Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Men's Hockey - Denver, US Under-18 Team (13/14/15 Dec)

The RPI Engineers closed out their 2013 schedule with a back-to-back-to-back home helping of hockey that will be their last in Troy for over a month, for the first time taking on a program from the new NCHC in welcoming Denver to town. A pair of very evenly matched games did not turn out 100% in the Engineers favor, but both games went to overtime, producing a 2-1 loss and a 1-1 tie to complete the calendar year's competitive game slate. On Sunday afternoon, an exhibition game gave RPI fans the first opportunity to see Jake Soffer in action, and he did quite well in backstopping an unofficial 2-1 victory over the US Under-18 national development program team.

Denver (Friday)
Neal-Higgs-Haggerty
Laliberte-Zalewski-Bubela
Tinordi-Rogic-Schroeder
Bourbonnais-McGowan-DeVito

Leboeuf-Leonard
Bradley-Dolan
Curadi-Hampton

Diebold

Parker Reno was pulled from the RPI lineup in favor of Phil Hampton for the two Denver games, with most of the remainder of the forward lineup consisting of the Engineers who were healthy - Travis Fulton was the lone healthy scratch up front.

The list of injuries for the forwards grew by one almost right off the bat as Jacob Laliberte suffered a separated shoulder mere seconds into his first shift of the game, leaving the Engieners with a short bench for just about the entire contest. That didn't stop them from jumping out to a quick lead as they have done for nearly the whole season, with Brock Higgs notching his 12th goal of the year just 2:30 into the contest to give RPI the 1-0 lead that they have earned with such frequency.

On the other end, Scott Diebold stood tall in net, stopping all 13 shots that he saw during the first period. The Engineers maintained that one goal lead for 32 solid minutes thanks in part to the junior netminder's play. RPI was outshot in the first 40 minutes 26-14, and in all honesty just about all of those shots for RPI came in the first 10 minutes of the 1st period and the last five or so of the 2nd.

The lead came to an end with just over five minutes left to play in the middle frame as Denver scored a goal in transition to tie things up. That woke up an RPI offense that had been sluggish to be kind during the 2nd period, which has become a habit almost as strong as the early goals.

A lackluster third period followed which was devoid of any real sense of drama despite the tie score. Neither team appeared close to scoring in the period, which saw Scott Diebold add another 10 saves to his record for the weekend.

Ultimately, the game hinged only on a defensive lapse while Denver was in transition with about two minutes left in the overtime period. The Pioneers took advantage of out-of-position defensemen to score with a considerable amount of open ice, providing the difference in a game in which RPI did not play its best hockey but was right in until the end.

Denver (Saturday)
Neal-Higgs-Haggerty
Fulton-Zalewski-Bubela
Tinordi-Rogic-Schroeder
Bourbonnais-McGowan-DeVito

Leboeuf-Leonard
Bradley-Dolan
Curadi-Hampton

Diebold

Laliberte was listed on the initial line chart and planned to participate in the pre-game warmup, but was quickly replaced by Travis Fulton in what ended up a lost weekend for the junior. The lineup otherwise was exactly the same as Friday night.

The Engineers outshot Denver 7-4 in the opening period on Saturday, but failed to score a first period goal for only the fourth time this season. Meanwhile, the second period struggles continued, as RPI managed only 6 shots on goal in the period.

Saturday night's game was scoreless for the first 38 minutes and change, but Denver opened the scoring on a beautiful goal highly reminiscent of Brock Higgs' highlight reel goal against Princeton as the Pioneers took a 1-0 lead in the dying minutes of the second period.

But a pair of Denver penalties for roughing combined with a Mike Zalewski roughing call put RPI on the power play seconds later, and the Engineers converted with Matt Neal scoring his 7th goal of the season with only four seconds left in the period to tie the game back up just 1:08 after Denver had taken their only lead of the weekend.

For the second straight night, the third period only brought further deadlock and not much in the way of excitement. Denver turned on the jets in the overtime period, forcing Scott Diebold to be sharp with five saves, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The Engineers managed only 19 shots on Saturday night, most of which did not feature a rebound from the solid Denver netminder, Sam Brittain.

The tie marked the first time this season the Engineers did not lose a game in which Ryan Haggerty failed to score a goal. Diebold put together a very solid weekend against a team that's struggling to score, but 68 saves on 71 shots is decent no matter how you slice it.

US Under-18 Team
Neal-Higgs-Haggerty
McGowan-Zalewski-DeVito
Tinordi-Bubela-Schroeder
Fulton-Rogic-Bourbonnais

Curadi-Reno
Bradley-Dolan
Leboeuf-Leonard
Bokenfohr

Soffer

Although exhibition rules allow a team to dress as many players as will fit on the bench, a lack of healthy forwards left RPI with just 12 up front, and with Phil Hampton seeing little ice time late in the Saturday game against Denver, only one extra defenseman suited up in Craig Bokenfohr. The biggest change, of course, was in net, where freshman Jake Soffer got his unofficial first start in net, or at least his first game action for RPI.

Soffer looked a little bit shaky on his first save, giving up a big rebound that the U-18s buried rather quickly to make it 1-0 just 66 seconds into the game, but it would be his only mistake of the evening. His team helped him have a relatively quiet first 40 minutes as Soffer faced just 9 shots in the first two periods.

Meanwhile, the game was rather chippy from the outset, and that eventually played into RPI's hands. Matt Neal scored 1:14 into the second period on the power play to make it 1-1, and Riley Bourbonnais followed up at 7:37 to make it 2-1. Neal would eventually leave with what was reported to be a dislocated elbow, a worse-case scenario for RPI to be sure, but while he would not return, he is not expected to miss time down the road.

Most notable other than the two RPI goals in the second period was the shot onslaught that the Engineers produced, unleashing 20 shots in the period alone, more than they had managed in the entire 65 minutes against Denver a night prior. That diminished sharply in the third period, as momentum changed drastically with the U-18s outshooting RPI 13-1 in the final period, but it was in the third that Soffer encouraged some optimism in the RPI faithful standing strong in net against a team that was definitely looking to get itself back into the game. He finished with 21 saves on 22 shots.

Other junk - The "one-point" weekend knocked the Engineers back out of the USCHO poll, becoming instead the top unranked vote getter for the second time in three weeks with 54, 13 away from #20 Minnesota State. Ranked ECAC teams include #6 Union (beat and tied St. Cloud State, up four), #8 Quinnipiac (idle, down one), #9 Clarkson (idle, up one), #11 Yale (idle, no change), and #15 Cornell (idle, down one). No other ECAC teams received votes this week. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (up one with 32 first place votes), #2 Ferris State (up two with 12 first place votes), #7 Boston College (down one), and #17 Denver (up three). New Hampshire (18) and Mercyhurst (3) also received votes.

Despite no goals on the weekend, Ryan Haggerty continues to lead the nation in goals with 18, still five ahead of second place. He remains the only player in the country with more than one goal per game at 1.06. With 1.53 points per game, he is alone in 6th in the nation in that category, and he leads the country in power play goals (8) and is tied for the national lead in game-winning goals (4) with Matt Bailey of Alaska-Anchorage.

Brock Higgs is now on 12 goals, which is tied for 7th in the nation - one more on the weekend (the Neal goal was originally credited to him) would have tied him for 2nd. His 1.11 points per game is tied for 36th in the country.

Jacob Laliberte and Matt Neal are both sitting on 1.00 points per game, tying them for 49th in the nation there. Laliberte is 23rd in assists per game with 0.76.

RPI's team offense, thanks to a pair of one goal efforts, is now outside the national Top 10 for the first time this season at 3.44 goals per game.

The Engineers have a tall task ahead of them after the New Year, as they take on the #2 team in the country, Ferris State. The Bulldogs have the longest unbeaten streak in the nation at 15 games. Beyond that game, RPI could find itself facing off with #1 Minnesota on the Gophers' home ice if the chips fall correctly. That's a tough weekend no matter how you slice it.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 16 points (8-1-0)
2. Quinnipiac - 14 points (6-2-2)
3. Clarkson - 12 points (6-2-0)
4. Colgate - 11 points (5-3-1)
5. Cornell - 10 points (4-3-2)
6. Yale - 9 points (3-2-3)
7. RPI - 9 points (3-3-3)
8. Brown - 7 points (3-4-1)
9. St. Lawrence - 6 points (2-4-2)
10. Harvard - 6 points (2-6-2)
11. Dartmouth - 4 points (2-8-0, -16 GD)
12. Princeton - 4 points (2-8-0, -19 GD)

#20 Denver at #18 RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/13/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Denver 2, RPI 1 (OT)

BOX SCORES
College Hockey Stats
USCHO
RECORD: 8-6-3 (2-3-3 ECAC, 7 pts)

#20 Denver at #18 RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/14/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 1, Denver 1 (OT)


RECORD: 8-6-4 (3-3-3 ECAC, 9 pts)

US Under-18 Team at #18 RPI
Exhibition Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/15/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, US Under-18 Team 1

BOX SCORES

RECORD: 8-6-4 (3-3-3 ECAC, 9 pts)

Upcoming games
03 Jan - vs. #2 Ferris State (Minneapolis, MN)
04 Jan - vs. #1 Minnesota OR Colgate (Minneapolis, MN)
10 Jan - at Princeton
11 Jan - at #8 Quinnipiac
24 Jan - Dartmouth

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