Monday, January 14, 2013

Men's Hockey - at Quinnipiac/Princeton (11/12 Jan)

When it's the little things holding you back, the bigger picture sometimes becomes somewhat maddening. For the second weekend in a row, the Engineers were forced to settle for less than they'd arguably earned on the ice, picking up just one point in the return to ECAC play and remaining at the bottom of the league standings despite becoming the first team to keep Quinnipiac out of the win column with a 1-1 tie on Friday, a dominating performance against Princeton went for naught in a 4-1 loss that was far closer than the final score - indeed, the final score is very deceiving.




A big time shakeup in the lines preceded the return to ECAC play, with the successful "NHL" line of Matt Neal, Ryan Haggerty, and Jacob Laliberte officially divvied up, as well as Mark Miller being moved off the almost as successful "freshman" line with Mike Zalewski and Milos Bubela. Brock Higgs returned to the lineup, and Bo Dolan came out in favor of Craig Bokenfohr.

RPI went into Hamden seeking a bit of revenge for the game against Quinnipiac in Troy which featured a terrible third period in which the Engineers blew a decent shot at a win by giving up a 3-on-5 shorthanded goal, but to do so, they'd have to become the first team in the ECAC to take points from the Bobcats, as they entered with a perfect 10-0-0 record in league play.

Quinnipiac looked every inch the top team in the league during the first period, outshooting RPI 11-7 in the opening period, and although the Engineers didn't play their best hockey by any stretch, some excellent play by Bryce Merriam in net kept things scoreless through the first period.

RPI took a late penalty in the first period that gave Quinnipiac a power play for much of the beginning of the second, but the penalty kill successfully got through unblemished. A Bobcat penalty seconds after the RPI penalty expired gave the Engineers their second power play of the game, and it was captain C.J. Lee converting for his third goal of the season that gave RPI the early 1-0 lead.

While the Engineers played very well throughout the second period and into the third, they would lose the lead at almost exactly the midway point of the second on a goal by the Q's top scorer, returning the deadlock at 1-1.

If there was to be a winner, momentum would have pegged the Engineers as the favorite in the third period as they pelted Eric Hartzell with 10 shots and absorbed only five on the other end, but the ECAC's top goaltender thus far held his team in the game. Regulation gave way to an anemic overtime as neither team truly threatened in the extra five minutes, and the final tally gave RPI a point with a 1-1 tie, marking the first time on the season that the Bobcats had failed to pick up the victory in league play, but maintaining their nation-leading unbeaten streak.

For RPI, it was a little more proof that they had the chops to run with some of the better teams in the country.





Only one change from Friday to Saturday as Bo Dolan returned to the regular starting lineup.

If there was one major thing RPI could be faulted for in its Saturday afternoon game against the Tigers, it's that they played a relatively flat first period and it wound up costing them in the end. They tallied the first two penalties of the game, the second of which, 14 minutes into the game, led to a Princeton power play goal that made the score 1-0. Just over two minutes later, the Tigers scored again to go up 2-0.

That's when RPI basically took over the entire game. How dominant were the Engineers in the final two periods? Let's put it this way - 19-2 was the shot total in the final 40 minutes, at least while Bryce Merriam was still residing in the RPI net. He didn't face a single shot on goal in the third period.

Meanwhile, the Engineers maintained almost total domination in the Princeton zone. Just 1:48 into the second period, Ryan Haggerty's team-leading eighth goal of the season came on the power play to halve the Princeton lead, but that was as close as the Engineers would get. That's not to say that they didn't have their opportunities, or that they had some just plain dumb luck, especially in the second period.

Brock Higgs, still goalless on the season, was robbed not once, but twice on the doorstep during the middle stanza. At another point late in the period, Haggerty appeared to have poked the puck home after a scrum in front, but referee Harry Dumas had already blown for a quick whistle. Then, at the dying moments of the second, a Nick Bailen shot evaded everyone and found the back of the net, but it was ruled that the period had expired prior to the puck crossing the line.

Princeton basically turtled in the third period, trying to salvage the victory, and they did a good job of giving up the body to stop the shots coming their way, as RPI was only able to unleash five shots on goal in the final period despite a total domination of possession. Errant shots and shots into pads certainly didn't help matters.

RPI appeared to be getting the golden opportunity they were waiting for when Princeton took a charging penalty with 1:35 left in regulation. Appert pulled Merriam from the net to create a 6-on-4. Unfortunately, the Engineers never got themselves set up on the two-man advantage, and Princeton took advantage of the lack of icing to fire it toward the open net. It didn't score at first, but the Tigers hustled down first and grabbed the puck, eventually getting it in anyway.

Merriam stayed out of the net for the ensuing faceoff, but in the waning seconds Princeton picked up a second empty netter to make the final score 4-1 despite being well outplayed for a good 40 minutes or so - certainly a final that looks far worse in the paper the next day than it did on the ice.

Other junk - Ranked teams in the ECAC this week are #4 Quinnipiac (tied RPI and beat Union, up one with two first place votes), #11 Dartmouth (beat Harvard, up one), #12 Yale (swept Clarkson/SLU, up two), #16 Cornell (idle, down one), #17 Union (beat Princeton and lost to Quinnipiac, down one), and #20 Colgate (idle, down one). Princeton (4) also received votes. Other teams on the RPI schedule ranked this week include #3 New Hampshire (up one with one first place vote), #9 Boston University (down one), #14 Minnesota State (down three), and #19 St. Cloud State (down one). Ferris State (12) also received votes.

The iron man club is down to only three players who have appeared in all 21 games this season - Guy Leboeuf, Mark Miller, and Milos Bubela.

Phil Hampton (three games played) and Andrew Commers (two) are the only skaters on the roster who have not picked up a point yet this season.

RPI is now nominally at home for the next five games in a row, and seven of the next nine. This is a crucial stretch that will determine the team's playoff fate. Right now, despite being in last place, the Engineers are just 3 points out of sixth - the middle of the table. That makes games at home against Colgate and Cornell important. If they can snap out of their mini-scoring slump from the past weekend, they can start to make their long awaited move.

ECAC Standings (by winning percentage in parentheses)
1 (1). Quinnipiac - 23 points (11-0-1)
2 (5). Princeton - 13 points (5-4-3)
3 (2). Dartmouth - 11 points (5-3-1, +7 GD)
4 (3). Yale - 11 points (5-3-1, +2 GD)
5 (4). Union - 11 points (4-3-3)
6 (6). Cornell - 8 points (3-3-2)
7 (7). Colgate - 7 points (3-4-1, -6 GD)
8 (8). Clarkson - 7 points (3-5-1, +3 GD)
9 (9). Harvard - 6 points (3-6-0)
10 (10). St. Lawrence - 6 points (2-5-2)
11 (11). Brown - 6 points (0-3-4)
12 (12). RPI - 5 points (1-6-3)

RPI at #5 Quinnipiac
ECAC Game - TD Bank Sports Center (Hamden, CT)
1/11/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 1, Quinnipiac 1 (OT)

College Hockey Stats

Troy Record
Albany Times Union
New Haven Register

RECORD: 6-9-5 (1-5-3 ECAC, 5 points)

RPI at Princeton
ECAC Game - Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
1/12/13 - 4:00pm

RESULT: Princeton 4, RPI 1

RECORD: 6-10-5 (1-6-3 ECAC, 5 points)

Upcoming games
18 Jan - #20 Colgate
19 Jan - #16 Cornell
26 Jan - vs. #17 Union (Albany, NY)
01 Feb - Harvard
02 Feb - #11 Dartmouth (Big Red Freakout!)

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