Monday, February 6, 2012

Men's Hockey - Cornell & Colgate (3/4 Feb)

It only takes one game sometimes for progress to be washed away, and for the second time in three years, the Big Red Freakout game certainly fit that mold. Just one night after RPI produced a gutsy performance against a typically stingy Cornell squad, coming from behind to nab a 2-2 tie (and almost producing an overtime winner), the Engineers fell to a complete collapse at Freakout against Colgate, falling by an embarassing 8-3 score.




Not too many changes from the previous home weekend into Friday, as the only changes were Matt Neal returning in place of Jacob Laliberte, who missed the weekend's games due to a death in the family, and Greg Burgdoerfer replacing Zach Schroeder, who missed his first game as an Engineer.

Cornell took the early lead late in their first power play of the game six-and-a-half minutes after the opening puck drop. With Patrick Cullen off on a tripping call, the Big Red scored on a scrum in front with less than 10 seconds left in the man advantage to go up 1-0. RPI would pick up a subsequent two power plays in the first period, but could not get anything going, mustering only four shots in the first period.

The Big Red controlled the puck well for much of the first two periods, which limited RPI's opportunities significantly. The Engineers' power play certainly didn't do any favors either, going 0-for-4 in the first four periods. Cornell took advantage of another power play late in the second period, scoring with five minutes left in middle frame to take a 2-0 lead.

If there's one thing Cornell has had a problem with lately, however, it's keeping a lead in the third period, and RPI pounced early to turn things around. About three minutes into the third period, C.J. Lee  scored on a wraparound attempt for his fifth goal of the season to make it 2-1, and a minute and a half later, Ryan Haggerty notched his first even-strength goal of the year on a rebound. His sixth of the season tied the game up at two.

From there, the Engineers dominated the third period in search of the go ahead goal, but couldn't find a third one despite a total of 12 shots on goal in the final stanza, the most of any team in one period on the night. They continued to come close in the overtime period, ringing one off the post on one shot and missing the net by inches on another, but ultimately had to settle for the tie.

Bryce Merriam picked up 23 saves in his first tie of the season, just the second tie of his career.




Schroeder returned to the lineup on Saturday, replacing Matt Neal and requiring a bit of shuffling to the lines since Schroeder isn't a center.

The 35th annual Big Red Freakout got off to a promising start as the Engineers generally traded blows fairly well with the Raiders in the first meeting with Colgate since last year's playoff upset at the Field House.

RPI picked up the game's first penalty seven minutes into the contest, a hit from behind against Johnny Rogic that the Engineers successfully killed off, but as the Engineers returned to full strength, C.J. Lee was called for slashing essentially because he was playing to the whistle while the teams waited for the referee to signal a stoppage after a cover by Bryce Merriam. Ten seconds later, Hobey Baker candidate Austin Smith put Colgate on top 1-0.

The game's turning point likely came with about three minutes left to play in the first period as the Engineers, whose play in their own zone became much sloppier after falling behind, gave the Raiders a freebie. Curtis Leonard tried to sweep away a puck in front of the net following a neutral-zone transition, but the deflection instead went on net and past Merriam, essentially what would be called a "own goal" in soccer, putting Colgate up 2-0.

Marty O'Grady was called for a hit from behind almost immediately to begin the second period, but a successful kill and a goal by Guy Leboeuf (his third of the year) on a shot from the point cut Colgate's lead in half and appeared to be the start of yet another comeback by the Engineers.

The comeback was squelched just about a minute and a half later on an oddly developing play. What appeared to be an icing call against Colgate was waved off at absolutely the last moment by the referees, and then a pass to the slot facilitated by a high hit was put home by Smith for his second of the game, making it 3-1.

Two power play opportunities for RPI fell by the wayside during the middle of the second period, and then a very soft Colgate goal made it 4-1 and chased Merriam from the net in favor of Scott Diebold. The change in net certainly didn't change the Engineers' luck to any great degree, as Diebold's first play on the puck two minutes later took an odd carom off the zamboni door, leaving a wide open net for Smith to score his third goal of the game into, making it 5-1.

The problems continued into the third period as the Raiders picked up two more goals 1:29 apart early in the period - the second of which was Smith's fourth of the game, and 30th of the season (as opposed to the 47 that RPI had as an entire team at that point), making it 7-1. That goal also chased Diebold from the net, and Bryce Merriam returned to the pipes.

By this point, it was essentially garbage time, with both teams playing out the remainder of the contest. Colgate picked up another one with about six minutes left to make it 8-1, and RPI picked up a pair of goals late - Zach Schroeder scoring unassisted on a 2-on-1 for his fifth of the season a minute and a half after the last Colgate goal, and Patrick Cullen picking up his third of the year on a two-man advantage with a minute left.

The loss left the Engineers with just one win in the Freakout in the last five (last year), following a 17-year unbeaten streak in the event.

Other junk - Ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #6 Ferris State (no change), #7 UMass-Lowell (up two with one first place vote), #9 Notre Dame (down one), #10 Colorado College (up one), #11 Union (no change), and #13 Cornell (up one). Falling from the rankings this week despite the lopsided victory is Colgate, falling just six votes short of #20 with 87. Also receiving votes were Quinnipiac (12) and Harvard (4).

The Freakout debacle marked the first time the Engineers have allowed 8 goals in a game since a 9-1 drubbing at home against Dartmouth on January 7, 2005. The 8 goals was the most ever given up by the Engineers in the Freakout (breaking the record of 7 from 1979, 1982, and 2010), but RPI has scored 8 or more themselves on seven different occasions in the game, last in 1999.

With Schroeder out on Friday night, only Nick Bailen, C.J. Lee, Mike Bergin, and Curtis Leonard have appeared in every RPI game this season.

Bryce Merriam made his second Freakout start, but his number in both starts are not good. Between this year and the 7-0 loss to Princeton in 2010, Merriam's Freakout numbers are 42 saves on 52 shots, giving him an .808 save percentage and 5.89 GAA in the game. That's a better figure, however, than Joe Harkenrider and Scott Diebold, who combined to make 8 saves on 13 shots for a .615 save percentage and a 20.13 GAA in his relief.

Only six games remain in the regular season, and the Engineers are back in last place, sitting five points out - and really, six points out - of a home ice position. That makes quite long odds that RPI's home schedule will extend past senior night in two weeks.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 24 pts (10-3-4)
2. Cornell - 21 pts (8-3-5)
3. Colgate - 19 pts (9-6-1)
4. Harvard - 19 pts (6-4-7)
5. Clarkson - 17 pts (7-6-3)
6. Quinnipiac - 16 pts (6-6-4)
7. Yale - 15 pts (7-8-1)
8. Dartmouth - 15 pts (6-7-3)
9. St. Lawrence - 13 pts (6-9-1)
10. Princeton - 13 pts (5-8-3)
11. Brown - 12 pts (5-9-2)
12. RPI - 10 pts (4-10-2)

#14 Cornell at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/3/12- 7:00pm
RESULT: RPI 2, Cornell 2 (OT)


RECORD: 7-18-2 (4-9-2 ECAC, 10 pts)

#20 Colgate at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/4/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  Colgate 8, RPI 3


RECORD: 7-19-2 (4-10-2 ECAC, 10 pts)

Upcoming games
09 Feb - at Harvard
10 Feb - at Dartmouth
16 Feb - Quinnipiac
17 Feb - Princeton (Senior Night)
24 Feb - at Colgate

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