Monday, February 25, 2013

Men's Hockey - at Cornell/Colgate (22/23 Feb)

Sometimes when you're playing well, things around you start falling into place. RPI had to settle for a weekend split in Central New York, falling for the first time in seven games with a 4-1 loss at Cornell before bouncing back with a dramatic 3-2 at-the-death overtime victory over Colgate. Fortunately for the Engineers, nearly every single game around the league went their way, and despite just two points on the weekend, RPI is still in second place, and looking very good for their first-ever first-round bye.

Cornell
Lee-Laliberte-Haggerty
Zalewski-Higgs-Bubela
Neal-McGowan-Burgdoerfer
Rogic-Miller-Fulton

Leonard-Bailen
Leboeuf-Bradley
Curadi-Dolan

Kasdorf

With injuries to Matt Tinordi and Marty O'Grady still keeping those upperclassmen sidelined, RPI rolled with the same exact lineup for the third consecutive game.

For the first time in several games, the Engineers turned in a bad period in the first that really ended up costing them. They spent much of the first 20 minutes on their heels, and Cornell capitalized with a 14-7 shooting edge. The Big Red also capitalized with the game's first two goals, which came 1:09 apart from each other near the period's midway point.

On Cornell's first goal, Nick Bailen turned the puck over with a bad cross-ice pass in his own zone, giving the Big Red all the ice they needed to work the puck past Jason Kasdorf and go ahead 1-0. Then, moments later, Cornell quickly converted on a shot from the outside just after winning a faceoff in the RPI zone to take the two-goal edge, always a difficult situation when playing on the road at Lynah Rink.

RPI had plenty of chances to pull themselves back into the game late in the first period and early in the second period, as Cornell's Brian Ferlin was called for three minors practically back-to-back-to-back (slashing, hooking, and boarding), but the Cornell penalty kill did a tremendous job of keeping the Engineers out of the net despite some decent play on the man advantage.

On the third such power play chance, another spot error by RPI ended with a Cornell goal, as Bo Dolan caught an edge while going to take the puck at the blue line, and Cornell senior Greg Miller pounced on it and took the breakaway practically as soon as he touched the puck. He skated the length of the ice and beat Kasdorf to make the score a daunting 3-0 hole for the Engineers.

RPI actually did a decent job of controlling the puck in the final two periods, regaining shot parity in the second with a lopsided 17-4 shooting edge, but they'd get no closer than within two, pulling back the shorthanded goal with Travis Fulton's first collegiate tally with about four minutes left in the second.

From there, Cornell went into lockdown mode, and although the Engineers did pretty well with the extra skater for over a minute, they took few shots, and when the Big Red cleared the zone, they were able to easily score on the empty net with 32 seconds left to ice it.

The loss snapped RPI's streak of eight straight wins in ECAC play, but the collateral damage in the standings was minimal. St. Lawrence beat Harvard, but losses by Dartmouth, Yale, and Union helped keep the Engineers in a solid position heading into Saturday night, just one point behind the Saints for second place.

Colgate
Lee-Laliberte-Haggerty
Zalewski-Higgs-Bubela
Neal-McGowan-Burgdoerfer
Rogic-Miller-Fulton

Leonard-Bailen
Leboeuf-Bradley
Curadi-Dolan

Kasdorf

Seth Appert made it four straight games with no changes to the lineup despite the previous night's loss. While the Engineers were coming off a six-game winning streak ending, the Raiders were celebrating the end of a four-game losing streak the previous night against Union.

The first period on Saturday was full of back and forth, neither team really establishing themselves as the aggressor. The only notable event of the period, really, was a roughing penalty picked up by Curtis Leonard 15 minutes into the contest, which the Engineers killed without much fuss.

Leonard's second penalty proved more problematic. Coming just 32 seconds into the second period, it gave Colgate their second power play of the night on relatively fresh ice, and ended just 38 seconds later with the Raiders' first goal of the night.

A holding call against Greg Burgdoerfer midway through the period provided Colgate with their second power play goal of the night, making it 2-0 with just under 30 minutes left to play and the Engineers beginning to look like they were in for a bad weekend at the wrong time, hampered by significant offensive struggles just as they were looking like a force to be reckoned with.

Then, an offensive spark was provided by an unusual outlet - defenseman Luke Curadi. His blue line blast two minutes after the Raiders had taken the lead was redirected in front by Mark Miller to cut the Colgate lead in half, 2-1. Five minutes later, RPI converted on their second power play opportunity of the night as Nick Bailen scored his 11th goal of the season to tie the game at two heading into the third period.

Among the things RPI started doing right in the second half of the game was staying out of the box. Colgate was 2-for-3 on the power play by the time they took a 2-0 lead, but it was the last time they would get an opportunity with the man advantage. The Engineers got a third power play chance six minutes into the third, but were unable to convert, eventually taking the game to overtime.

RPI fans had reason to be upset after an uncalled trip deprived them of a juicy 2-on-1 opportunity in the extra period of hockey, but the Engineers would get their comeuppance as the final seconds began to tick off the clock. With only 10 seconds remaining before both teams would leave with a point, Matt Neal managed to work in his eighth goal of the season, stealing a point from Colgate, securing a home-ice playoff series in at least the first round, and sending RPI back to Troy sitting alone in second place once again.

On Saturday night, it wasn't just the Engineers providing good results for their chances. Union, St. Lawrence, Princeton, and Clarkson all lost at just the right time to not only boost RPI back into second, but leave them looking exceptionally good heading into the year's final league weekend for a top four finish at least.

Other junk - RPI picked up 57 votes in this week's USCHO.com poll, just missing out on being ranked as the top vote-getter among those who weren't ranked, 23 behind #20 Providence. Quinnipiac (beat Yale, tied Brown) remains the top-ranked team in the nation with 37 first place votes. Other ranked ECAC teams are #15 Yale (lost to Quinnipiac and beat Princeton, down two) and #18 Dartmouth (lost to Clarkson and beat St. Lawrence, up one). St. Lawrence (36) and Union (14, formerly #20) also received votes. Other ranked teams on RPI's schedule this year include #5 New Hampshire (no change), #7 St. Cloud State (no change), #9 Minnesota State (no change), and #19 Boston University (down four). Ferris State (12) also received votes.

It wasn't a great weekend in net for Jason Kasdorf, but he's still fourth in the nation in goals against (1.63) and sixth in save percentage (.938). He's now tied for fourth in winning percentage (.750). In the ECAC only, he's second in all three categories.

Matt Neal is tied for 10th in the ECAC with 17 points in league play. 9 of those points have come on the power play, good for a tie for 5th in that category. He leads the team overall with 27 points.

Meanwhile, Nick Bailen has 5 power play goals in league play now, which has him tied for 3rd. Nationally, he ranks fourth in points per game by defensemen at 0.84. He picked up a secondary assist on Neal's overtime winner to give him 100 points for his collegiate career, 84 of which have been scored with the Engineers.

Ryan Haggerty leads RPI in goals with 12, followed by Bailen with 11. Last season's goal scoring leader was C.J. Lee with 8, Neal, Bailen, Haggerty, and Jacob Laliberte all have 8 or more already with three others - Milos Bubela, Mike Zalewski, and Mark Miller, all freshmen - sitting on 7 each.

Last year's Engineers scored a total of 78 goals in 39 games. This year's team has 88 in 32 thus far.

Concluding the regular season is a visit from Clarkson and St. Lawrence. The latter of the two games promises to be huge with the Saints sitting in third place just a point behind RPI, but the Engineers are in a position where they can lock up second before SLU ever gets to Troy if they can beat their old rivals and get the right results elsewhere.

ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 35 points (16-1-3)
2. RPI - 23 points (10-7-3)
3. St. Lawrence - 22 points (9-7-4)
4. Yale - 21 points (10-9-1)
5. Dartmouth - 21 points (9-8-3)
6. Union - 20 points (8-8-4)
7. Clarkson - 19 points (8-9-3)
8. Brown - 18 points (6-8-6)
9. Princeton - 17 points (7-10-3)
10. Cornell - 17 points (7-10-3)
11. Colgate - 15 points (6-11-3)
12. Harvard - 12 points (5-13-2)

RPI at Cornell
ECAC Game - Lynah Rink (Ithaca, NY)
2/22/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Cornell 4, RPI 1

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO

RECORD: 14-12-5 (9-7-3 ECAC, 21 points)


RPI at Colgate
ECAC Game - Starr Rink (Hamilton, NY)
2/23/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Colgate 2 (OT)


BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO



RECORD: 15-12-5 (10-7-3 ECAC, 23 points)

Upcoming games
02 Mar - Clarkson
03 Mar - St. Lawrence
08 Mar OR 15 Mar - ECAC Playoffs (Troy, NY)
09 Mar OR 16 Mar - ECAC Playoffs (Troy, NY)
10 Mar OR 17 Mar - ECAC Playoffs (Troy, NY, if necessary)

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