Monday, January 7, 2013

Men's Hockey - at Boston University and New Hampshire (4/5 Jan)

Sometimes, it's possible to continue making progress even when you lose - not that you really ever want to lose, especially when you've got leads, but for RPI's Hockey East road trip this past weekend, a 3-2 overtime loss to BU followed by a 5-2 loss against a very, very good UNH team can really only be classified as a bad weekend if you think RPI's a national championship contender this year. (Spoiler alert: They aren't.) Nonetheless, despite two losses, there were continued signs of improvement, as well as some high level "things to change" that came out of the weekend.

Boston University



Jason Kasdorf's shoulder was no longer slinged, but the decision was made to keep him out for the weekend in order to make sure he was ready to go for the return to ECAC play. Bryce Merriam, who had two wins over BU notched on his belt prior to this season, was given the nod in net for the second straight game as Scott Diebold was suffering the effects of the flu. Also notable was the absence of Nick Bailen, who was benched for what appear to be disciplinary reasons, and Matt Neal, who suffered "whiplash" against Sacred Heart.

Ryan Haggerty got RPI onto the board first with a goal exactly halfway through the first period as he one-timed a pass across the goalmouth into the net to put an end to what was a very sloppy first 10 minutes of the contest with both teams seeming to be unable to link together a couple of passes.

Nonetheless, RPI had the 1-0 edge, but they would hold it for only 5:07 as BU responded with a goal scored on a delayed penalty to Bo Dolan, but before the extra skater could come on. The Terriers attacked a loose puck in the crease, and the goal was allowed to count after review when it was found that a BU player thought to have been in the crease was clear.

C.J. Lee picked up his second goal in as many games in the second period to make it 2-1 RPI, but the middle period was largely dominated by the Terriers. Merriam stood huge in net for the Engineers, stopping all 14 shots he saw in the second period to give him 22 saves on 23 shots after two periods of play, a major reason why RPI was able to take that 2-1 lead into the third period.

That shot domination carried over into the third period as BU again outshot RPI big time, 15-4 in this instance. The Terriers tied it 5:30 into the third, but Merriam's strong play in net again frustrated BU, who went 0-for-5 on the power play, pushing the game into overtime.

The extra period was far more even for as long as it lasted, with both teams having good opportunities to end it in their favor, but eventually BU was able to find Cason Hohmann all alone to Merriam's left, and the Terrier forward was able to skate in towards the net unabated, outwait Merriam, and pot the puck home to give BU the 3-2 overtime victory on their first lead of the night.

It was a heartbreaking ending for an RPI team that produced 1-0 and 2-1 leads on the evening, but at the very least, it proved the Engineers capable of running with a top 10 team.

New Hampshire



More lineup changes were in line the following night as Bailen returned to the lineup, but Brock Higgs and Marty O'Grady, upperclassmen who had been fighting injuries for practically the entire season - and struggling on the ice while playing through them - were pulled out of the lineup to give them the chance to heal better and return when they can be more productive.

Scott Diebold also got the start in net, which Appert called a "gut feeling" with the sophomore having recovered from his illness.

As with the previous night, RPI's best period was in the first. After the Engineers held off a very strong UNH attack off for the game's first ten minutes, the Wildcats got on the board first with what would become a running theme throughout the night - a defenseman down low being left alone and scoring.

About six and a half minutes later, RPI tied it at one with Curtis Leonard's second goal of the season, a laser slapshot from the blue line that found the net top shelf, somehow avoiding all traffic in front of the net. RPI outshot the Wildcats 11-6 in the first period.

The shot differentials weren't as stark after the first period as they had been against BU, but UNH took control nonetheless as RPI, playing its fifth game in nine days, began to wear down over the next two periods. New Hampshire took the lead for good five minutes into the second period on a bouncing puck play, then made it 3-1 a little over two minutes later with another goal by a defenseman down low.

A third defenseman below the faceoff dots helped make it 4-1 just 2:45 into the third, and by that time UNH was able to go into practical lockdown mode. Keeping RPI limited to the perimeter all night long, the Wildcats used their outstanding skill on both sides of the puck to wear down the clock as well as the weary Engineers.

Looking to make something happen with under five minutes to play and down by three, Appert pulled Diebold from the net prior to a faceoff in the UNH zone, but the Wildcats won the draw and promptly put the puck down ice and into the net after just nine seconds, making it 5-1.

Leonard would notch his second of the game in almost the same fashion as the first to grant RPI a degree of pride at the end of the game. The goal came on the power play, marking just the fourth time on the entire season UNH's #1 penalty kill in the nation had given up a power play goal, and boosting the GAA of Casey DeSmith, who entered the game with a GAA of 1.91.

Hard as it must have been to be happy after a three-goal loss, RPI faced adversity in Durham and were ultimately beaten by a better team - indeed, they would have had to have played nearly mistake-free hockey on Saturday night to even have a shot, and while they didn't, they still by and large played well considering all of the circumstances in place - especially that UNH hadn't played the night before.

Other junk - Ranked teams in the ECAC this week include #5 Quinnipiac (swept Dartmouth/Harvard, no change with two first place votes), #12 Dartmouth (swept by Quinnipiac/Princeton, down four), #14 Yale (tied Boston College, up three), #15 Cornell (swept by Denver, down three), #16 Union (swept by Lake Superior State, down three), and #19 Colgate (swept Sacred Heart, previously unranked). No other ECAC teams received votes. Also ranked on the RPI schedule are #4 New Hampshire (no change), #8 Boston University (up one), #11 Minnesota State (up three), and #18 St. Cloud State (down three). Also receiving votes were Ferris State (50) and Mercyhurst (2).

Next up is Quinnipiac, still on its amazing run. They're up to 14 straight games without a loss, and they've won their first 10 ECAC contests. In theory, they could lose the rest of their games this season and still have home ice in the playoffs - and they could statistically be locking up a first round bye if they can sweep RPI and Union this coming weekend. Just a reminder, it's still early January here, people. That's followed by a Princeton team that always plays RPI hard and has completed two home sweeps themselves this season (their only wins of the year in league play). After that it's three more games against ranked opponents, though all in the Capital District. The hits just keep on coming.

ECAC Standings (by winning percentage in parentheses)
1 (1). Quinnipiac - 20 points (10-0-0)
2 (4). Princeton - 11 points (4-3-3)
3 (2). Dartmouth - 9 points (4-3-1)
4 (3). Union - 9 points (3-2-3)
5 (7). Cornell - 8 points (3-3-2)
6 (5). Clarkson - 7 points (3-3-1, +3 GD)
7 (6). Yale - 7 points (3-3-1, -2 GD)
8 (8). Colgate - 7 points (3-4-1, -6 GD)
9 (9). Harvard - 6 points (3-5-0)
10 (10). Brown - 4 points (0-3-4, -3 GD)
11 (11). St. Lawrence - 4 points (1-4-2, -9 GD)
12 (12). RPI - 4 points (1-5-2)

RPI at #9 Boston University
Non-Conference Game - Agganis Arena (Boston, MA)
1/4/13 - 7:30pm

RESULT: Boston University 3, RPI 2 (OT)

College Hockey Stats

Troy Record
Albany Times Union

RECORD: 6-8-4 (1-5-2 ECAC, 4 points)

RPI at #4 New Hampshire
Non-Conference Game - Whittemore Center (Durham, NH)
1/5/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: New Hampshire 5, RPI 2

RECORD: 6-9-4 (1-5-2 ECAC, 4 points)

Upcoming games
11 Jan - at #5 Quinnipiac
12 Jan - at Princeton
18 Jan - #19 Colgate
19 Jan - #15 Cornell
26 Jan - vs. #16 Union (Albany, NY)

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