Monday, December 3, 2012

Men's Hockey - Princeton/Quinnipiac (30 Nov/1 Dec)

Well, they're on the board. That's about the best that can be said for the past weekend. If you'd told the average RPI fan before the weekend started that the Engineers would not get blown out at home against Princeton has had been the norm, and that they'd be tied with Quinnipiac midway through the third period, you probably would have taken it. Unfortunately, RPI was unable to pull any more than their first ECAC point with a tie against the Tigers, and an utter collapse of the special teams play on Saturday squandered RPI's shot for an upset with in a 3-1 loss.




Despite having two weeks between games, RPI pretty much emerged from the break more banged up than they were heading in. Brock Higgs was injured in practice, and Mark McGowan came down with mono. C.J. Lee also apparently hurt his knee in practice to compound the existing back injury that he suffered against Mercyhurst. Ahead of the weekends games, it was thought that Lee would be out until after Christmas, with Zach Schroeder still out with a wrist injury, while Higgs and Johnny Rogic would be game-time decisions on Friday. As it turned out, Lee and Schroeder both returned to the ice, while Higgs and Rogic were out.

Additionally, team-issued suspensions to Craig Bokenfohr and Phil Hampton left RPI with six defensemen, making the task of figuring out the starters on the blue line pretty plain.

Just 5:36 into the contest, RPI gave up the first goal of the game for the fifth time in as many league contests this season as Princeton, operating with near impunity near the blue line at even strength, was able to rocket a shot to the back of the net to go up 1-0. That was the only major event of the first period, as no penalties were called in the first 20 minutes (despite a number of good opportunities for a whistle).

Matt Tinordi notched his first goal of the season 2:20 into the second period after Lee stole a clearing attempt behind the Princeton cage and dished it to the junior in the slot. Tinordi one-timed it in to make it 1-1.

Over the next 20 minutes and change, the Engineers had three power play opportunities - the only three they would gather on the evening - but they were unable to break the deadlock with these golden opportunities. All told, RPI would launch a total of 39 pucks on net in the game, but goals proved to be few and far between, in part because of some solid play by Princeton goaltender Mike Condon.

The game's fifth and final penalty was assessed about midway through the third period to Mike Zalewski, and Princeton would proceed to score the game's only power play tally as Andrew Calof put back a rebound from a blue line blast about 30 seconds after the penalty began to make it 2-1 in favor of Princeton.

As time grew short, the Engineers continued to blast away at Condon in search of the tying goal, and eventually found it with Curtis Leonard scoring his first goal of the season in similar fashion to Princeton's first goal of the game. Condon appeared to get a piece of Leonard's initial slapper from the point, but it trickled behind him and into the net for a 2-2 game.

RPI played very well in the overtime period and almost got a couple of different turnovers to go in, but the game was destined for a draw, giving the Engineers their first ECAC point of the season but almost certainly leaving them wishing that they could have derived more from the contest.




Higgs and Rogic returned to the lineup on Saturday, replacing an injured Greg Burgdoerfer (who appeared with his wrist in a brace while in the stands) and Travis Fulton.

Quinnipiac, undefeated in the ECAC and coming off a 4-0 win at Union the previous night, looked to be everything they had been billed, but the Engineers looked to be catching them on a bit of an off night early on. Jason Kasdorf, appearing in his third consecutive game, played well early to keep the Bobcats out of the cage, and RPI looked to be Quinnipiac's equal for much of the first period.

It was the Q, however, that broke onto the scoreboard first with a power play goal scored with about three minutes left in the first period. Observers felt that the Bobcats had two men offsides as the puck was brought into the zone, but whether that was true or not, Quinnipiac got the 1-0 lead with a pretty common tactic against RPI this season - a long-range shot that made its way through traffic and into the net.

If the Engineers were mostly equal to the Q in the first period, they played even better in the second period, and it was there that they drew even on Mike Zalewski's first career goal, set up well by some amazing footwork from classmate Milos Bubela. Shortly after an unbelievable toe save by Kasdorf that featured the massive freshman moving from one side of the net to the other to keep a puck out of an open net, Bubela deftly maneuvered around two defenders in the left faceoff circle before backhanding a pass to Zalewski, who promptly found himself with plenty of ice to work with thanks to Bubela's moves. He practically walked right in and roofed it for the tying tally.

Late in the second period Nick Bailen was ridden hard into the boards behind Kasdorf, but the Engineers only got a two-minute power play from it, another questionable call. But ultimately, it was a major moment midway through the third period that would change the game, and in ways few would have expected. Quinnipiac was charged with a boarding penalty and a cross-checking penalty at the same time, giving the Engineers a two-minute five-on-three chance. With four forwards and Bailen out on the power play, RPI pushed for the go-ahead goal, but as we've seen time and time again, a blocked shot from the point was pounced on by the opposition, turning into a short-handed breakway and yet another short-handed goal, this one even more embarrassing for RPI considering that it came with the Engineers up two men. The goal was a game-changing backbreaker to say the least.

RPI visibly retreated following the goal, failing to gain any traction whatsoever for the remainder of the two-man advantage, and failing to put up much of a fight for the rest of the game. Kasdorf was pulled for the extra attacker late, but just seconds after the net was vacated, a slow dribbler eventually made its way down ice and into the net thanks to some exceptionally lax play by the Engineers in chasing it down. That made it 3-1 and the arena quickly emptied.

RPI had a total of nine power play chances against Quinnipiac if one includes the two-minute two-man advantage as two power plays, but the Engineers managed just five shots on net total. The failure of the power play to both score and protect against counter-attacks doomed RPI to defeat in a game in which they were distinct underdogs coming in, but certainly was very much a part of with 10 minutes left in regulation. Quinnipiac has one of the nation's best penalty kills, but RPI often made it easy for them - after all, if you're not being shot at, time's just ticking away.

Other junk - Ranked teams in the ECAC this week include #10 Dartmouth (beat Bentley, up one), #11 Cornell (swept Clarkson/SLU, up one), #12 Union (lost to Quinnipiac and tied Princeton, down four), #13 Quinnipiac (swept Union/RPI, up three), #15 Yale (beat Brown, no change), and #20 Harvard (idle, down one). Also receiving votes were St. Lawrence (2) and Colgate (1). Other ranked RPI opponents are #1 New Hampshire (up one, 31 first-place votes), #7 Boston University (up two), #16 Ferris State (up one), and #17 St. Cloud State (down three). Also receiving votes was Minnesota State (2).

RPI's iron man club is down to five after Higgs sat out on Friday - Bailen, Bubela, Leboeuf, Miller, and Neal. These are the only players on the roster who have played in all 12 games this season.

RPI has given up the first goal of the game in eight of their last nine ECAC regular-season games, including the last seven in a row.

The RPI power play went 0-for-12 on the weekend, and is a putrid 1-for-30 in six ECAC games. Meanwhile, the Engineers have given up three short-handed goals in league play, making the power play a head-shaking -2 in ECAC play. (For what it's worth, Dartmouth's power play is also underwater in league play with two power play goals against three shorties.)

Next up for RPI is another ECAC road weekend, this time against a resurgent Yale that is now nationally ranked an winners of four straight, including wins at Denver and Colorado College. That is followed by a must-produce-points game against Brown, the team closest to the Engineers in the standings. RPI now has the one ECAC point, but if they fail this weekend, they make the hoped-for trek out of the bottom four a daunting task indeed.

ECAC Standings (by winning percentage in parentheses)
1 (1). Quinnipiac - 12 points (6-0-0)
2 (2). Dartmouth - 9 points (4-1-1)
3 (7). Cornell - 8 points (3-3-2)
4 (4). Princeton - 7 points (2-1-3)
5 (5). Union - 7 points (3-2-1)
6 (8). Colgate - 7 points (3-4-1)
7 (3). Yale - 6 points (3-2-0)
8 (6). Harvard - 6 points (3-3-0)
9 (9). Clarkson - 5 points (2-1-1)
10 (10). St. Lawrence - 4 points (1-3-2)
11 (11). Brown - 2 points (0-3-2)
12 (12). RPI - 1 point (0-5-1)

Princeton at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/30/12 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Princeton 2

College Hockey Stats

#16 Quinnipiac at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/1/12 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Quinnipiac 3, RPI 1

RECORD: 3-6-3 (0-5-1 ECAC, 1 point)

Upcoming games
7 Dec - at #15 Yale
8 Dec - at Brown
27 Dec - at #17 St. Cloud State
28 Dec - at #17 St. Cloud State
31 Dec - Sacred Heart

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