in their own zone. It wasn't until an interference call against Dartmouth with 3 seconds left on the clock that the Engineers could breathe a sigh of relief that they would not be victimized in the same fashion they had done the previous night.

RPI is now undefeated in four straight road games (3-0-1), but they return home this weekend for their final home appearances of the year if they are unable to dig themselves out of their current hole. The good news is that RPI is now within striking distance of a home ice position, now tied for 10th with Princeton and two points behind the tie for 8th between Dartmouth and Yale. With four games left, it's a mad dash for positioning and as we're used to in the ECAC, pretty much anything is possible.

Other junk - Congratulations to Seth Appert's alma mater (and one of RPI's non-conference opponents both this season and next) Ferris State, as they have become the #1 team in the country for the first time in school history, pulling down 27 first place votes (up five). Also ranked this week on the RPI schedule are #6 UMass-Lowell (up one, with one first place vote), #8 Union (up three), #12 Cornell (up one), #13 Notre Dame (down four), and #15 Colorado College (down five). Also receiving votes were Colgate (107) and Quinnipiac (5).

Union, Cornell, and Colgate have clinched home ice at some point in the playoffs. Realistically, given usual point total targets, Union and Cornell have clinched first round byes, while Harvard and Clarkson have pretty much wrapped up home ice at some point as well.

The win over Dartmouth was RPI's second straight win at Thompson Arena. That's the first time that's happened since the playoff upset of March 2009 and the first time in the regular season since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

The men and the women both defeated Dartmouth on Saturday, marking the first time both teams defeated the same school on the same day since January 15, 2011, when both teams beat Colgate. Both teams also beat Dartmouth on January 22, 2009.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 26 pts (11-3-4)
2. Cornell - 25 pts (10-3-5)
3. Colgate - 23 pts (11-6-1)
4. Harvard - 20 pts (6-4-8)
5. Clarkson - 19 pts (8-7-3)
6. Quinnipiac - 18 pts (7-7-4)
7. St. Lawrence - 17 pts (8-9-1)
8. Yale - 15 pts (7-10-1)
9. Dartmouth - 15 pts (6-9-3)
10. Princeton - 13 pts (5-10-3)
11. RPI - 13 pts (5-10-3)
12. Brown - 12 pts (5-11-2)

RPI at Harvard
ECAC Game - Bright Hockey Center (Boston, MA)
2/10/12- 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 2, Harvard 2 (OT)



RECORD: 7-19-3 (4-10-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

RPI at Dartmouth
ECAC Game - Thompson Arena (Hanover, NH)
2/11/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  RPI 2, Dartmouth 1



RECORD: 8-19-3 (5-10-3 ECAC, 13 pts)

Upcoming games
16 Feb - Quinnipiac
17 Feb - Princeton (Senior Night)
24 Feb - at Colgate
25 Feb - at #12 Cornell
02 Mar - ECAC First Round, Game 1 (site/opponent TBD)

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