Monday, February 18, 2013

Men's Hockey - Brown/Yale (15/16 Feb)

It's basically official at this point - the Engineers are the hottest team in the country. Riding their winning streak to six with twin home victories over Brown and Yale over the weekend, RPI has now won eight consecutive ECAC contests to move their league record from 1-6-3 on January 12 (the team was in last place) to 9-6-3 today, which is good enough for 2nd place all by themselves. With Quinnipiac clinching the #1 seed on Friday despite losing for the first time in conference play, 2nd is now as high as RPI can get, and they have four more games remaining to hold onto a position that only a month ago seemed impossible.




The weekend opened up with a game against Brown, a squad that had just knocked off Yale 1-0 on Tuesday and certainly had a hot goaltender in senior Anthony Borelli, whose numbers were similar to those of Jason Kasdorf in about as much time between the pipes. With the Engineers clicking well on both sides of the ice, there was only one change from the Clarkson victory, with Travis Fulton coming back into the starting lineup, replacing Andrew Commers.

It didn't take long for RPI to break onto the scoreboard, however. In the first minute of the game, Borelli managed to get a piece of a blue line shot by Guy Leboeuf, but the puck trickled behind him, fluttering in the crease. Mike Zalewski, crashing the net, poked it home for his sixth goal of the season and putting RPI up 1-0 just 46 seconds into the game.

Late in the first period, the Engineers went to work on their first power play of the night, converting after about a minute on the man advantage when Nick Bailen put home a rebound off a shot by Jacob Laliberte to give RPI a 2-0 lead heading into the locker room.

Mark Miller scored his sixth of the season on an odd play midway through the second period to make it 3-0. Streaking up the right side of the ice, he crashed the net and got a shot off, and eventually the puck made its way in despite Borelli appearing to make the initial save.

Meanwhile, Jason Kasdorf made 21 saves in the first two periods, extending his home shutout streak to eight full periods, the longest such streak at RPI since the mid-1950s.

The Engineers put the game on ice early in the third period with a pair of goals by Laliberte and C.J. Lee in the first 4:17 of the period, both on the power play, giving RPI a 5-0 lead for the second consecutive game. That ended the night for Anthony Borelli, who was replaced by Marco DeFilippo as the Engineers started to ease off the gas significantly.

Brown ruined Kasdorf's bid for a third straight home shutout just 39 seconds after Lee's goal, but they would not find the back of the net again. Kasdorf concluded the night with 30 saves on 31 shots, his starting counterpart managed 28 saves on 33 shots.

The win moved the Engineers into a tie for second place with their Saturday night opponents, Yale, making the stakes for the weekend's concluding game just a bit higher.




If it's working, there's not much of a need to tweak the lineup, and with RPI outscoring opponents 11-2 in 120 minutes of hockey, there wasn't much of a reason to change lines or personnel, so the exact same lineup came out of the tunnel on Saturday as played on Friday.

Yale, reeling from the loss of their top goaltender to injury and coming off losses to Brown and Union, was certainly the definition of a desperate team. They pushed the pace in the first period and appeared to surprise RPI with a tenacious forecheck, something they are not known for in the least. That contributed greatly to the 7-3 edge the Bulldogs were able to take into the first intermission.

However, it was RPI hitting the locker room with the 1-0 edge after one period. Midway through the period, with the Engineers on the power play, Matt Neal drove the net on a three-on-two opportunity. Yale knocked their own net off its pegs, but Neal followed through and put the puck in. Initially, the goal was waved off, but after review it was determined that the net was not moved by anything RPI did, and thus it was allowed to stand for Neal's seventh goal of the year.

The Engineers got themselves into trouble in the second period thanks to some poor discipline, especially from Milos Bubela. The freshman was called for holding, but he's fortunate it wasn't followed up with a boarding call as well. That was compounded by a check from behind from Guy Leboeuf on the penalty kill, giving Yale a five-on-three for 1:31. Even still, the Engineers nearly killed off the Bubela penalty - that is, until Yale struck on a screened shot from the top of the circle to tie the score.

By the time the third period was underway, St. Lawrence and Union, both just a point behind RPI and Yale, were winning in their games, putting forward a virtual four-way tie for second and boosting the stakes even more for a 1-1 game - and making the game's third goal even more important.

RPI would be the team to get that third goal about five and a half minutes into the third period. Nick Bailen took a perfect pass from Laliberte and skated into the slot, roofing a shot to put the Engineers up 2-1.

The Engineers held that lead through a harrowing four-on-four situation, and had to lean on Kasdorf to hold the lead. The freshman made 11 big stops in the final period to give his team the opportunity to go for their fourth consecutive weekend sweep in league play.

With just under five minutes left in regulation, Mike Zalewski gave RPI breathing room with an insurance goal, his second of the weekend and seventh of the year. After Bubela worked the puck free in the corner, he skated behind the net and dished to Zalewski in front, who rifled it to the back of the net for a 3-1 lead.

That goal was an important spot for the home side, which still had to withstand a Yale onslaught, especially on the penalty kill after a hooking call against C.J. Lee. The penalty kill got the job done, and once Lee got out of the box, the Engineers were 100 seconds away from another four-point weekend. The Bulldogs pulled their goaltender and continued to come up with decent opportunities, but they could not find the right shot that would beat Kasdorf. With 11 seconds left in the game, Mark McGowan sealed things tight with an empty netter for his sixth goal of the year.

With the win, RPI moved themselves into second place, alone, but St. Lawrence and Union, who completed their victories and weekend sweeps, lurk close behind in third just a point away, and Dartmouth and Yale are within one night of catching the Engineers as well, tied for fifth just two points back. That makes these last four games a sprint to the finish, and RPI only has a slight edge going into the last two weeks. They'll need to keep things going if they want to hold their hard-fought position.

Other junk - RPI earned 34 votes in this week's poll, more than any other team that did not reach the Top 20 this week. Ranked ECAC teams this week were #1 Quinnipiac (lost to SLU and beat Clarkson, no change with 34 first place votes), #13 Yale (swept by Union and RPI, down three), #19 Dartmouth (lost to Cornell and beat Colgate, down two), and #20 Union (swept Yale and Brown, re-entered the rankings). St. Lawrence (20) and Colgate (1) also received votes. Other ranked teams on the Engineers' schedule include #5 New Hampshire (no change), #7 St. Cloud State (up one), #9 Minnesota State (no change), and #15 Boston University (down two). Ferris State (9) also received votes.

Jason Kasdorf is up to third in the nation in goals against average at 1.52, and fifth in save percentage at .942.

The one goal Kasdorf gave up against Brown was the first 5-on-5 goal he has given up at Houston Field House since the first period against Princeton on November 30. Following that goal, he had given up four power play goals, one shorthanded goal, and one extra attacker goal, but none at even strength in seven games - and the one goal given up against Yale was also a power play goal.

Nick Bailen is on a total point scoring tear, with five goals in the last four games, and is now tied for fifth in the nation in scoring from defensemen at 0.83 points per game.

Since the beginning of their eight-game league winning streak, RPI is 11-for-27 on the power play, which translates to a conversion rate of 40.7%. That's a big part of why the power play is suddenly 10th in the nation (21.7%) despite its early season struggles.

With Quinnipiac's loss on Friday to St. Lawrence, RPI now has the nation's longest unbeaten streak tied with, of all teams, American International, though all six games in RPI's unbeaten streak were wins, which is also the nation's longest winning streak.

RPI next goes on their final road weekend of the season, which, if all goes well, could be the last time the team leaves Troy until a potential date in Atlantic City if they can get the job done. The teams they face, Cornell and Colgate, are tied for 10th in the league, but Cornell did pick up three points last weekend. These are games that, if RPI wants to pick up that first-round bye for the first time, need to produce points.

ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 32 points (15-1-2)
2. RPI - 21 points (9-6-3)
3. St. Lawrence - 20 points (8-6-4)
4. Union - 20 points (8-6-4)
5. Yale - 19 points (9-8-1)
6. Dartmouth - 19 points (8-7-3)
7. Clarkson - 17 points (7-8-3)
8. Princeton - 17 points (7-8-3)
9. Brown - 15 points (5-8-5)
10. Cornell - 13 points (5-10-3)
11. Colgate - 13 points (5-10-3)
12. Harvard - 10 points (4-12-2)

Brown at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/15/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 5, Brown 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 13-11-5 (8-6-3 ECAC, 19 points)

#10 Yale at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
216/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Yale 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 14-11-5 (9-6-3 ECAC, 21 points)

Upcoming games
22 Feb - at Cornell
23 Feb - at Colgate
02 Mar - Clarkson
03 Mar - St. Lawrence
08 Mar OR 15 Mar - ECAC Playoffs

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