Monday, November 5, 2012

Men's Hockey - Union (2/3 Nov)

When last we left the RPI-Union series, the Engineers had been making strides against a solid Dutchmen side in last year's ECAC Quarterfinals, losing twice despite controlling play well. This past weekend, RPI took a distinct step back, having their moments in both games but making costly mistakes at home before a dreadful second period in Schenectady (largely powered by a lack of discipline and poor sportsmanship), resulting in a zero-point weekend to kick off ECAC play.




Mark McGowan made his return to the lineup after missing the Minnesota State games with what was believed to be a minor injury - Greg Burgdoerfer replaced Andrew Commers on the fourth line, and Scott Diebold made his third consecutive Friday night start in net.

Union has a number of ways that they like to score goals. The first is to control the puck well at the point and score on a redirect in front, which is how they beat Diebold about five and a half minutes into the first period to take a 1-0 lead following a squandered opportunity on the power play for RPI. The Engineers proceeded to play with fire for the rest of the first, giving the solid Dutchmen power play unit three different opportunities on the man advantage, but the defense held up to keep it a 1-0 game after one.

A fourth power play chance arrived early in the second period, and this time Union capitalized, making good use of their second popular method for scoring goals - quick shots off the faceoff, this one coming late in a penalty to Guy Lebeouf to make it 2-0.

RPI would draw within one on the power play. Nick Bailen's second goal of the year came a little after the game's halfway point to make the score 2-1, and RPI began taking the initiative to score the game's tying goal, largely dominating play for much of the remainder of the second period.

Unfortunately, despite nine shots in the second, that tying goal was not forthcoming, and Union pounced late in the second to establish a commanding lead. The Dutchmen scored their second goal of the period with their third popular method for scoring goals, one which RPI saw frequently in the playoffs last year - capitalizing on the opposition's mistakes in the offensive zone, and then counter-attacking. Nick Bailen placed a shot directly into a forward's pads, leading to an immediate breakaway and goal the other way to make it 3-1. Reverting to the same method by which they scored the game's first goal, Union made it 4-1 just 1:20 later, reversing fortunes quickly and putting the Engineers in a big hole just as they were looking to tie the game.

Jacob Laliberte notched his fourth goal of the season with an assist by classmate Matt Neal 6:39 into the 3rd period and the Engineers did what they could to climb back into things, blasting 14 shots in the final period, but despite two power play opportunities, that was as close as they could get as Union's defense went into lockdown mode.




The only line left untouched heading into Saturday's game was the budding "NHL" line of sophomores comprised of Neal, Laliberte, and Ryan Haggerty. Johnny Rogic came into the lineup, replacing Mike Zalewski, and lines and D-pairings were generally jumbled.

Once again, Union got themselves on the board first, and this time it was a power play tally, taking the 1-0 lead just 1:59 into the game shortly after an interference call against Bo Dolan. This time, however, RPI was able to pick up the next goal. Some eleven minutes after going down a goal, the Engineers tied things up with Haggerty's third of the year.

RPI finished the first period strong and generally played well for much of the first half of the second period, although they did allow a goal 4:22 into the middle frame to go down 2-1. Still, early in the second things were still looking generally OK, as the Engineers pressed well for the tying goal just as they had the previous night with the same score.

Things didn't just unravel, they completely fell apart. At 8:23 of the second period, Luke Curadi was assessed a game disqualification - an ejection and a one-game suspension - for a brutal hit to the head on Union defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. That in and of itself would have been pretty bad, leaving RPI down to five defensemen, but it only got worse from there. Union managed three goals on the ensuing major power play, ratcheting up their lead to 5-1 before Bo Dolan scored a shorthanded goal on the same power play to stem the tide momentarily. A Union penalty just seconds after the Curadi penalty had expired offered the Engineers the opportunity to shift momentum, but things only continued to get worse as the Dutchmen scored a shorthanded goal of their own, putting them up 6-2 and basically crushing any opportunity RPI had to get back into the game.

Bryce Merriam, who remained in the game despite the terrible period he was enduring in net (although, to his credit only one of the goals given up to that point of the game was five-on-five), then had to stop the second penalty shot RPI had given up in just four games after Leboeuf was called for hauling down his man on the breakaway, but he turned it aside. Undeterred, Union scored again two minutes later to make it 7-2 heading into the third period.

If RPI was to have a prayer of a miracle comeback, they needed goals in a hurry, and an delayed penalty goal by Milos Bubela, the first of his collegiate career, opened the door a crack about seven and a half minutes into the third, but the Engineers squandered the ensuing power play, then made life even more difficult on themselves with terrible sportsmanship down the stretch. Captain C.J. Lee was ejected and assessed another major penalty for a completely unnecessary hit from behind, and Matt Tinordi was fortunate not to be assessed a game DQ for fighting with a Union player following the hit (both were simply issued misconduct penalties, essentially ejecting them).

Union showed no interest in forcing the matter during their second five-minute advantage of the game, preferring instead to let the clock run down and further kill chances of RPI making a comeback.

Perhaps the lone bright moment of the final half of the game was Jason Kasdorf having the opportunity to log the first minutes of his collegiate career in net. The freshman came on in relief of Merriam to start the third period and stopped 8 shots, 6 of them coming before Bubela's goal as an indication of how little Union was forcing the issue during the Lee major.

Other junk - Ranked teams in the ECAC this week are #4 Cornell (beat and tied Colgate, up two), #8 Union (up two, still with one first place vote), #13 St. Lawrence (swept Alabama-Huntsville, up three), and #14 Harvard (beat Brown and lost to Yale, down one). Also receiving votes were Dartmouth (102, most among unranked teams and 18 away from a ranking), Yale (24), Quinnipiac (15), and Colgate (1). Other teams on the RPI schedule include #9 New Hampshire (no change), #11 Boston University (up one), #15 St. Cloud State (up three), and #18 Ferris State (up one). Also receiving votes was Minnesota State (3).

Interesting little tidbit from the weekend's series - all six goaltenders on the two teams' rosters saw action over the weekend, including all three Union goaltenders on Saturday.

With 10 points in 6 games, Jacob Laliberte is tied for sixth nationally in scoring. Linemate Matt Neal is tied for ninth with 9 in 6 games.

It can't get much harder than last weekend, but the Engineers do now have to hit the road to take on one nationally ranked team in Harvard and one just on the cusp of being ranked in Dartmouth. The Dartmouth game will have to feature a defenseman in his first game of the year with Curadi's suspension. Unfortunately, the poor showing this weekend has turned these road games into areas where RPI's going to need to pick up some points or else risk falling way behind very early.

#10 Union at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/2/12 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Union 4, RPI 2

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

RPI at #10 Union
Non-Conference Game - Achilles Center (Schenectady, NY)
11/3/12 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Union 7, RPI 3

RECORD: 1-3-2 (0-2-0 ECAC)

Upcoming games
09 Nov - at Dartmouth
10 Nov - at #14 Harvard
16 Nov - Mercyhurst
17 Nov - Mercyhurst
30 Nov - Princeton

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