Monday, October 22, 2012

Men's Hockey - at Minnesota State (19/20 Oct)

One typical hallmark of a young team is the inability to score goals - we saw that in spades at this time last year. If scoring goals isn't a problem, holding leads can be another issue, and that's something the Engineers were surely kicking themselves over all the way home to Troy this past weekend. Despite holding two-goal leads in the third period both Friday and Saturday nights, RPI was forced to settle for a tie on Friday and to swallow an overtime loss on Saturday following back to back blown leads in the final period, drawing 3-3 and losing 4-3, settling for a one point weekend (if this had been a league weekend, of course), instead of taking all four, which were within the grasp.




Following on from the relatively successful home weekend against Ferris State, minimal lineup changes were in order. Before leaving for Minnesota, coach Seth Appert told the Troy Record that the team was nursing some relatively minor injuries, and that the lineup would reflect the hope for some good recovery time for those injuries. When the lineup was produced, Mark McGowan was the only starter against Ferris State not in the lineup - he did not play over the weekend in Mankato, but if Appert was accurate in his description, he should be good to go when the ECAC schedule opens in two weeks against local rivals Union (and on three weeks rest, to boot). Johnny Rogic was moved from the fourth line into McGowan's position between Lee and Schroeder, while Mark Miller moved into the center position on the fourth line with winger Greg Burgdoerfer entering the lineup.

Both teams got their scoring started on their first power plays of the game during the first period. Mankato got themselves on the board first a little over halfway through an interference call against Nick Bailen, and RPI responded about four minutes later as Bailen notched his first goal of the year a little under a minute into the Engineers' first advantage.

Throughout the final 10 minutes of the first period, RPI was forced to hold on for dear life as a Bo Dolan penalty was killed off, a penalty shot caused by a Bailen trip on the breakaway was stopped by Scott Diebold, and a Miller interference call was shortly thereafter killed off. Despite the numerous penalties in the first period, RPI got out of the first 20 with a 1-1 tie and an 8-6 edge in shots.

The Engineers put in some very good work in the second period, making that shot total more lopsided by the end of the middle frame. With about three and a half minutes left in the second, Matt Neal put the Engineers ahead with his first goal of the season, making it 2-1 in favor of RPI heading into the third.

Things were looking very good for RPI following Ryan Haggerty's second goal of the season about seven minutes in on the power play to make it 3-1, but the homestanding Mavericks did not back down. Shortly after a timeout called by Seth Appert following an icing call, Mankato pulled to within one a little over three minutes after Haggerty's goal, and with about three minutes left in regulation, tied the game. Minnesota State ended the third period with an 11-6 edge in shots, almost mirroring RPI's 12-6 advantage from the second period.

Both teams had some good opportunities in the overtime period, especially RPI late with a shot by Zach Schroeder just missing, but ultimately RPI had to settle for a second consecutive tie, this one a little worse than the previous one given the Engineers' two goal advantage which was still in place with 10 minutes left to play. Diebold finished with 22 saves on 25 shots to earn the tie. Neal, meanwhile, had a hand in all three of the RPI goals, notching secondary assists on the Bailen and Haggerty tallies.




Among the other things Appert mentioned to the Troy Record ahead of the trip was that Burgdoerfer and Minnesota native Andrew Commers had earned ice time in practice - and given that the trip was to Commers' home state, it wasn't too shocking to see Commers get his RPI debut in Mankato, replacing Burgdoerfer for the second game. (The team's other MN natives, Schroeder and Dolan, played both nights. Interestingly, all seven of the team's New York natives were in the lineup on Friday.)

Things got rough early on in game two, as Guy Leboeuf was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind just over five minutes into the contest, putting RPI short a defenseman for the rest of the game. That put the Engineers on an extended penalty kill, but the Mavericks were unable to score during the major. Late in the period, after a charging call against Mankato, Schroeder scored his first goal of the season on the man advantage to put the Engineers ahead 1-0.

Neal's second goal of the year came during a 4-on-3 power play in the second period caused in part by a five-minute charging penalty against Mankato after Bryce Merriam was run down in the crease. That tally came just seconds into the major, but it would be the only one the Engineers could muster from the long power play, which was in part cut short by a tripping penalty to Matt Tinordi.

The Engineers brought their 2-0 lead into the third period, but that edge evaporated even more quickly than it had the previous night. Minnesota State scored just 62 seconds into the third period to cut RPI's lead in half, then tied it with another goal 2:37 later. The tie ran for a good 10 minutes or so with plenty of back and forth action before a breakaway with just over five minutes to play gave the Mavericks their first lead of the night, 3-2.

RPI did not back down, however. With Merriam off for the extra attacker, Neal scored his second goal of the night and third on the weekend and year to tie the game with 1:36 remaining in regulation, immediately jolting the Engineers back to life.

It was, however, short lived. 1:09 into RPI's third straight overtime, the Mavericks scored off a faceoff in the RPI zone to skate away with the 4-3 victory. The Engineers, about 30 minutes of gameplay away from two wins on a long road weekend instead got just a tie for their efforts.

Other junk - Following the "one point weekend," the Engineers' vote haul in the weekly USCHO poll dropped from 40 to seven, now ranking 6th among ECAC teams in the poll. Other league teams were #7 Cornell (idle, down one with one first place vote), #8 Union (idle, no change with one first place vote), #17 Harvard (idle, no change), and #20 Quinnipiac (tied and beat Ohio State, no change). Also receiving votes were St. Lawrence (109, just missing a ranking by 7 votes) and Yale (3). Other teams on RPI's schedule this year include #12 New Hampshire (up three, one first place vote), #13 Boston University (down two), and #18 Ferris State (down two). Also receiving votes were Minnesota State (39) and St. Cloud State (12).

Neal is on fire. He's already doubled his point total from last season in just four games, and with eight points, trails only St. Lawrence duo Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey for the national lead. Laliberte is halfway to his point total from last year with seven points and is tied for fourth nationally in points. Both linemates are among the Top 10 in the nation in points per game.

With Commers and Burgdoerfer making their season debuts over the weekend, the Engineers are down to five players who have yet to make their first appearance after four games: Craig Bokenfohr, Phil Hampton, Travis Fulton, Marty O'Grady, and Jason Kasdorf - though Hampton and Kasdorf did play in the exhibition game.

Scoring is no longer a major concern for RPI... at least, not right now. The Engineers have scored at least two goals in each of their last 12 contests and in 29 of their last 31. Those last 31, it should be noted, followed a start to last season in which the Engineers failed to score at least two goals in 10 of 12 games, which included a stretch of eight games in which RPI scored just five goals. The Engineers have 11 goals in their first four games, they did not reach their 11th goal last year until November 15th, in their 12th game.

As part of that scoring jump, RPI has thus far produced the nation's 4th best power play, clicking at 35.3% so far with a 6-for-17 record. The penalty kill hasn't been too shabby either, as RPI has allowed just one power play goal in four games (Mankato's first goal on Friday) at 12-for-13, a 92.3% success rate.

The Engineers get a rare early-season weekend off next week, but then jump right into the ECAC schedule with the yearly home-and-home weekend against Union to get things going. The Dutchmen are 2-1-0 on the season after an unexpected home loss to Merrimack to start the year, followed by a sweep at Bowling Green. Union is in action next weekend at American International (a rare home non-conference game for the Yellow Jackets, against a Frozen Four team no less) and UConn, so we'll probably be looking at a confident Union squad that has had the opportunity to beat up some lesser teams in the recent past by the time the festivities begin. Friday's game, being the home ECAC opener, is the annual Black Friday game.

RPI at Minnesota State
Non-Conference Game - Verizon Wireless Center (Mankato, MN)
10/19/12 - 8:30pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Minnesota State 3

RECORD: 1-0-2 (0-0-0 ECAC)

RPI at Minnesota State
Non-Conference Game - Verizon Wireless Center (Mankato, MN)
10/20/12 - 8:00pm

RESULT: Minnesota State 4, RPI 3 (OT)


RECORD: 1-1-2 (0-0-0 ECAC)

Upcoming games
02 Nov - #8 Union (Black Friday)
03 Nov - at #8 Union
09 Nov - at Dartmouth
10 Nov - at #17 Harvard
16 Nov - Mercyhurst

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