Monday, March 26, 2012

Where Are They Now?

Quick rundown of former Engineers and where they have been plying their trades this season...

Tim Regan '96 - Riessersee SC (2nd Bundesliga, Germany)

Brian Pothier '00 - Geneve Servette (National League A, Switzerland)
(362 career NHL games)

Matt Murley '02 - Timra IK (Elitserien, Sweden)
(62 career NHL games)

Andrew McPherson '02 - Kaufbeuren ESV (2nd Bundesliga, Germany)

Kirk MacDonald '07 - Providence Bruins (AHL)

Andrew Lord '08 - Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)

Jake Morissette '08 - Rapid City Rush (CHL)

Jonathan Ornelas '08 - Dayton Gems (CHL)

Mathias Lange '09 - Schwenningen ERC (2nd Bundesliga, Germany)

Erik Burgdoerfer '10 - Bakersfield Condors (ECHL)

Peter Merth '10 - Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
* 10 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)

Chase Polacek '11 - Peoria Rivermen (AHL)
* 2 games with Alaska Aces (ECHL)

Jeff Foss '11 - Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
* 8 games with Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)

Tyler Helfrich '11 - Bakersfield Condors (ECHL)
* 12 games with Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL)

Allen York '12 - Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL, 3.28, .882)
* 5 games with Springfield Falcons (ECHL)
* 11 games with Chicago Express (ECHL)
(6 career NHL games)

And the ones that left school...

Jerry D'Amigo '13 - Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Brandon Pirri '13 - Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
* 5 games with the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL, 2 assists)
(6 career NHL games)

Christian Morissette '12 - Elmira College (NCAA D-III)

Jordan Watts '12 - Adrian College (NCAA D-III)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The NCAA Field, By Conference

We're probably going to go into relatively early hibernation mode here at WaP... which usually exists from April until late May as a bit of a "season recovery" period, but there are still a few things left to say.

First, a quick analysis of the NCAA Tournament, as it pertains to the shifting sands of league alignment. How much of each league got to the dance this year?

The tournament breaks down like this:
5/11 CCHA (Michigan, Miami, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Michigan State) - 45%
4/10 Hockey East (Boston College, Boston University, Maine, UMass-Lowell) - 40%
4/12 WCHA (North Dakota, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver) - 33%
2/12 ECAC (Union, Cornell) - 17%
1/12 AHA (Air Force) - 8%

Or... maybe it looks like this instead:
5/9 NCHC (North Dakota, Miami, Western Michigan, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver) - 56%
3/6 Big Ten (Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State) - 50%
4/11 Hockey East (Boston College, Boston University, Maine, UMass-Lowell) -  36%
2/12 ECAC (Union, Cornell) - 17%
1/9  WCHA (Ferris State) - 11%
1/12 AHA (Air Force) - 8%

Are we seeing the bigger picture yet? Obviously, the field probably changes once realignment actually happens, but it's fairly clear that the haves and the have nots, already well established, are about to become even moreso.

Friday, March 16, 2012

ECAC Semifinal Capsules

It's Atlantic City time, so it's also time for our last bunch of capsules. Since the turnaround for tomorrow's games is practically nil, we won't be doing a capsule for the title game. Enjoy... if you are planning to be in AC or watching on the internet.

For the fourth time in ten years, all of the bye teams reached the semifinals, which should make for some very fun hockey. There are no easy wins anymore, even if that was even true last weekend as well.

#4 Colgate vs. #1 Union

* Dutchmen swept season series: won 3-1 in Schenectady on Feb. 3, won 5-3 in Hamilton on Feb. 25
* Last playoff meeting: 2011 Quarterfinals: Colgate 2, Union 1 (Best-of-three, Schenectady, NY)
Last year's surprise upset of the quarterfinal round is this year's possible March redemption story of the year, but first they've got to get through the team that they embarrassed last season by becoming the first #12 seed to defeat a #1 seed in a best-of-three series in ECAC history.

The Raiders bounced back well from a rough February in which they dropped their last four games (including a home game against Union on the final day of the season) and backed into the final first-round bye position thanks to a tiebreaker against Quinnipiac. Colgate did well in defeating the Bobcats in the quarterfinals, including a 4-0 Game 3 shutout that was the Raiders' first since mid-November, a solid pick-me-up for a defense that was desperate for one after giving up two or more goals in 11 straight and 18 of 19 in a row.

Union, on the other hand, relied on its defense and the exploitation of the opposition's mistakes to sweep RPI in a somewhat uninspiring fashion. They got the job done, but often times were hanging on for dear life against a game underdog. Unlike last year when the Dutchmen blew a Game 1 victory to drop two in a row, they hung on to close out the series despite the difficulties that often plagued them. In the end, they don't ask how, they only ask how many, and Union did what they had to do to survive and advance, which is sometimes the name of the game.

Fortunately for the Dutchmen, getting up for this one shouldn't be too much of an issue, given what the Raiders accomplished last season. Still, for as good a season Colgate had going for much of the year, they proved themselves to be a hard team to sweep, as they took points from literally every other ECAC team this season. If Union plays the way they did against RPI, Colgate has the offensive firepower to put the hurt on the Dutchmen.

NCAA outlook
Union: Will be playing next weekend regardless of what happens, but losses this weekend will likely drop their stock. Would need help to reach a #1 seed even with a title.
Colgate: Won't make the tournament without two wins this weekend.

#3 Harvard vs. #2 Cornell
* Big Red won season series 3-1: won 4-2 in Boston on Nov. 11, tied 2-2 in Ithaca on Jan. 21
* Last playoff meeting:  2010 Quarterfinals: Cornell 2, Harvard 0 (Best-of-three, Ithaca, NY)

The classic Ivy matchup is rekindled again in New Jersey as the two squads with the most Ivy League crowns meet at the neutral-site final round of the tournament for the fifth time in ten seasons. These teams never need a reason to get up for one another, and the lure of the NCAA tournament will be plenty in this contest.

The Crimson looked vulnerable in the first two games against Yale last weekend, falling in overtime in Game 1 before requiring two overtimes the next night to save their season - essentially playing the same kind of on-the-edge game they'd played all year. The eye-opener was on Sunday night as Harvard, after falling behind 1-0 early, scored six straight goals on their way to their gaudiest goal haul of the season by netting eight against three different goaltenders to secure their trip to New Jersey.

The Big Red had a slightly easier go of things but still largely had their hands full with a very game Dartmouth squad. The Big Green just wouldn't go away in Game 1, which required two overtimes to complete. Then, after waiting for their women's team to complete a 3-OT game against BU and starting 45 minutes late, Cornell jumped on Dartmouth for three goals on seven shots in 8:21 to take control and never look back.

Harvard's penchant for being "in" basically all of their games makes them very difficult to predict, and Cornell, as we've seen, can often get themselves into slugfests as well. The neutral ice makes things even more interesting, and neither of these teams should probably be considered a true underdog. Cornell gets the basic edge with the last change, but given that both of these teams are going to be seriously behind the eight-ball for the NCAAs with a loss, this should be fun to watch.

NCAA outlook
Cornell: They're in right now, but they're on the bubble and a loss to Harvard would be devastating.
Harvard: Can join the at-large area of the PWR with two wins, but that would put them in the tournament anyway. Probably doesn't reach next week without the title.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Men's Hockey - ECAC Quarterfinals (at Union, 9/10 Mar)

Sometimes, you can play very, very well and still lose. The Engineers began the season doing that against some very good teams, and ultimately they ended their season in the same fashion, playing well enough to challenge one of the nation's highest ranked teams, but falling on costly mistakes and breakdowns, losing to top-seeded Union 3-2 and 4-2 in some very tightly played games that were far better than the three previous outings against the Dutchmen on the season.

Game 1



The RPI lineup was unchanged from Game 3 against Clarkson. Zach Schroeder was out all weekend due to the injury he suffered in Game 2, which sounds like it might have been a torn labrum in his shoulder.

The Engineers got out of the gate in a hurry, announcing on just the second shift of the series that they were not going to be run out of the building by scoring on their very first shot of the game. Matt Tinordi picked up his sixth goal of the season on a blast from near the top of the faceoff circle to give RPI a 1-0 lead just 42 seconds into the first period.

That early lead was followed up with a pair of penalties against the Dutchmen, positioning the Engineers to take command of the game and the series, but the RPI power play was unable to replicate the success it had in Potsdam, failing to really even come close to scoring on either of the two early first period opportunities with the 1-0 lead on their way to an 0-for-4 night on the advantage.

Union tied things up shortly after the second penalty, with the penalized player sneaking behind the defense out of the penalty box and scoring just nine seconds after his penalty expired by beating Bryce Merriam on the short side to tie the game at one.

The Dutchmen dominated the first period while they were not in the penalty box, picking up a 13-6 shot differential in the first 20 minutes. Their six minutes of penalty kill time blunted their attack a bit, but without damage as RPI was unable to convert. On the flip side, the Union power play was brutally efficient, scoring on their first two opportunities. The first came  just 9 seconds into a penalty to Mike Bergin midway through the first, putting Union up 2-1, and the second came on a goal that had to be reviewed early in the second period. With the Dutchmen whacking away at a puck that sat on Merriam's outstretched pad, they managed to roof one before the whistle blew to make it 3-1.

From there, Union seemed to go into a shell, trapping and trying to keep the Engineers from getting through the neutral zone, much as they had in previous games after taking two goal leads. That did not keep RPI bottled up this time around, however, as the game started to be tilted a little more toward the Union end. Strong defense maintained the Dutchmen's two goal lead until midway through the third period.

With Joel Malchuk in the penalty box, Alex Angers-Goulet scored his second goal of the year - and second shorthanded goal of the year - with an opportunistic shot close to where Tinordi had scored his goal, cutting the Union lead in half. Strangely enough, the Engineers nearly scored again off the ensuing faceoff, which would have tied things up with two shorties on the same penalty kill, which, of course, had happened in the last playoff game between the two teams.

Union did take a penalty shortly thereafter, giving RPI the opportunity they needed to tie the game, but once again the Dutchmen penalty kill was up to the task. Still, with just a one goal lead, Union appeared lethargic, giving the Engineers plenty of puck control in the third period. Despite a late (and questionable) call against Guy Leboeuf for holding, RPI still buzzed about looking for the final goal, and came close a number of times in the waning moments with Bryce Merriam out of the net. Union struggled to hold on, but they managed to sneak out with a Game 1 victory that strangely left the victors more frustrated than uplifted, and the defeated more optimistic than disappointed.

Game 2




Given the number of things that went right for RPI despite losing the first game, it wasn't overly surprising to see the same exact lineup hit the ice the next night.

After a solid start to the game for RPI, a pair of phantom tripping calls, one called on both side, returned the game to some of the familiar themes from the previous night. Bo Dolan was called for tripping on a play that video replay showed was really not much of anything at all, and much like Union's first power play on Friday, they converted right away, going up 1-0 just 12 seconds into the penalty.

A minute and a half later, Patrick Cullen managed to draw a tripping call against Union in much the same way, but the RPI power play once again could not get the job done. And, much like Friday night, it was a costly error shortly after the power play ended that led to a Union goal as the Dutchmen took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Once again, Friday seemed to be the script for things as Union again seemed to go into a shell and RPI again took the initiative with puck control. Unlike Game 1, however, the Engineers managed to score in the second period, putting together a pair of goals 1:33 apart to tie the game. Brock Higgs scored his third of the season to bring RPI within one. A power play followed just 18 seconds later, and on the man advantage Matt Neal struck with a shot that was redirected into the net by a Union stick for his second goal of the year, and just like that the game was square once more.

RPI needed to reach the second intermission with the score tied, or better, with the lead, but Union seemed to wake up in light of the game being tied, and just 1:01 later they put one home to go back up 3-2, blunting the Engineers' momentum.

That didn't stop RPI's frantic attempts to pull even again, however. The Engineers by and large controlled the game the rest of the way, but were unable to find another tally. The hole was made deeper by a Union goal six minutes into the third period, after almost total domination by RPI to start the period, created by a turnover, a good Union transition, and a bad finishing defense. Once, again a momentary mistake cost the team and made the comeback more difficult to complete.

Despite arguably outplaying Union overall two nights in a row, the season ended with a 4-2 loss.

Other junk - Ranked teams that the Engineers played this season heading into the end of the conference tournaments are #6 Union (up two), #8 Ferris State (down six), #10 UMass-Lowell (down three), #13 Cornell (no change), #18 Notre Dame (down one), #19 Harvard (not ranked last week) and #20 Colgate (not ranked last week). Also receiving votes were Colorado College (31) and Quinnipiac (10), both of their seasons are over.

For what it's worth, in addition to Ferris State and the ECAC teams, ranked teams on RPI's schedule next year are #5 Boston University and #14 Western Michigan. Rumored St. Cloud State picked up 49 votes.

The team that scored first lost the first four games on RPI's playoff schedule. Union in Game 2 was the only team scoring first to come away with a victory.

C.J. Lee's eight goals on the season led the team, and is the lowest team-leading total in the modern history of the program.

Brock Higgs picked up his 23rd point of the year with his goal in Game 2, which led the team in scoring this year but represented the lowest team-leading point total since Al Jones in 1966.

At times this year, the team's winning percentage threatened to rival that 1966 team for worst in school history, but at .346 at season's end, it's not even in the bottom three over the past ten years. Worse seasons by winning percentage in the modern era were in 1951, 1966, 1982, 1996, 2003, 2008, and 2009. It is, however, the school's sixth losing season in the last eight years, which follows 12 winning seasons in 15 years.

At 39 games, the Engineers actually played one game more than they did last season when they went to the NCAA Tournament. Chalk that up to the First Round series victory, which they didn't have last year. It's one game shy of the record for games in a season, set in 2003 with 40 (the team played two schedule exempt games in the Icebreaker that year). While we're on the topic, current Providence assistant coach Ben Barr and current RPI assistant coach Nolan Graham set individual marks that year by appearing in all 40 games.

Speaking of total appearances, Alex Angers-Goulet finishes his career with 140 in the Cherry and White, the most from this year's seniors, but not enough to crack the all-time top 10. His brother, Matt, had 145, giving us a total of 285 Goulet games, certainly the most of any two family members in school history.

Nick Bailen becomes the active leader in games played with 114, but the first 37 of those were in his freshman season at Bowling Green. Marty O'Grady leads among games at RPI with 105.

O'Grady's 22 career goals leads returning players, Bailen's 53 assists and 74 points leads in those categories, 43 and 58 of which have been in the last two years at RPI to lead both of those categories anyway.

ECAC Semifinals
#4 Colgate vs. #1 Union
#3 Harvard vs. #2 Cornell

RPI at #8 Union
ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 1 - Achilles Center (Schenectady, NY)
3/9/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  Union 3, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 12-23-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 17 pts)

RPI at #8 Union
ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 2 - Achilles Center (Schenectady, NY)
3/10/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT: Union 4, RPI 2


RECORD: 12-24-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 17 pts)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Updated ECAC Semifinal Possiblities

With the top two seeds (Union and Cornell) sweeping their series, there are two games left to be played today, and a much smaller set of possible matchups in Atlantic City next weekend.

It's already decided that Union will play host in the early game while Cornell will be the home team in the evening - the only thing left to decide is who will challenge them in an attempt to capture the ECAC's autobid.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thank You

Once an Engineer, always an Engineer.

Here's to old Rensselaer. She stands today without a peer.

#8 Mike Bergin - Business Management - Kanata, ON
#13 Joel Malchuk - Business Management - Brandon, MB
#17 Justin Smith - Business Management - Hammonds Plains, NS
#18 Alex Angers-Goulet - Business Management - St. Augustin, QC
#19 Patrick Cullen - Business Management - Washington, DC
#24 Josh Rabbani - Business Management - Woodland Hills, CA
#35 Jeremy Coupal - Industrial and Management Engineering - Mt. St. Hilaire, QC


#7 Amanda Castignetti - Environmental Engineering - Anchorage, AK
#12 Laura Guillemette - Business Management - St. Marie de Beauce, QC
#16 Sierra Vadner - Biology - Apple Valley, MN
#18 Jill Vandegrift - Environmental Engineering - St. Paul, MN
#20 Alisa Harrison - Communications - Vienna, VA
#35 Alicia Miksic - Architecture - Cheswick, PA

Friday, March 9, 2012

Daring to Dream

March has a way of making anyone from the very best to some of the footnotes of history into legends.

John Carter: 225 career points, second in school history only to the great Frank Chiarelli. Became a legend with his triple-overtime goal against Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four on March 29, 1985. (Incidentally, a film about his exploits is opening at movie theaters today, although it looks like it got the full Hollywood treatment)

George Servinis: The 1983 ECAC Rookie of the Year (RPI's last until Jerry D'Amigo in 2010), he finished his career with 141 points, but none bigger than the game-winning goal the night after Carter's to give RPI a 2-1 victory over Providence in the national championship game.

Christian Morissette: Came to RPI with this year's senior class, but left midway through his sophomore season after just eight games in an Engineer uniform. In his fifth game, he scored the only point of his Division I career in Game 1 against Dartmouth on March 6, 2009, notching the overtime game winner that put RPI in control of what would become their first series victory since 2004.

Legend? Maybe not. But it does go to show that anyone can be the hero.

And then, of course, there's the man with the most relevance to this weekend's games...

Ben Barr: Solid overall career at RPI with 140 games played and 64 total points. Captained the team his senior season, but the previous year wrote his name as a legend with two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill, blunting Union's attempts to pull themselves back into a series they already trailed 1-0. The second shorty became the game and series winner.

We're farther than the season we had would have allowed us to get. It could all end this weekend, but we weren't supposed to be playing this weekend. Why not dare? Let's go for broke... we've got nothing to lose.

Do we have someone on this team who can dream bigger than anyone else? We'll find out tonight.

ECAC Quarterfinal / Semifinal Possibilities

Just in time for this weekend's quarterfinal games, here's an updated table showing the possible semifinal matchups in Atlantic City based on the results of this weekend's games.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ECAC Quarterfinal Capsules

It's on to Double Jeopardy!... er, the ECAC Quarterfinals, yeah!

The randomness that is the ECAC Playoffs doesn't end in the first round, no sir. In only three years since the format began - 2005, 2006, and 2009 - have the four home teams, they of the first round byes, all advanced to the semis. It's not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, given that those top four teams are all coming off two weeks worth of healing from a brutal season and are playing at home to boot, but nine first round teams have managed to get through to the semifinals since 2003, when the 12-team playoffs began. Harvard, however is the only one to win the title (2004).

Champions from outside the Top 4 never came along very frequently, though. Since the ECAC became a 12-team league, the only ones besides the Crimson to pull it off were RPI in 1995 and Princeton in 1997.

As far as teams from the bottom four of the league moving on since 2003... it's been done.
2004 - #9 Clarkson (reached the championship game)
2010 - #11 Brown
2011 - #12 Colgate

C'mon, get cappy!

#5 Quinnipiac at #4 Colgate
* Season series split: Raiders won 3-1 in Hamilton on Nov. 18; Bobcats won 7-1 in Hamden on Jan. 14
* Last playoff meeting: 2009 First Round: Quinnipiac 2, Colgate 1 (Best-of-three, Hamden, CT)
* QU since Feb. 1: 6-4-1 (.590)
* CU since Feb. 1: 3-5-0 (.375)

The Bobcats' expected first round triumph over Brown took an unexpected turn when the Bobcats dropped Game 1 by a 4-1 score, but the Q rallied for 3-0 and 4-2 wins to salvage the series win and advance to take on the team that headed into the playoffs in the biggest slump - a team the Bobcats technically tied for fourth place at the end of the regular season, losing out on the bye on the second tiebreaker of total league wins.

Colgate was in a tailspin defensively in the final three weeks of the season. They returned from the Freak-rout to pick up a home win against Yale, but then needed every single one of the seven goals they scored against Brown the next night to pick up a 7-6 win - typically a seven goal night is an easy win. In fact, the Raiders have given up at least two goals a night - three or more in all but two of nine games - dating back to the back-end of a home and home with Cornell on January 28. That they've won four games in that span is a testament to their offense.

That's great news for a Quinnipiac team that's managed to score at least two of their own in every game they've played in 2012 with the exception of the Game 1 stinker last weekend. If the Bobcats' defense plays as strongly as it did for 119 minutes of Games 2 and 3 - Brown scored twice in Game 3 in just over a minute's time - there's definitely room for the Q in AC.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are going to need to have regained their focus to get through this one. Quinnipiac hasn't lost on back-to-back nights since November. Their bye was pretty much the very definition of "backed-in," given the team's sub-.500 record in 2012. As with any #4 vs. #5 matchup, this one could very well end with the road team moving on, as it has on four out of seven occasions that it's happened thus far in the 12-team playoff format. Interestingly, a four seed has never swept a five seed.

#6 Yale at #3 Harvard
* Season series split: Crimson won 4-3 in Boston on Jan. 27; Bulldogs won 7-1 in New Haven on Feb. 18
* Last playoff meeting: 2007 First Round: Harvard 2, Yale 0 (Best-of-three, Boston, MA)
* YU since Feb. 1: 6-4-1 (.590)
* HU since Feb. 1: 4-2-2 (.625)

Harvard has pretty much lived on the edge all season long - to go along with their NCAA record 11 ties, they also have six one-goal wins (seven if you include their empty-net two-goal win over Brown on Jan. 28) and three one-goal losses - at the end of the day, the Crimson are in most of the games they play, no matter who their opponent is. That pretty much makes their 7-1 loss to Yale late in the season something of an eye opener.

There's no question that Yale turned in one of the most disappointing all around regular seasons of the year. Expected to at least compete for if not take the regular season's top spot, the Bulldogs instead languished in the bottom half of the standings for a fair portion of the year, but they certainly turned on the jets at just the right time. The offense that was expected to remain one of the best in the nation came out to play again last weekend, and although it did endure a Game 2 loss, Yale still has at least four goals in six of its last seven games.

Stopping that onslaught is going to be job number one for Harvard. They were clearly unable to contain it on the penultimate weekend of the regular season, and for a defense that's given up more twos and threes than ones and zeros pretty much all season long, that may not be easy. The Crimson do have a bit of an edge offensively with the question marks Yale apparently has in net. Jeff Malcolm was the go-to-guy for much of the season in New Haven, but lost the starting job to Nick Maricic late only to then be given the Game 3 nod last week after Maricic allowed five in Game 2.

Although Malcolm got Yale through to the quarterfinals, it's never good to be trying to figure out who your starting goaltender is going to be minutes before an elimination game. The Bulldog offense has been good enough lately that it isn't much of an issue, but the question becomes what happens in those close games Harvard is oh-so-good at creating. If the Crimson defense can keep it close, that could give them an edge, but all in all the makings of a classic are definitely in the mix at Bright.

#9 Dartmouth at #2 Cornell
* Big Red swept season series: won 3-2 in Hanover on Nov. 12; won 4-3 (OT) in Ithaca on Jan. 20
* Last playoff meeting: 2011 Semifinal: Cornell 3, Dartmouth 0 (Atlantic City, NJ)
* DC since Feb. 1: 4-5-1 (.450)
* CU since Feb. 1: 4-1-3 (.688)

The Big Green last week proved the seemingly undeniable truth that anything can happen in the ECAC Playoffs. Limping into the postseason with practically no momentum against a team that seemed to be clicking at the right time, Dartmouth instead made short work of St. Lawrence, pulling the only two-game sweep of the first round with solid 6-3 and 4-1 victories over the Saints.

The difference maker was Jody O'Neill, who appears to have supplanted classmate James Mello in net. His defensive leadership allowed Dartmouth's still functioning offense to get through with what they put up, and they put up plenty. They played a pair of tight games with the Big Red this season and if their offense and defense work as well as they did against St. Lawrence, it's possible Dartmouth, like Yale, is simply clicking at the right time.

On the other hand, Cornell spent the end of the season steadily picking up points, almost grabbing the top spot before falling to RPI on the last night of the regular season for their only loss since January. They played five overtime games in February, however, which seems to point to a need for the offense or the defense to pick it up a little more on any given night. Is that a weakness? Perhaps. But they're also playing at home, where they've only fallen twice all season (ironically, in their first and last games of the regular season) and where Andy Iles put up a ridiculous five straight shutouts in November and December.

That home ice advantage may be difficult to overcome for the Big Green no matter how good their offense and defense may be playing right now. If they can steal Game 1 and make it a series from the get-go, they could pull the right card to move on, especially if the Big Red get sucked into another close contest where, like their last game, a bounce of the puck can determine who wins and who loses. That may give Dartmouth the impetus to jump on Cornell the way they jumped on the Saints last week.

#10 RPI at #1 Union
* Dutchmen swept season series: won 5-1 in Troy on Nov. 15; won 5-1 in Schenectady on Jan. 14; Union also won a non-conference game 5-2 in Lake Placid on Dec. 10.
* Last playoff meeting: 2003 First Round: RPI 2, Union 0 (Best-of-three, Schenectady, NY)
* RPI since Feb. 1: 5-4-2 (.545)
* UC since Feb. 1: 5-1-1 (.786)

The Engineers survived a pitched battle with their arch-rivals from Clarkson last week, picking up a pair of solid victories (5-1 and 4-1) around the 6th longest game in NCAA history, in which they fell 4-3. As a reward, they get their other arch-rival in the quarterfinals, a team with which they had even less success against during the regular season than they did with Clarkson.

Union will be hoping to reverse a recent trend of top seeds failing to reach the semifinals, but one factor in their favor should be the fact that they themselves were the most recent victim of this, falling to last-place Colgate in last year's quarterfinal round. They didn't miss much of a hitch in January and February, losing only twice in 2012, both by a single goal. The offense and defense has been chugging along nicely for the most part with few problems. Like Cornell, they've lost only twice at home, and it happened to be in one weekend.

Things do look good for the Dutchmen to break their six-game losing streak against the Engineers in the playoffs and pick up just their third playoff series win in program history, but you have to expect that Union was probably hoping for practically anyone else (with the possible exception of Brown, who managed an unlikely season sweep this year) given RPI's recent prowess on the road, and the recent unpredictability of RPI-Union games - before this season, anyway.

RPI definitely has their work cut out for them, but if they can weather Union's usual first period storm and keep things close, they'll give themselves a shot. Chances are they're going to need to play two perfect games to reach Atlantic City. They picked a good time to start playing their best hockey, but the Dutchmen have impressed all season and will be huge favorites in this series.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get the Full Experience

Let's be all the way real, here. Considering that the three overtime marathon on Saturday night would have been a tie in a regular season game (and considering that the Engineers only ever trailed in that game after the game winner), one could say that RPI is unbeaten in nine straight games on the road, with a record of 7-0-2.

At home, especially down the stretch, the Engineers were... not so good. In their final six home games, the team was 1-4-1, including a pair of awful losses to Colgate and Princeton.

Why the disparity? Seth Appert probably nailed it when he spoke to the media last week. This is a team that plays well when they play as a team - when they eat, breathe, think, and sleep as a team, they function as a team. When you go on the road, you travel together as a team. You have team meals. You have team meetings. You sleep in the same building, going to bed at the same time and roughly rising at the same time as well. No distractions. It's one heart beating together.

At home, it was more apparent that the team was more like a group of individuals. And why not? At home, once the game is over, everyone goes to their separate dorms or apartments. Everyone arrives mostly separately. There's no special team meal. Nothing off the ice is necessarily done as a team. Everyone's got something else they want to accomplish at home when the team isn't together.

So it's easy to see how a team that must play as a single, cohesive unit - that is, they have no superstars that they can rely on to carry the team - plays that much better on the road.

Fortunately, they're going to be playing away from Houston Field House for the remainder of the season, however long it lasts. But now there's a new wrinkle. Next weekend's games are just up the road in Schenectady. It's basically a home game, just as it has been for 20 years. Whenever RPI plays at Union, they sleep in their own beds.

Uh oh.

There is, however, a solution. Turn it into a road game.

This series didn't have to happen in Schenectady. It could just have easily ended up being in Ithaca, or in Boston, where normal road accommodations would be required. In that case, the money budgeted for a road playoff weekend would be used on everything you would expect - bus overnights, hotel rooms, meals, the whole nine.

That money's still got to be there. Use it. Find a hotel with space in a place like Amsterdam or Saratoga - somewhere far enough away from Troy to get away from it all, but not too far away from Schenectady to have things out of place. Make it a full road experience, with team meals, team meetings, and everything. Make sure the team's psyche is in the right mindset - team first, everything else second.

Heck, if you've got the money, leave on Thursday, and have the bus go up the Northway to Exit 30 and back, or something. Make this a real road trip experience.

That's what I'd do, anyway.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Men's Hockey - ECAC First Round (at Clarkson, 2/3/4 Mar)

The road continues to be kind to the Engineers, and this week, it provided them with their first playoff series victory in three years, just the second one in the past eight. Solid 5-1 and 4-1 victories over the arch-rivals from Clarkson bookended the longest game in RPI history - and the 6th longest in the history of college hockey - which saw the Engineers drop a 4-3 decision. Regardless of the "how," RPI moves on to the quarterfinal round, where they have a date with another rival who, like Clarkson, swept them this season - Union.

Game 1



Marty O'Grady returned to the RPI lineup as expected, given that Seth Appert had said O'Grady would have played the previous week if the playoffs had been on at that point. Thanks to the success of the top three lines in Central New York, however, he returned on the fourth line, anchored by Joel Malchuk.

O'Grady's return was marred on his first shift, as he picked up a boarding call just 2:28 into the game to give Clarkson the game' s first power play, and a minute later the home team converted to go up 1-0.

A minute and a half later, it was Clarkson's turn on the penalty kill, and the Engineers took just 43 seconds to tie the game as Matt Tinordi notched his fifth goal of the season to tie the score, technically helped by a sixth attacker as the Golden Knights had drawn another penalty during the course of the penalty kill, which put RPI right back on the power play after tying the game.

With a blast from the point 49 seconds into the ensuing man advantage, Nick Bailen put the Engineers on top, scoring his sixth goal of the year. About three minutes later, again on the power play, Bailen scored number seven, making the Engineers three for their first three on the advantage and giving them a 3-1 lead, not even 10 minutes into the game.

Just ten seconds later, Clarkson was called for their fourth straight penalty, and Casey Jones called timeout to calm his team down. RPI was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play, but they did manage to score a fourth goal about 30 seconds after it expired, as Joel Malchuk threw the puck on net and saw it deflect in, putting the Engineers ahead 4-1 just 12:17 into the contest. It was the first time the Engineers had scored four goals in the first period since 2008.

Clarkson had a number of power play opportunities from that point on, including one late in the first and three in the second (two of which combined for a short five-on-three chance that could have pulled them back into things), but the RPI penalty kill stood strong, ultimately killing the last six opportunities that the Golden Knights had. RPI's power play, after starting out the night with three in a row, failed to score on their last seven opportunities, but four of them were truncated due to RPI penalties.

Jacob Laliberte picked up  his fifth goal of the season to put RPI up 5-1 late in the second period, and a penalty filled third period did not provide any additional scoring.  Notably, however, Mike Bergin was issued a game misconduct for a brutal hit with about two minutes left to play, which brought with it a major penalty, though the Engineers had been on the power play at the time, and Clarkson would draw another penalty a minute later, so the major never produced a power play for the Golden Knights.

For the second straight season, the Engineers had picked up a Game 1 victory in the first round of the playoffs.

Game 2



If it's working, don't mess with it. That was the rationale behind RPI's Game 2 lineup, which featured no changes whatsoever from Friday's winning combination. The only bit of intrigue was whether C.J. Lee, who saw limited ice time in the first game after being injured in the first period while blocking a shot, would be ready to go, and he was.

Much as with the first game, Clarkson found themselves getting into penalty trouble early on. They successfully killed a two-man disadvantage of 54 seconds in the game's second minute, but couldn't kill their third penalty of the game as Lee scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season on the power play about a minute after RPI's third power play of the night got underway, putting RPI up 1-0.

Late in the first period, Clarkson picked up a 5-on-3 advantage of their own, and unlike the Engineers, the Golden Knights converted, scoring with just six seconds remaining in the two-man edge to tie the game at one, which is where things sat during the first intermission.

Patrick Cullen scored the game's first even strength tally about seven minutes into the second period, putting the Engineers back on top, 2-1, with his fifth goal of the campaign. RPI put a total of 11 shots on goal in the second period, but despite a power play midway through, they could not give themselves the insurance tally that they needed, but they did appear to be 20 minutes away from a sweep when they took that 2-1 lead into the locker room following the second period.

The catalyst for change was a bad hit from behind committed by C.J. Lee three minutes into the third. That sent Lee to the showers with a game misconduct and a five minute major. Just over three minutes into the long penalty kill, the Golden Knights converted to tie the game at two and send the game back to square one.

With nine minutes left in the period, it was Patrick Cullen converting for the second time in the game, giving the Engineers their third lead of the game, but like the other two, this also would not last. Clarkson scored once again on a turnover to tie things back up with 4:59 remaining in the game to bring things square for the third time, 3-3.

As both teams pushed for the winning goal late in the third period, Clarkson's Patrick Marsh laid a crushing hit on Zach Schroeder, and was assessed a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct with just 24 ticks remaining in regulation. That set up a monumental spot as the Engineers headed into overtime with over 4:30 straight of power play time with which to score a potential game and series clinching goal.

Clarkson, however, played exceptionally well on the penalty kill in overtime - playing like their season depended on it, because it did - and successfully killed the entire penalty. It was a unique situation, because usually on majors you try to score as many goals as you can, but RPI had five minutes to score the game winner and couldn't.

That failure to end the game early ended up creating a situation that dragged the game on far longer than anyone had expected. RPI put 11 shots on goal in the first overtime period and another nine in the second overtime, but none got by Clarkson's Paul Karpowich. Bryce Merriam, on the other end, stopped six and nine shots in the respective periods.

Clarkson got an overtime power play of their own after Joel Malchuk was called for tripping 5:30 into the second overtime, but the penalty kill held up.

One of the quirks of the game was that, contrary to NCAA regulations that required the teams to switch sides for the first overtime (meaning that the goaltenders would be where they usually are for the second period), the teams never switched sides during the overtime periods, shooting on the same goals they shot at in the first and third periods throughout the extra hockey.

As the game entered the third overtime, it quickly became the longest game in both RPI and Clarkson's long and storied hockey histories. 

As time went by, play slowed and it became evident that the game was probably going to be won on a bounce, and it finally did 13:48 into the third overtime as Clarkson's Ben Sexton scored on a shot Bryce Merriam probably would have stopped 19 times out of 20, but the goal gave Clarkson new life and force a third game.

Game 3



Saturday's marathon necessitated a trio of changes, but not due to fatigue - only due to injury. Zach Schroeder was injured late in regulation on the hit that gave the Engineers their major power play in overtime, and without being ready to go on Sunday, Alex Angers-Goulet was given the call to suit up. Marty O'Grady moved up to the top line to replace the injured Schroeder, while Johnny Rogic moved from left to right to accomodate Angers-Goulet on the fourth line.

C.J. Lee had the benefit, via his third period game misconduct, of being relatively fresh compared to the rest of the team (with the obvious exception of Angers-Goulet). However, on the very first shift, he picked up a boarding call just 18 seconds in that put the Engineers on the penalty kill. That was killed off, and Clarkson managed to kill their only penalty of the first period, leaving the deciding game scoreless after one.

Brock Higgs, who managed to pick up a total of six minor penalties in the three games, was called for charging seven minutes into the second period, and Clarkson converted on the ensuing power play to take the vital 1-0 lead a minute later. But RPI did not back down. Five minutes later, an opportunistic shot by Nick Bailen on a one-timer from a Guy Leboeuf pass was redirected in front by Ryan Haggerty, who picked up his seventh goal of the year to tie the game at one.

That's where things were following the second period, but for the second straight night, a badly mistimed hit at the end of a period by Clarkson produced a potentially critical moment. Clarkson's Allan McPherson put Mike Bergin into the boards with a hit from behind in the waning moments, and was called for a major and a game misconduct at the 20:00, giving RPI a major power play with fresh ice for the second straight night.

Once more, the Clarkson penalty kill came out firing, keeping the Engineers from getting good opportunities for much of the major. But in the final minute, it was Mike Bergin, the man who drew the major in the first place, who stepped into the slot to fire home a pass from Brock Higgs, scoring his second goal of the year and putting the Engineers ahead for the first time, 2-1.

Unlike Saturday night, the Engineers managed to get the crucial insurance goal, and they wasted no time in doing so. Joel Malchuk scored after firing the puck on net with an opportunistic shot similar to Bailen's the night before, and this one deflected in off a Clarkson player to give the Engineers a 3-1 lead.

However, a pair of gut checks were still to come. Penalties to Higgs and Leboeuf would give Clarkson a short five-on-three with about eight minutes to play, but the Engineer penalty kill - led by Malchuk, Bergin, and Bailen - stood up and killed both penalties. Just over a minute later, penalties to Rogic and Bergin gave the Golden Knights another 5-on-3 of over a minute, and pulling Karpowich gave them a 6-on-3 to try and pull within one.

Bryce Merriam stood tall in net for a 30 second or so period that must have felt like an eternity with the overwhelming disparity in skaters, but was given a huge reprieve when Ben Sexton, the previous night's hero, was called for slashing. That brought things back down to a more manageable 4-on-3 power play, as Karpowich had to return for the ensuing faceoff in the Clarkson zone.

Marty O'Grady picked up an empty netter with about a minute and a half left in the game, technically a 4-on-4 goal to seal the win and the series for the Engineers.

Elsewhere on the weekend, Dartmouth swept St. Lawrence, while Yale and Quinnipiac moved on in three games over Princeton and Brown respectively. That set up a Route 7 showdown between RPI and Union in the quarterfinals for the right to move on to Atlantic City.

Other junk - This week's list of opponents on RPI's schedule who are ranked include #2 Ferris State (up one), #7 UMass-Lowell (up one), #8 Union (down one), #13 Cornell (no change), #17 Notre Dame (up one), and #18 Colorado College (up one). Also receiving votes were Harvard (26), Quinnipiac (26), and Colgate (11).

This is the fourth time that RPI and Union have met in the playoffs, each of the other three times have been in best-of-3 series. RPI has won six of the seven games against the Dutchmen, including six straight, outscoring Union 27-13 in the seven contests. They met in 1994, 1997, and 2003.

C.J. Lee leads the team in goals with eight, Brock Higgs in assists with 20, and Higgs is tied with Nick Bailen in points with 22.

ECAC Quarterfinals
#10 RPI at #1 Union
#9 Dartmouth at #2 Cornell
#6 Yale at #3 Harvard
#5 Quinnipiac at #4 Colgate

RPI at Clarkson
ECAC First Round, Game 1 - Cheel Arena  (Potsdam, NY)
3/2/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  RPI 5, Clarkson 1


RECORD: 11-21-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 17 pts)

RPI at Clarkson
ECAC First Round, Game 2 - Cheel Arena  (Potsdam, NY)
3/3/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  Clarkson 4, RPI 3 (3 OT)



RECORD: 11-22-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 17 pts)

RPI at Clarkson
ECAC First Round, Game 3 - Cheel Arena  (Potsdam, NY)
3/4/12 - 7:00pm
RESULT:  RPI 4, Clarkson 1


RECORD: 12-22-3 (7-12-3 ECAC, 17 pts)

Upcoming games
09 Mar - at #8 Union (ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 1)
10 Mar - at #8 Union (ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 2)
11 Mar - at #8 Union (ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 3, if necessary)
16 Mar - ECAC Semifinal (Atlantic City, NJ, if qualified)
17 Mar - ECAC Championship/Consolation (Atlantic City, NJ, if qualified)

Hero #3: Bryce Merriam

Bryce Merriam had just 23 saves on 24 shots yesterday, but in a game in which an overall team effort that included many heroes at many different times - Mike Bergin, drawing a five minute major and scoring on the subsequent power play, C.J. Lee outhustling Clarkson to wave off icing with an empty net to set up O'Grady's goal, etc. - his effort all weekend long deserves recognition.

A night after saving 40 shots in a losing effort across two-and-a-half overtime periods, Bryce Merriam stood tall, especially making some quick saves late with a 6-on-3 in effect, stopping the puck on two occasions despite the overwhelming numbers against him, long enough for Clarkson to draw a penalty for slashing. The Knights had only five shots on goal in the third period, but stopping every single one of them was paramount. Merriam finished the three-game weekend with 79 saves.

More heroes are needed in the next weekend at Schenectady. Anyone up for war?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Updated Playoff Possibilities

With Dartmouth pulling off the upset sweep of SLU (the Big Green's first ever playoff series win on the road, and SLU's first time being swept at home), the possible matchups for next weekend have been cut in half. Here's the updated table based on today's remaining games.

Hero #2: Patrick Cullen

Like Friday night's hero, Patrick Cullen had a rough go for much of the year - in fact, he's had a rough go largely since his sensational freshman year. But he's turned it on here toward the end of his final season in the Cherry and White - he seems to have found his hockey soulmates in Brock Higgs and Matt Tinordi, as they've helped him boost his offensive production significantly.

Saturday night, he was the spark for the Engineers' scoring, taking part in all three RPI goals with two of them on his own, and setting up C.J. Lee's power play goal in the first period. He also led the team with seven shots on goal in the marathon session.

The longest game in RPI history and the 6th longest in NCAA history ended the way the previous two longest games in team history did - with a tough coinflip goal. Fortunately, unlike last year's marathon, there is a tomorrow - or, rather, today.

RPI fans can be forgiven for expecting to know how this story ends.
Game 3, 2004 Quarterfinals: Dartmouth 1, RPI 0
Game 3, 2009 Quarterfinals: Cornell 4, RPI 3
Game 3, 2010 First Round: Brown 3, RPI 2
Game 3, 2011 First Round: Colgate 2, RPI 1

The Engineers haven't won a Game 3 since upending Harvard 4-2 in Troy in 1999. They've never done it on the road. Now, they have to do it with a team that's almost entirely fatigued from the longest game any of them have likely ever played before with a couple of exceptions - Lee's game misconduct early in the third period simultaneously helped create the extra-long game (Clarkson's power play goal) and kept him comparatively fresh for tonight, plus Zach Schroeder, who was injured, will likely be replaced with someone who hasn't played yet this weekend. Don't be surprised to see Alex Angers-Goulet tonight (if he's healthy, we don't know why he's been out the last three games), Pat Koudys, Josh Rabbani, or even Greg Burgdorfer or Justin Smith if they're needed.

But what we really need tonight, to keep the season alive, is another hero. Who's wants the belt, boys?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hero #1: Nick Bailen

Nick Bailen has had a rough season. From second-team All-American last year to some well described struggles (along with the rest of the team) in what were some bread and butter situations last year.

But the best thing about being a hero is that it doesn't matter what happened before - all that matters is one game, and Bailen stepped up big time for the Engineers, picking up two goals and two assists in the first period alone to help the Engineers jump out to a big lead early that they held throughout the very well played game.

That's one. One more and the band plays on. Nick Bailen stepped up last night. Who's the hero tonight?

Oh, and in case you missed it last night... Clarkson needs handouts to know how to cheer.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Time For Heroes

The playoffs have not been kind to RPI in the last seven campaigns - let's be blunt, they have just one playoff series win in that time, and they have the longest active streak of failing to make the semifinals after having been a staple there for seasons on end.

Last year at this time, we paraphrased an impassioned letter from an alum at another school to his struggling former teammates, and issued a call to step up to the challenge at hand. We again turned away empty-handed, but every new playoff year is a new opportunity, no matter where you start. Seven other teams are essentially in the same boat we are - six wins away from an outstanding experience.

Who will be the one to step up this year, as we get underway against our school's longest and most bitter rival? Can Patrick Cullen reproduce his heroics from last Saturday? Will one of the freshmen take a star turn as Allen York did during his freshman year to help steal a playoff series?

The playoffs are defined by the heroes. It's time to make some more.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Spirit of Podcast

Invisible airwaves crackle with life - bright antenna bristle with the energy

Today at 11:05am, catch WaP's Tom Reale who will be Rodger Wyland and Ken Schott's guest on the "Slap Schotts" segment on Wyland's "Big Board Sports" on Fox Sports 980, WOFX-AM. Tom joins Clarkson play-by-play announcer Bob Ahlfeld to discuss this weekend's playoff showdown between the Engineers and the Golden Knights.

If you're in the Capital District, feel free to tune in at AM 980. If you're not, or you lack a radio (you obviously don't lack a computer, or an internet connection), listen by clicking here and clicking "listen live."

A podcast edition will be available after the broadcast.

UPDATE (1:40pm): And here it is.