Thursday, March 28, 2013

Luck of the Draw

Tunnel vision is rarely a good thing. It may keep you focused on what's important, but you miss all the stuff around the edges that can have an impact on that which is important.

It's been about a week and a half since RPI's unexpected end to their season (and a little under a week since that was made official by a string of bizarre results across the nation), and the frustration has some people getting upset with the prolongation of the team's struggle to reach the ECAC semifinals. The drought now sits at 11 straight without making an appearance in either Albany or Atlantic City, and it's in no small part due to three home playoff series in the last four years that the Engineers were unable to win.

If you've got tunnel vision, the answer is simple. RPI simply can't get over the hump, and it's the coach's fault.

Here's the problem with that line of thinking - each series is different, even if the end result is the same.

And yet, as different as those series were, there's one thing about them that needs to be pointed out: what happened afterwards.

You see, tunnel vision ignores the input of the other team in how things turn out, and in all three cases, that other team was pretty clearly doing OK.

In 2010, RPI dropped a three-game series to Brown. The Engineers weren't huge favorites to advance to Albany that season, but for the first time in several years it didn't seem like something that would have been a shock if it had happened. As the home team, they were favored to beat a Brown team that had gone 3-10-3 since New Year's. They dropped Game 1, came back strong in Game 2, and lost a comeback attempt in Game 3 by one goal, 3-2.

What happened after that? Well, Brown went on to play against the #1 seed in the ECAC, Yale. They went down to Ingalls Rink and defeated the best team in the league in three games, eventually claiming 3rd place in Albany.

In 2011, RPI dropped a three-game series to last place Colgate. Despite a rough stretch late in the season that cost the Engineers a crack at a first-round bye, optimism was high that RPI could at least dispatch a Colgate team suffering a horrendous season to earn the right to take on a Cornell team that they'd tied in the standings. Again, as the home team, they were favored over a Colgate squad that had failed to register a victory in each of their first 15 league games. They dropped Game 1, came back strong in Game 2, and took Game 3 to two overtimes before falling.

What happened after that? Colgate went to the #1 seed in the ECAC the following week, taking on Union. They defeated the best team in the league in three games and earned the right to head to Atlantic City despite  not picking up their first league win until February.

This season, RPI dropped a three-game series to Brown once again, with the major difference being that this time, it was in the quarterfinal round thanks to a torrid end to the season for the Engineers. This time it was Atlantic City or bust, and even though Brown certainly had some things going for them, RPI was still the solid favorite. They dropped game one, came back strong in Game 2, and lost a comeback attempt in Game 3 by one goal, 3-2. (Whoa. Deja vu.)

What happened after that? Brown went to Atlantic City to take on the #1 seed in the ECAC, Quinnipiac. They not only beat the best team in the league - and for much of the season, the nation - they did it going away, with four goals in a little over 35 minutes for a 4-0 victory.

So before you become obsessed with the tunnel vision look, remember these two very important items.

1) RPI did not roll over for these teams. In each case, the Game 1 loss resulted in a fired-up, big victory in Game 2, eventually creating an all-out war in Game 3 that RPI came up just short in each time.

2) Each of the teams the Engineers faced went on to take on the top seed in the tournament afterwards, and defeated them - in other words, it wasn't just some fluke.

After pointing out item 2 on Twitter last week, I got a response (the seriousness of which I am unsure of) which claimed that 2010 Brown, 2011 Colgate, and 2013 Brown found success against the #1 seeds because they were energized after beating RPI, who played poorly.

I honestly don't know what to say to that. Beating a team that's playing poorly all it takes to get up and beat the best team in the league, or perhaps the best team played poorly too?

At any rate, understand that there's no RPI fan who isn't disappointed by what we've seen in the last four years in terms of playoff hockey in Troy - but sometimes, you just end up with a team that is figuring things out at the right time, and you make little mistakes. For instance, Game 1 was not good for RPI, and the team made little errors early in Game 3 that ended up costing them the game and the series.

But let's not blow this into something it's not. It would be one thing if RPI was just playing poorly and getting run by losers. It's another thing to simply have the bad luck to run into a number of teams willing and, more importantly, able to turn their seasons around at the end.

Put this a different way - RPI finds some bounce of the puck against Colgate in 2011 that allows them to score during some part of the 30 minutes of overtime that was played in Game 3, and there's not much of a link anymore, is there?

Time to suck it up and go back at it next season... which is shaping up to be a fun one if we can meet potential.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thank You

Yesterday was almost a complete disaster for RPI and basically every other team on the bubble. After getting the wrong results in both games on Thursday, the first three straight games went poorly for the Engineers, and after finally getting one good result (barely), one more bad game was all it took to mathematically eliminate RPI from contention for the NCAA tournament. They needed favorites to win, usually a good place to be. Favorites have been falling left and right. Some teams that were thought to be virtual locks are now sweating it out today.

So amidst the absolute wreckage that is... well, basically every conference tournament out there, allow us to step aside from the mess with just one simple message.

Thank you.

#14 Greg Burgdoerfer - East Setauket, NY - Business and Management
#22 C.J. Lee - Staten Island, NY -  Mechanical Engineering
#27 Marty O'Grady - London, ON - Business and Management
#29 Nick Bailen - Fredonia, NY - Business and Management
#32 Bryce Merriam - Bethel Park, PA - Business and Management


#5 Katie Daniels - Rockton, IL - Mechanical Engineering
#15 Taylor Horton - St. Thomas, ON - Interdisciplinary Science/Psychology
#17 Clare Padmore - Toronto, ON - Civil Engineering
#21 Andie Le Donne - Toronto, ON - Communications
#26 Kristen Jakubowski - Colorado Springs, CO - Biomedical Engineering

Friday, March 22, 2013

Favored Sons

Well, we wanted Minnesota State and North Dakota, we got Wisconsin and Colorado College. Not the best start, but fortunately we're not in a position to be do-or-die anywhere just yet... although we're looking at some BIG games today.

With the two setbacks, RPI's KRACH-weighted odds of making the national tournament now sits at 14.8794%. The Engineers can no longer finish 13th in the Pairwise, the best they can now hope for is 14th (587 scenarios of a possible 32,296).

We've got the same 12 teams that are locks or virtual locks. Here's where we stand with the rest of the at-large hopefuls.
Notre Dame - 85.9161%
Western Michigan - 81.9957%
Union - 54.5077%
Wisconsin - 25.1730%
Boston University - 19.5755%
Providence - 18.7168%
Rensselaer - 14.8784%
Robert Morris - 0.8433%

Alaska has been eliminated from NCAA contention due to CC's win over North Dakota.

All of those figures are down from yesterday with the exception of Wisconsin, naturally. RPI and Union took the biggest hits (as did RMU, if you consider that they were at least above 3% yesterday), the others were minimal at best.

It should go without saying that we want our closest competitors for an at-large bid to lose ASAP. That means we'd like to get those four teams ahead of us out tonight, if possible. Since all four are playing teams that are guaranteed to be in the tournament anyway, it makes much of what we're hoping to see today very academic.

Here's the schedule, all times eastern.

St. Cloud State over Wisconsin

Quinnipiac over Brown
Niagara over Canisius

UMass-Lowell over Providence

Yale over Union
Mercyhurst over UConn

Boston College over Boston University
Minnesota over Colorado College

The Mercyhurst/UConn game has been hard to draw a bead on for sure, in part because it's probably the least important game of the night for the Engineers, but also because there are different potential reasons for supporting either team. Ultimately, our gut instinct is to take Mercyhurst. Why? Because RPI played the Lakers this year (winning twice), which suggests a better PWR boost if they win tonight. They are lower rated in KRACH than UConn, suggesting that if Niagara advances as we hope they will, the Purps would be more heavily favored against Mercyhurst than against the Huskies.

Despite this, the Engineers appear to be better off in the KRACH-weighted odds if UConn wins, even though a Mercyhurst victory leaves more paths to an at-large bid open. We're sticking with our gut and taking the Lakers - which could be irrelevant if Niagara wins anyway.

The good news? We're rooting for higher seeds in every game but the Mercyhurst/UConn game.

The bad news? Losses for our teams in any of the five biggest games - SCSU/UW, Niagara/Canisius, UML/PC, Yale/UC, and BC/BU - would be difficult to swallow.

With the CCHA on a Saturday/Sunday schedule this year, it's likely we won't know for sure if the Engineers are in the tournament until Sunday. If they're definitively out, that could come today or tomorrow.

We'll keep you updated via Twitter as the day progresses. Starting at three, we'll also have a chat here at WaP if you wish to keep caught up on what's going on around the country in real time.

Once more unto the breach, friends.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hacking the Pairwise, 2013

You may remember that, two years ago, with the Engineers sitting out for two full weeks waiting to find out what their fate would be, RPI junior Reilly Hamilton, in part spurred by impatient RPI fans, decided to go ahead and calculate what the odds were. We found out after the conference quarterfinals were all over that the odds were actually pretty decent - one week out, the Tute was sitting on an 81% chance of playing in the NCAAs, a result that was borne out by the end.

This year, the calculations are easier (the CCHA has ditched their consolation game, significantly dropping the number of potential scenarios) but the slog is significantly higher.

According to Reilly's calculations this year, (that would now be RPI grad Reilly) the Engineers currently sit at a 20.9488% chance of picking up an NCAA bid.

That's not stellar. But on the other hand, it's actually not that bad when you look at the full collection of at-large bubble teams - underscoring the need to have as few tournament upsets as possible.

So how does it work? We can do the heavy lifting to simply determine what the percentage is on the number of scenarios that put the Engineers in the tournament - the figure is under 10% - but that presumes that each and every scenario is equally likely. Instead, Reilly weights potential scenarios using KRACH, perhaps the best option out there for comparing teams to each other. As he mentions, there's no really good way of using KRACH to determine the odds of a tie, but with only one game left that can end in a tie - the ECAC consolation - it's not an overly major concern.

Here's what it says.

There are seven teams, as we mentioned on Tuesday, that will be in no matter what happens as of right now (teams with no games remaining are in italics):
Quinnipiac (#1)
Minnesota (#2)
Miami (#3-#6)
UMass-Lowell (#3-#10)
Boston College (#3-#10)
North Dakota (#3-#11)
New Hampshire (#5-#11)

Then there are five other teams that are at over 99% in terms of scenarios that have them in. These teams are functionally in the tournament:
Minnesota State (#3-#13)
Denver (#9-#13)
Niagara (#4-#14)
Yale (#3-#14)
St. Cloud State (#4-#15)

So that's 12 teams that are in. The odds of teams on the bubble for an at-large:
Notre Dame - 87.9112%
Western Michigan - 86.8950%
Union - 60.1731%
Rensselaer - 20.9488%
Boston University - 19.7945%
Providence - 18.7914%
Wisconsin - 9.9528%
Robert Morris - 3.1676%
Alaska - 0.0324%

This is where we start to see why it's important to have favorites (especially teams in that 12 team group that are already in the tournament) winning this coming weekend. Especially if we can get losses as soon as possible by BU, Providence, and Wisconsin, the Engineers actually stand a decent chance of being that last team in as long as upsets are kept at a minimum.

For teams that must win their tournament to make the NCAAs:
UConn - 23.5290%
Mercyhurst - 17.4484%
Ohio State - 14.3688%
Canisius - 13.1246%
Michigan - 11.7761%
Brown - 10.3210%
Colorado College - 3.7661%

So, where do we go from here? Well, Reilly has already done the calculations for tonight's WCHA Final Five games.

The most important one, as we expected, was the game taking place at 3pm Eastern time between Minnesota State and Wisconsin. If the Mavericks win, the Engineers will see their odds boosted almost 5%. If the Badgers win, the odds go down over 5%. That makes this one of the weekend's key games.

As far as the Colorado College/North Dakota game, it doesn't seem to be all that important, since the changes are not that big - though for some reason, a Colorado College win provides a small boost, while a North Dakota win provides a small hit. Not overly important, but if that's the case we probably prefer CC, although if UND does win, it helps end the very slight possibility of an upset champion from the WCHA (completely ending it if MSU and UND both win). That should be more important in the long run.

We'll have more updates as Reilly reruns his program after each night's activity.

As for today:
Minnesota State over Wisconsin
North Dakota over Colorado College

It's not an optimal situation, of course - but it's better than being where the other three ECAC quarterfinal losers are now: knowing there's no hope for an NCAA bid.

Go Mavericks!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 5

This is going to be a somewhat easy pull this week. No nitty gritty details, just the basic facts.

The Engineers are currently in a five-way tie for 16th in the Pairwise with Wisconsin, Providence, Boston University, and Alaska. This breaks out to a 19th place position in the rankings, and currently out of the tournament. See the full ranking here.

Since Rensselaer is currently not in the tournament, we're going to forgo the bracket today. The bottom line is that the Engineers need help to keep their season alive, and it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could finish as high as 13th, which with some frequency would see them earning an at-large bid to the NCAAs as long as there weren't an insane number of tournament upsets that go along.

Here's what we need.

1) As few upsets in the conference tournaments as possible. A result would be considered an upset if a tournament is won by any team listed below:

Atlantic Hockey: UConn, Mercyhurst, or Canisius.
CCHA: Ohio State or Michigan.
ECAC: Union or Brown.
Hockey East: Boston University or Providence.
WCHA: Wisconsin or Colorado College.

These teams, almost across the board, we want to lose as soon as possible. Almost without exception, these are teams that would not be in the tournament if they do not win their league tournament, which means they could displace potential at-large teams (Union is a special case). There's only one game currently out there that pits two of these teams against each other - Mercyhurst and UConn - and in every other case these teams are playing higher seeded teams in their next game. There is a reason to support Ohio State in their game, however, due to their opponent (Notre Dame).

2) Losses by teams around the Engineers in the Pairwise. Of the teams they're currently tied with, Alaska is already done, and the other three we already see above we are rooting against. We can add to this list Union, for whom two losses in Atlantic City would be extremely helpful in getting the Tute into the NCAAs.

3) Wins by teams the Engineers played outside of the ECAC, where possible. These will provide the best possible boosts to Rensselaer's RPI now that they can't provide their own anymore. This means Mercyhurst, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota State. The latter two we can root for continuously. The first we can only cheer for in the first round. Boston University, being a team in direct competition for an at-large position, is not a team we can support.

4) Notre Dame is being bolstered greatly by Michigan being a TUC (they have a 4-0-0 record against the Wolverines), which provides extra incentive to root against Michigan, as a loss should drop them off the TUC cliff.

So here's what we're hoping to see as of right now. The most important results are in bold. This is somewhat subject to change based on actual occurring events, which we will cover on Friday and Saturday. Explanations listed below.

Minnesota State over Wisconsin - RPI boost, plus it likely eliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
North Dakota over Colorado College - Eliminates a potential upset champion.

St. Cloud State over whoever they play - RPI boost (Engineers had better record vs. SCSU than MSU), could potentially eliminate at-large contender/potential upset champion if UW beats MSU.
Quinnipiac over Brown - Eliminates a potential upset champion.
Niagara over Canisius - Eliminates a potential upset champion.
UMass-Lowell over Providence - Eliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
Yale over Union - Hurts an at-large contender and eliminates a potential upset champion.
Mercyhurst over UConn - RPI boost.
Boston College over Boston UniversityEliminates an at-large contender and potential upset champion.
Minnesota over whoever they play - Probably not important unless Minnesota is playing Colorado College.

Ohio State over Notre Dame - Allows a potential upset champion into the title game but deals an RPI blow to the Fighting Irish.
Miami over Michigan - Eliminates a potential upset champion and drops Michigan as a TUC.

As far as we can tell, the Engineers' best case scenario would land them 13th in the Pairwise, a better position than they were in for the 2011 tournament. They would be the top-rated #4 seed in the tournament and would stand a pretty solid likelihood of being placed in Manchester against what would likely be the Hockey East champion (either Boston College or UMass-Lowell).

There are, no doubt, other ways for the Engineers to get into the tournament. There are apparently reasons to support UConn over Mercyhurst. Please, feel free to share with us some of your best ways to get the Engineers into the tournament - hit us up with the link to the right (contact us), one of the best ways to examine potential paths is through the You Are The Committee tool.

We're hoping to have more information before Thursday on what we can expect out of the Pairwise this weekend. Two years ago, we hacked the Pairwise to determine what each team's odds were on making the tournament, we're hoping to do that again this season.

The "bubble" currently consists of Western Michigan, Union, Wisconsin, Providence, Boston University, Rensselaer, Alaska, and Robert Morris as far as teams that can potentially get in with an at-large bid or that have a realistic likelihood of falling out of the current tournament field. Those eight teams are in the running for what should end up being between one and three slots, depending on  how many upsets there are in the conference tournaments (operating under the assumption that anything more than two upsets is unlikely - three would almost certainly require these teams listed to win their conference's automatic bid).

As far as what we know about seeding, Quinnipiac is locked into the #1 overall seed and will play in Providence unless Brown wins the ECAC tournament (they would be seeded as the #4 seed in Providence as hosts and could not play QU), in which case they would play in Manchester. This means the Engineers have no possible method for ending up in Providence, should they make the tournament.

Minnesota will be the #2 overall seed and be placed as the #1 seed in Grand Rapids.

Other potential #1 seeds are Miami, Boston College, Yale, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, Niagara, and St. Cloud State.

Thus, since the Engineers can only possibly be a #4 seed, should they play in the tournament, they would play one of the teams mentioned in the two sentences above with the exception of Yale.

Quinnipiac, Minnesota, Miami, Boston College, UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, and New Hampshire are guaranteed NCAA bids - there is no scenario where these teams miss the tournament. New Hampshire, as hosts in Manchester, will be either the #2 or #3 seed in that regional (it is mathematically possible for them to be a #4 seed, but exceptionally unlikely).

Yale, Notre Dame, Minnesota State, Niagara, St. Cloud State, and Denver are essentially assured of making the tournament. None are a lock, but something weird would have to happen for them to be out.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Men's Hockey - ECAC Quarterfinals (15/16/17 Mar)

Another year, another wasted opportunity for RPI in the ECAC playoffs. For the 11th consecutive season, the Engineers will miss the ECAC semifinal round, as they fell in three games against the 7th ranked Brown Bears, dropping Game 1 by a 3-1 score, bouncing back for a 6-2 victory in Game 2, and then losing a heartwrenching Game 3, 3-2, despite long stretches of dominant play.

Game 1



No changes to the RPI lineup once again, marking the seventh straight game that the Engineers fielded the same lineup with the same lines.

Coming into the game, we mentioned that one of the things the Engineers needed to accomplish on the weekend was to stop the line that included sophomore forward Matt Lorito. Eight minutes into the first period, RPI got caught playing lax defense in their own zone with the Lorito line on the ice, and the Bears capitalized. With an extended opportunity in the RPI zone resembling a power play, Brown got on the board first with a goal by Lorito to make the score 1-0, a happenstance that allowed the Bears to push the focus on their forecheck and defensive mechanisms, which they tend to employ once they have a lead of any sort.

Poor decision making, passing, and puck handling were the stories of the night for the Engineers, who simply could not get any kind of sustained offense going for most of the first two periods of the game, especially following the Lorito goal. To make matters worse, RPI's outstanding power play was kept on the sidelines by an officiating crew that let pretty much anything go all night long for both teams, a net benefit to Brown, whose special teams on both sides of the puck were less than stellar during the regular season.

RPI did get two power play chances in the first two periods. The first came late in the first period, spilling over into the second period but yielding no results. The second occurred late in the second period, and this one proved fruitful as Jacob Laliberte scored his 10th goal of the season in the final minute of the period to tie the game up at one.

With the score tied, things opened up a bit more for the Engineers as Brown needed another goal. This gave the Engineers the opportunity to put more pucks on net than they had in the first two periods, but they were unable to find a way past Anthony Borelli, the other major factor for Brown heading into the weekend. Despite decent puck possession, RPI simply could not find the go ahead goal.

The tipping point came with about two minutes left in regulation. Mark McGowan was absolutely mugged on his way to retrieve the puck deep in the Brown zone, which would have left him in excellent position for a quality scoring opportunity. The uncalled interference - a penalty which went uncalled all night and only once all weekend despite copious examples from both teams - resulted in a turnover, and Brown rushed down the ice in transition, beating Jason Kasdorf with only 1:44 left in the third period to give the Bears a 2-1 edge.

RPI called timeout, and Kasdorf hit the bench after the Engineers got control of the ensuing faceoff. RPI put together few decent chances during the extra attacker stretch, and Brown eventually got it out and scored on the empty net from the RPI blue line, going up 3-1 with 10 seconds left and securing the Game 1 victory.

Game 2



Despite the loss, injury concerns left RPI's lineup untouched for the eight straight game - essentially, there was no one left to be swapped in even if they wanted to change things up. With line chemistry essential this late in the game, a juggling of lines was also out of the question.

The Engineers came out on a mission with their backs against the wall, and they did a decent job of controlling play in the first 20 minutes despite not getting the results they were looking for. Then the officiating reared its ugly head once again. Seconds after Brock Higgs was taken down after blocking a shot into the neutral zone to negate what would have likely been a breakaway, Milos Bubela was called for elbowing on what appeared to be a clean hit, not only being called for the penalty but picking up a major and a game misconduct as well. That was a double whammy that put the Engineers on a long penalty kill situation late in the first period.

RPI knuckled down, killing off the first portion of the penalty in the first period, then a further 1:10 of the major in the first period before a Brown penalty for too many men ended the power play. That power play failed to produce, but the Engineers would grab the key first goal about two minutes later as C.J. Lee scored his sixth goal of the season to put RPI up 1-0. That was followed on three and a half minutes later by Curtis Leonard, whose blast from the blue line put the Engineers up 2-0.

Brown, to their credit, did not fold. They scored their first goal of the night in a similar way as their first goal from Friday, with an extended offensive zone push from the Matt Lorito line. This time, the Bears actually were on the power play, and Lorito's 19th goal of the season cut RPI's lead in half.

Two minutes later, the Engineers were back on the penalty kill when top Brown defenseman Dennis Robertson leveled Nick Bailen behind the play with a vicious knee after Bailen had cleared the puck down the ice. Bailen got up limping and left the game, while Robertson was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct.

The power play got off to an ignoble start for RPI, as some lax moves to recover a puck outside the zone gave an opportunistic Brown the chance to pounce on the puck and create a shorthanded odd-man rush, which connected to tie the score at two. But minutes later, the Engineers converted on the power play as Jacob Laliberte scored in the last minute of the second period for the second time in as many nights to give RPI the lead once more, 3-2.

The Engineers turned on the afterburners in the third period, playing their best hockey of the weekend and quickly ensuring that there would be hockey on Sunday night. Mike Zalewski scored a pair of even strength goals a little over two and a half minutes apart to make the score 5-2, chasing Anthony Borelli out of the Brown net. Chippiness ensued for the remaining 10 minutes, including  late hit by Greg Burgdoerfer that probably should have seen the senior forward tossed from the game but didn't even result in a penalty. Burgdoerfer would then score with 9 seconds left in the contest to make the final score 6-2 in favor of the home team.

Game 3



Nick Bailen, it was announced in the newspaper on Sunday morning, had suffered a charley horse and would be ready to go by game time. However, as he came out for warmups, he was certainly missing something on his stride and he quickly returned to the locker room. Unable to play, the Engineers' leading scorer was replaced by Phil Hampton, RPI's only healthy reserve defenseman, who had appeared in just three games prior to Sunday night's deciding Game 3. The only other option that the Engineers had would have been to roll with five defensemen, adding Andrew Commers to the lineup as an extra forward.

The Engineers dominated puck possession practically from start to finish on Sunday night, outshooting the Bears on a 2-to-1 ratio in the first period alone, but costly mistakes in transition were capitalized upon by the visitors. Brown scored two goals 50 seconds apart in the middle of the period to go up 2-0, a deficit that seemed enormous due to Brown's proclivity for playing lock-down defense with the lead.

That margin only worsened five minutes into the second period, as another fast-breaking transition turned into a Brown goal on a weak move by Jason Kasdorf, sending Brown up 3-0 and making things look very bleak indeed. That all three goals happened against the flow of play, which was still being dominated by RPI, made things all the more frustrating for the Engineer fans filling Houston Field House.

But rather than pack it in, RPI came back with a renewed effort, especially late in the period. Mark McGowan broke the Engineers onto the board with 2:35 left in the second to cut Brown's lead to 3-1, then just under two minutes later, in the final minute of the second period, Mike Zalewski scored to make it 3-2, injecting life into the crowd and giving RPI the momentum and the initiative heading into the third period.

There, in the final period of the final game, the Engineers poured it on in search of the tying goal. With the Field House rocking, Brown retreated almost completely into their own zone, turning the third period into one giant penalty kill, albeit at even strength for basically the entire period. They committed to keeping the Engineers limited to mostly low percentage opportunities, but RPI came oh so close to tying the score on multiple occasions. It seemed as though a tying goal was practically inevitable, but eventually, time became a factor and the Engineers still had yet to find that goal.

With 1:40 left in the game, both teams used their timeouts, and Jason Kasdorf was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Brown's desperate defense bent practically all the way over, but never broke. A boarding call against the Bears produced a 6-on-4 situation with 16 seconds remaining, but even that extra advantage was not enough, and far less than winning, the Bears escaped with a 3-2 victory, enough to give them a 2-1 series win, ending RPI's dreams of a berth in the league semifinals for the first time since 2002.

With the loss, the Engineers are now at the mercy of the Pairwise Rankings to find out if their season will continue. The good news is that they are not done yet, but they do need a few things to go their way if they are to continue playing in the NCAA tournament in two weeks. Nothing to do now but wait and see if things fall into place as they did two years ago for a berth in the regionals.

Other junk - RPI dropped three spots from 16th to 19th in the national rankings due to their series loss to Brown. Other ranked ECAC teams include #2 Quinnipiac (beat Cornell 2 games to 1, down one with 27 first place votes, more than any other team), #11 Yale (swept SLU, up two), and #18 Union (swept Dartmouth, up one).

Mike Zalewski's three goals in the series gives him 12 for the season, which is the most for an RPI freshman since Kevin Croxton netted 15 in 2003. That ties him for the team lead in goals with Nick Bailen and Ryan Haggerty, making him the first freshman to lead the team in goals since Tyler Helfrich with 9 in 2008 (tied with senior Jonathan Ornelas).

Seth Appert is a finalist for the ECAC's Coach of the Year award. Player nominations have yet to be announced, but one has to suspect that Jason Kasdorf will be a finalist for both the Rookie of the Year and the Goaltender of the Year awards.

RPI had not lost at home for the first time since December in Game 1, snapping a nine-game winning streak.

ECAC Semifinals
#7 Brown vs. #1 Quinnipiac
#4 Union vs. #3 Yale

Brown at #16 RPI
ECAC Quarterfinal Game 1 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/15/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Brown 3, RPI 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 17-13-5 (12-7-3 ECAC, 27 points)

Brown at #16 RPI
ECAC Quarterfinal Game 2 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/16/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 6, Brown 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 18-13-5 (12-7-3 ECAC, 27 points)

Brown at #16 RPI
ECAC Quarterfinal Game 3 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/17/13 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Brown 3, RPI 2

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 18-14-5 (12-7-3 ECAC, 27 points)

Upcoming games
29 Mar or 30 Mar - NCAA Regional (if qualified)
30 Mar or 31 Mar - NCAA Regional Final (if qualified)
11 Apr - NCAA Frozen Four (Pittsburgh, PA, if qualified)
13 Apr - NCAA Championship (Pittsburgh, PA, if qualified)
05 Oct - Exhibition Game

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Brief History of Time

Watching RPI these past two nights has been like watching the season unfold.

Friday, the team looked a lot like it did in November. Enough said.

Saturday, the first period looked like December. Playing well, but not getting the results you'd want to get out of that play.

The second period was like January - getting better and seeing more of the results you wanted to see, but with a few hiccups.

The third period was like February, with outstanding play that simply left the other team in the dust.

Let us hope that journey back to where the team had been prior to the bye week will continue tonight. As satisfying as it was to take Game 2 and as high as the team must be flying after a very solid and convincing win last night (despite horrifyingly bad officiating... again), we remain just 60 minutes away from the end of the season if the Engineers don't get the job done in Game 3.

Brown's likely All-ECAC goaltender was torched for five goals and pulled from the game for the second time in four games against RPI last night. Getting to him early and often to keep his confidence shaken will be key.

It's time to get back to it. A coveted trip to Atlantic City is on the line, and is now within the grasp. Let's get there.

Here's another Irish fighting song for the actual St. Patrick's Day, again from the Murphys. This one has the happy benefit of dovetailing with our typical playoff theme.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Night Update Redux

SLU scored first in their series against Yale, then proceeded to allow nine unanswered goals over the remainder of two games to get swept in New Haven by scores of 6-1 and 3-0. As a result, Yale has punched their ticket to Atlantic City.

Union rolled over Dartmouth by 4-1 and 5-2 margins to join the Bulldogs at Boardwalk Hall next weekend.

After getting beaten by Cornell 3-2 on Friday night, Quinnipiac destroyed the Big Red by double digits tonight, shutting them out 10-0 in a game which saw a total of 184 minutes of penalties assessed. The teams will meet for game three in Hamden at 7:30 tomorrow evening.

And back in Troy, RPI responded to their game one loss by roaring back to defeat Brown 6-2 in a game which saw its own fair share of penalties, with each team having a player ejected thanks in no small part to the officials losing control early and never getting it back. That series will be decided at the Field House starting at 7pm tomorrow.

Here's an updated chart of Atlantic City matchup possibilities with two of the four series decided after this evening:

Desperate Measures

See what we were talking about with how much things can change in 60 minutes?

Apparently, our pumpup plea from yesterday went unheeded, as RPI appeared to sleepwalk through most of the first two periods. Passing was beyond bad, and there was far too much cuteness being attempted. Fundamentals are bad, the game is bad.

And make no mistake - Brown came to play. It was never in doubt that they would. The Engineers, however, seemed to play their game more in line with a frequent statement from Seth Appert last year and early this year - "they wanted it to be easy."

There's never any "easy" in the playoffs. And now, to save the season - the Engineers fell to 17th in the Pairwise last night, and out of the tournament field - there must be two wins in a row.

It can be done.

It must start tonight.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day. Here's your pumpup.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Playoff Hockey: Kill or Be Killed

60 minutes.

In 60 minutes, everything can change. Nine wins in the last ten? Doesn't matter. In 60 minutes, you could be staring into the abyss - 60 more from being done.

To paraphrase Francis Albert Sinatra, you're ridin' high in February, shot down in March.

That's the playoffs, and RPI fans in particular should know the feeling. In 2010 against Brown, things should have been hunky dory. The Engineers were the 6th seed, Brown only 11th, and conventional wisdom said that despite the rough finish, RPI was going to roll. Oops. 60 minutes later, they were a loss away from elimination, and in Game 3 that's exactly what happened.

In 98 best-of-three series since 2000 (when the ECAC moved away from the "first to three points" model), the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 77 times. Game 1 sets the tone. It puts one team in a position of dominance over the other.

Tonight, it's time to re-establish that dominance. When last we saw Brown, they were giving up the first five goals of the game, chasing Anthony Borelli from the net. The wildcard? No one knows how a team that has been off for two weeks will fare against a team that played last weekend. Is RPI rusty or rested? Is Brown energized or tired?

We've been counting down the hours and minutes on the road to Atlantic City all season on our clock to the right. For one team in Troy this weekend, that road hits a dead end. It's not personal, it's business.

Normally this time of year, we go with hero themed pumpups. And perhaps there will be a hero spawned this weekend. But it's a different feeling this year. This feels more like a team of heroes.

So for our first pumpup this weekend, we present this for your consideration. The waiting is over. It's time to wake up...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brown, Eyed

OK, so we promised a closer look at Brown. Here it is.

Anthony Borelli.

You want more? OK. 

Matt Lorito.

Obviously, two people don't make an entire team. But if you're going to beat Brown, that's what you need to be focused on. Beat Anthony Borelli, and stop Matt Lorito and his line.

Borelli was a revelation for the Bears this year. The senior came into the season with just 256:54 of playing time in his first three seasons, the majority of which was as a freshman (along with his only two starts) and none of which came last year as a junior. The revelation actually started the weekend the Capital District came calling to Providence. 

After junior Marco DeFilippo gave up three goals in 3:01 late in the first period against Union to put the Bears down 3-1, Borelli got the tap on the shoulder to come on in relief. He proceeded to stop 16 shots over the next 40+ minutes to allow the Bears to tie the game late, and made 5 of his saves in overtime to preserve the tie. The next night, he got the start against RPI and came up with 34 saves, again keeping his team in the game long enough to pull out a tie.

The starting job has been his ever since, and he's done a superb job of keeping Brown in almost every game they've played since that weekend in December. His numbers are right there with Jason Kasdorf near the top of the ECAC and in the Top 10 nationally. 1.74 GAA, .945 save percentage - a pair of figures that are key for the Bears defensively, and has helped them put up the 14th best defense in the country. Only two teams have a better overall goals against average than Borelli - Quinnipiac and Miami.

That's important, because offensively, they're 41st out of 59 - below average. But they're not impotent by any stretch of the imagination. Sophomore Matt Lorito is genuinely one of the best scoring forwards in the ECAC, and he's a name you're going to be hearing quite a lot this weekend and for the next two years.

Lorito has 17 goals and 14 assists, by far the leading scorer at Brown with 31 points. He's the Bears' go-to-guy offensively, and he's grouped with some of the best of the rest on the top line. Last weekend at Clarkson, Lorito was on a line with a pair of freshmen - Mark Naclerio was the center and Nick Lappin was on the right wing. He had previously been centering a line with Lappin and senior Chris Zaires on the left wing.

Moving Zaires - one of Brown's better scorers since he was a freshman - off that top line does give Brown a little more depth, but there's not a great deal to be massively concerned about on Brown's third and fourth lines, with the exception of Garnet Hathaway. The key has to be stopping Lorito and his line, and with last change, Seth Appert will be able to put the guys he wants out against him.

The other thing Brown does well is play a physical game, and anyone who watched the Brown teams of the early 1990s that head coach Brendan Whittet played on will hardly be surprised that he has his charges play a similar style. Despite that reputation, the Bears are one of the most disciplined teams in the country, in the Top 10 in terms of fewest penalty minutes per game.

That's good, because Brown is a mess on special teams. They don't kill penalties overly well, and as you would suspect on a team that isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse, the power play isn't much to write home about, either.

RPI hasn't won a home playoff series since 2004 - that was 10 seasons ago, a two-game sweep of Princeton in the first round. Their failures came in 2006 (swept by Quinnipiac in Dan Fridgen's last two games as head coach), 2010 (lost to Brown in three games), and 2011 (lost to Colgate in three games). That RPI has only had those three home series in the last 9 seasons is kind of embarrassing in and of itself, and the long drought of winning a home series, hopefully, will be a little extra fire for the Engineers.

The Engineers finished the season hot offensively. They potted 3.8 goals per game in their last 10 games, and scored 4.11 goals per game in their 9 wins. They were hot defensively as well, as you might imagine, allowing just 10 goals in those 9 wins (1.11 GAA), and they've won nine consecutive games at home.

Brown is going to have their hands full. Offensively, the Engineers are very well spread out. First off, the top scorer is a defenseman, who sees ice time with any number of lines (Nick Bailen). Nine different forwards then have anywhere from 27 to 11 points on the season. None really stand out individually, but all are seeing regular ice time across all four lines (and the other three forwards - Johnny Rogic, Travis Fulton, and Greg Burgdoerfer, are certainly peaking at the right time). 

Following that is a goaltender in Jason Kasdorf who has been playing on the same level as their own goaltender.

We're biased, of course, but this is not just a series RPI must win, it's one they should be favorites in. The wildcard is in the goaltending, as it always is, and when both teams have a guy capable of stealing a game on his own, the only real option is to be sharp top to bottom.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ECAC Quarterfinal Capsules

Last time around, we put out capsules a couple of hours before the games got started. That's what happens when you aren't as focused on what's going on, sadly.

We're a little more focused this time. At the very least, let's get started with Gary's handy chart for interpreting what we might see in the semifinals next week.

This is the final season for the league tournament's conclusion in Atlantic City. Each of the series outlined below will provide one team for that, erm, historic occasion. Every home team is at least in the hunt for an NCAA bid - in fact, as of now, all four are in our projected bracket for the week. Dartmouth and St. Lawrence are kind of hanging around but probably need to win the tournament to play Easter weekend, while Cornell and Brown certainly need the autobid.

#9 Cornell at #1 Quinnipiac
TD Bank Sports Center (Hamden, CT)
Last playoff meeting: 2011 ECAC Quarterfinals (at Cornell) - Big Red won 2 games to 1
Nov. 10: Quinnipiac 4, Cornell 1 (Hamden)
Feb. 8: Quinnipiac 4, Cornell 1 (Ithaca)
(Quinnipiac wins season series, 4-0)

Quinnipiac since February 1: 6-2-2
Quinnipiac leading scorer: Jeremy Langlois, senior. 12 goals, 16 assists.
Quinnipiac starting goaltender: Eric Hartzell, senior. 1.49 GAA, .936 save percentage.

Cornell since February 1: 6-5-1
Cornell leading scorer: Greg Miller, senior. 14 goals, 18 assists.
Cornell starting goaltender: Andy Iles, junior. 2.28 GAA, .916 save percentage.

Chances are pretty good if finishing first in the ECAC gave you the option of choosing which opponent you wanted to face in the quarterfinals, Cornell probably wouldn't have been Quinnipiac's choice. The Big Red were supposed to be in their usual place among the top teams in the league (not to mention, the nation), but that all fell apart through a lousy January and a rough start to February.

Problem is, the Big Red have looked much more like their usual selves in the last four weekends, which almost certainly gives the top-seed and the nation's #1 team (for five straight weeks) a little bit of pause, especially given that the Bobcats were not as dominant in that same stretch of time as they had been earlier in the season. Then again, they had very little to play for aside from the PairWise Rankings for most of February, as they locked up the top seed very early.

But "not as dominant," in this case, folds out to a 3-2-1 record in their last six games, and the Bobcats more than handled Cornell this season, even in November before the Big Red's dip began. There aren't a whole lot of flaws in Quinnipiac's game, and it's worth pointing out that Quinnipiac has still been the top team in the polls, PairWise, and KRACH throughout that period. Cornell may have taken it to a fading Princeton team last weekend, but they're going to need to bring it, big time, if they're going to make it back to Atlantic City. The Bobcats are assured a spot in the NCAA tournament (and almost certainly as a #1 seed) no matter what, but to lose this series would be a major disappointment for the Q.

#7 Brown at #2 RPI
Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
Last playoff meeting: 2010 ECAC First Round (at RPI) - Bears won 2 games to 1
Dec. 8: RPI 2, Brown 2 (Providence)
Feb. 15: RPI 5, Brown 1 (Troy)
(RPI wins season series, 3-1)

RPI since February 1: 9-1-0
RPI leading scorer: Nick Bailen, senior. 12 goals, 19 assists.
RPI starting goaltender: Jason Kasdorf, freshman. 1.51 GAA, .940 save percentage.

Brown since February 1: 6-3-2
Brown leading scorer: Matt Lorito, sophomore. 17 goals, 14 assists.
Brown starting goaltender: Anthony Borelli, senior. 1.74 GAA, .945 save percentage.

Brown's defense wasn't worked too hard last weekend, easily taking care of a Clarkson team that was essentially punchless in the final two weeks of its season. Unless RPI comes out of their week off rusty and out-of-sync, they're practically assured of facing a much bigger challenge this weekend.

We're going to break down this series far more in the coming days, but it's probably fair to say that the difference in offensive output is going to be a big deal in this series, and it's likely to leave the Bears with very little room for error. One of the main differences in the two games these teams played this season was in the home-ice advantage - RPI found the Bears much easier to deal with when they had the last line change. That should help the Engineers' already tough defense by ensuring that they get the matchups they're looking for when it comes to the more dangerous elements of the Brown attack.

#6 St. Lawrence at #3 Yale
Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
Last playoff meeting: 2011 ECAC Quarterfinals (at Yale) - Bulldogs won 2 games to 1
Nov. 10: Yale 4, St. Lawrence 2 (New Haven)
Jan. 11: Yale 5, St. Lawrence 3 (Canton)
(Yale wins season series, 4-0)

Yale since February 1: 4-5-0
Yale leading scorer: Kenny Agostino, junior. 14 goals, 19 assists.
Yale starting goaltender: Jeff Malcolm, senior. 2.45 GAA, .916 save percentage.

St. Lawrence since February 1: 7-4-1
St. Lawrence leading scorer: Greg Carey, junior. 28 goals, 23 assists.
St. Lawrence starting goaltender: Matt Weninger, junior. 2.72 GAA, .916 save percentage.

This may be one of the most intriguing matchups of the quarterfinals. Two teams that could have been higher seeds if they hadn't suffered a key injury at the wrong time are almost certainly ready for a high-flying series that's likely to be quite unpredictable.

Drop the two Capital District losses at the end of the regular season out of St. Lawrence's record since February, and the Saints are clearly one of the hottest teams in the league when Kyle Flanagan is in the lineup. Checking out the scorelines from the week before and the week after that dreadful weekend, it's like night and day.

Yale basically has the same phenomenon surrounding netminder Malcolm. For years, Yale's problem has been finding a solid goaltender to back their wealth of firepower, typically all they really need is a halfway competent netminder to be successful, and they've got in Malcolm at least that. He was hurt against Princeton on February 1. The Bulldogs won that game, but then lost five in a row without him. He returned, and the Bulldogs won three straight to end the season.

Now, Yale was also playing some tough defenses during that five-game losing streak - Quinnipiac twice, Brown, RPI, and Union - but Malcolm probably would have given the Bulldogs more of a shot in those games.

Regardless, the offense for both of these teams has been more central to success than the defense, and that's why this could be a series that's difficult to get a feel for. SLU's top line of Flanagan, Carey, and Jeremy Wick is easily one of the best in the country, and can be deadly on the power play. Yale, meanwhile, has a number of lines that can cause problems. This is not an easy series to predict - the Bulldogs probably have the edge on the simple fact that they're at home, and had the Saints' number during the regular season.

#5 Dartmouth at #4 Union
Achilles Center (Schenectady, NY)
Last playoff meeting: Never
Nov. 10: Dartmouth 3, Union 2 (Hanover)
Feb. 1: Dartmouth 2, Union 2 (Schenectady)
(Dartmouth wins season series, 3-1)

Union since February 1: 4-4-1
Union leading scorer: Wayne Simpson, senior. 15 goals, 16 assists.
Union starting goaltender: Troy Grosenick, junior. 2.22 GAA, .920 save percentage.

Dartmouth since February 1: 4-5-3
Dartmouth leading scorer: Tyler Sikura, sophomore. 11 goals, 20 assists.
Dartmouth starting goaltender: Charles Grant, freshman. 2.62 GAA, .914 save percentage.

You're not reading that wrong - Union has been in the ECAC since 1991 and this is the first time these two teams have ever faced each other in the playoffs in any capacity.

It's a battle between two teams that basically limped to the finish line in the regular season, with the Dutchmen just managing to snag the home-ice bye thanks to an even weaker finish by the North Country teams. Union has had their problems on the road, last winning away from the Capital District on January 11 at Princeton, and before that November 9 at Harvard, but they're unbeaten in eight straight games in the Capital District (including the game in Albany against RPI).

Dartmouth, meanwhile, is 3-7-3 on the road this year, and last weekend won two consecutive games for only the second time since December. Their young but talented offense simply has not been as strong in the last two months as they were early in the season, when they looked sure to be making their first NCAA appearance since 1980.

Both teams have had turnover in net - Dartmouth appeared to have settled on Grant heading into the playoffs, only to see Cab Morris start (and lose) Game 1 of the first round against Harvard. Grant won Game 2 and Game 3, so we might expect to see him again. Meanwhile, Grosenick's health has been a major factor all season for the Dutchmen, who have had to occasionally lean on sophomore Colin Stevens more than they have wanted to. The week off was just what the doctor ordered for Union on that front.

Union has the experience and the home ice advantage, but Dartmouth showed off their resilience last weekend by coming back from a Game 1 loss to win a series against a somewhat resurgent Harvard team. They have the chops to get the job done, but they're going to need some good puck luck and some better overall play to get there.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 4

You don't have to play hockey to move up and down in the PairWise Rankings, hopefully everyone who has been following bracketology this season already knew that. For the Engineers, it's a bump up to 14th (technically, a tie for 13th), which inches them closer to the 3-seed band of the PWR, which is a much safer place to be than the 4-seed band, which consists entirely of bubble teams that could end up out of the tournament if enough conference title upsets take place.

1. Quinnipiac*
2. Minnesota
3. Miami*
4. UMass-Lowell*
5. North Dakota
6. Denver
7. Boston College
8. New Hampshire
9. Minnesota State
10. Western Michigan
11. Yale
12. St. Cloud State*
13. Niagara*
14. Rensselaer
15. Notre Dame
16. Union
17. Boston University
18. Wisconsin
19. Dartmouth
20. Robert Morris
21. Providence
22. Alaska
23. Cornell
24. St. Lawrence
25. Air Force
26. Ferris State
27. Brown
28. Holy Cross
29. Ohio State
30. Nebraska-Omaha
31. Colorado College
32. Merrimack

In: Union
Out: Alaska

In: None
Out: Northern Michigan

So, that's good, we're rid of NMU like we wanted. That helped the Engineers move up to 14th. Now let's have a look at the brackets.

1. Quinnipiac
2. Boston College
3. Minnesota State
4. Notre Dame

Grand Rapids
1. Minnesota
2. Denver
3. Western Michigan
4. Union

1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Yale
4. Niagara

1. UMass-Lowell
2. New Hampshire
3. St. Cloud State
4. Rensselaer

USCHO's Jayson Moy had the Engineers in Manchester last week, and looking at his logic, it does make sense, especially when you compare the placement of Rensselaer and Niagara. Technically, Niagara is closest to Toledo than any other regional, and having the Tute in Manchester will help sell tickets there (not that that's going to be a major issue there since UNH is guaranteed to be in the house). Regardless, it's something that might as well be done, since the four WCHA teams in the 2 and 3 seed bands combined with UNH being forced into Manchester blows perfect bracket integrity out of the water anyway. It all makes sense.

That would be an exciting matchup for the Engineers for sure. Arguably the two hottest teams in the nation heading into March playing each other, and if the Tute could pull the upset, they'd get a rematch with a team they played earlier in the year for the right to go on to the Frozen Four.

I've shortened the TUC cliff discussion to anything plus or minus .0075 from .5000. Now that we're in the conference playoffs fully, the outer edges of what had been the TUC cliff are not as important as those teams, especially the ones already above the cliff, are not likely to be able to lose enough games to fall out or vice versa. I've removed Alaska (26th) as well, since their season is over and they're going to be a TUC through the end.

27. Holy Cross (.5063)
28. Air Force (.5062)
29. Nebraska-Omaha (.5051)
30. Ohio State (.5049)
31. Colorado College (.5023)
32. Merrimack (.5018)
33. UConn (.4951)
34. Michigan (.4946)
35. Bowling Green (.4930)

The bottom line here is that Colgate, its season over, is gone and is not coming back. We move on - the Engineers had two wins against Clarkson this season too, but we were never worried about their status as a TUC. Raiders are now the same way. The good news is that Northern Michigan is gone - also for good since their season is over too, which should help firm up the Engineers' NCAA chances a little.

The better news is that St. Lawrence is up out of danger, they should be a TUC until the end. Brown and Cornell (and Ferris State) are farther away from the TUC cliff now. We can, it appears, safely root against Cornell and Ferris State if we must (and as you'll see, it's not a bad idea in either case) but what about Brown? Rensselaer's playing them this week.

The good news is that a sweep of Brown should still leave them up ahead of the TUC line, which is good news. According to the CHN Pairwise Calculator, a sweep by the Engineers, before considering any other result, would leave Brown with an RPI of .5011 - close to the TUC cliff, but not close enough for us to worry hugely about. Although every game technically could have an up or down impact on it, with their season over there probably wouldn't be enough downward pressure to move them out.

This is important for a few reasons. First, it gives the Engineers an opportunity to pick up two more TUC victories this coming weekend, which could help move them up the PWR. Second, it means there's no incentive to lose (a frequent problem with PWR), since losing even once to Brown would provide a TUC loss, and one that we could be fairly certain would not go away.

And it should drive home this very important point - without at least advancing to Atlantic City, Rensselaer will almost certainly not make the national tournament. This isn't a situation like it was two years ago, where the Engineers could afford to lose to Colgate without it hurting much. Losing twice to Brown will not end hopes for an at-large bid, but it would make one extremely unlikely.

At this point, the Engineers are basically winning every comparison with teams behind them in the PWR, and are losing comparisons ahead of them.

There still isn't much room for growth strictly through flipping comparisons that are currently being lost. These three seem to be the only ones with any prospect in the near future:
Niagara - Right now, a 1-1 victory for the Purps on RPI, which is close. The TUC comparison does not yet come into play here - it could if UConn became a TUC - but even if it did, it would still likely hinge mostly on RPI, since the Engineers were undefeated against common opponents this season. We need Niagara to lose.

Yale - 3-2 Bulldogs on RPI/TUC/COp, but the Engineers, with the two H2H wins in their pocket, have opportunities here to flip this in their favor simply by beating Brown and getting just one St. Lawrence victory over Yale. Why? Because both Rensselaer and Yale swept SLU this season. Yale needs to do it again in order to keep their COp record up, even though it won't help them additionally there to win. Meanwhile, the Engineers have the opportunity to improve their COp record with wins over Brown.

Minnesota State - The games against Brown could bolster the Engineers against the Mavericks (they are a common opponent, and the Mavericks beat the Bears in the one game they played), but more importantly, we need Mankato to lose games to bring RPI closer. This is 2-2, with the Mavs winning on RPI and H2H. That blown game in October is basically causing more problems than any other single game that the Engineers were involved in this year.

There are still several comparisons we are worried about that the Engineers are winning right now.
Notre Dame - 2-1 Engineers on TUC/COp. NMU dropping out made this much more firm, I don't see it flipping this week unless a disaster takes place.

Union - 3-3 Engineers on RPI/TUC/COp. Obviously, all three have to stay in place for this to stay a win for Rensselaer, that means continuing to win and rooting against the Dutchmen.

Boston University - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/COp. If the Engineers keep winning, they don't have anything to worry about on this one, either, but given that the Merrimack comparison is very solid now, we can root for the Warriors over the Terriers this weekend as a hedge.

Wisconsin - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/TUC. St. Cloud State didn't help us out as much as we had hoped when it came to COp, so this is still right on the line. RPI is very close, and TUC is too close for comfort. Losing Nebraska-Omaha as a TUC would be nice (UW 2-0-0 against the Mavs), but Wisconsin losing to Minnesota-Duluth would hit them hard enough in RPI that it wouldn't be as big of a concern. Rooting big for the Bulldogs to pull off the upset, but the Engineers can help themselves by beating Brown (a TUC), since the Badgers really can't do much this weekend to boost their TUC record.

Dartmouth - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/COp, ignoring the H2H split. This is in danger of flipping back, but really only if Dartmouth advances to Atlantic City and the Engineers do not. The big issue here is that the Big Green is taking on Union, so we're probably not going to firm up both comparisons this weekend. The Union  comparison is currently more precarious, so we'll take Dartmouth this weekend. As outlined below, the Engineers would get a shot at the Big Green in Atlantic City if all goes well anyway, and a second win over Dartmouth would seal this up tight.

Providence - 2-1 Engineers on RPI/TUC. This can be firmed up and secured if New Hampshire can sweep (or even just knock out) the Friars this coming weekend, since it could flip COp and would keep Providence from improving their RPI/TUC.

Here's our cheering list this week, and it's another indication of how difficult it's going to be to move up quickly. With some frequency, it's better for teams around you in the PWR to lose. The good news is, there's a lot of separation between those teams in the first round. The bad news is, we're rooting for a lot of road teams.

There are some good reasons for rooting for teams in the Top 8 of the PWR or so, which is pretty common below - the Engineers aren't likely to be flipping comparisons with those teams, but at the same time we want to see them winning conference titles rather than seeing upsets. If we can bump out potential upset teams as soon as possible, it would make life significantly easier.

The CCHA is tough in that sense, since we would love to see Western Michigan and Notre Dame take hits. Below, we hope to see Niagara, Yale, and Minnesota State take RPI hits. Pretty much everywhere else, we're either looking at whether we want a team as a TUC or not, and the opportunity to stave off potential upset champions (except in Atlantic Hockey, where we probably wouldn't have much of a problem with one).

The Michigan-Western Michigan matchup annoys. On one hand, WMU losses would help bring their RPI down to a level where their comparison could be flipped. On the other, Michigan is close to the TUC line and would boost Notre Dame big time as a TUC. The Wolverines also represent an upset threat, since they wouldn't be in the tournament otherwise. We'll be conservative and take the Broncos, even with the knowledge that it probably ruins any chance of flipping the comparison with them. At this point, making the tournament in the first place is one of our main interests.

That explains all of them except Ferris State-Ohio State. We'd like to keep the Buckeyes as a TUC because both WMU and Notre Dame are having their TUC records pulled down by OSU. Wins by the Bulldogs (as with Mercyhurst, below) would at least have a positive impact on Rensselaer's RPI, so it's kind of OK either way.

Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals
RIT over Niagara
Robert Morris over UConn
Mercyhurst over Holy Cross
Canisius over Air Force

CCHA Quarterfinals
Ohio State over Ferris State
Western Michigan over Michigan
Bowling Green over Notre Dame
Miami over Michigan State

ECAC Quarterfinals
Rensselaer over Brown
St. Lawrence over Yale
Quinnipiac over Cornell
Dartmouth over Union

Hockey East Quarterfinals
UMass-Lowell over Maine
Merrimack over Boston University
Boston College over Vermont
New Hampshire over Providence

WCHA First Round
Nebraska-Omaha over Minnesota State
Minnesota-Duluth over Wisconsin
Minnesota over Bemidji State
St. Cloud State over Alaska-Anchorage
Denver over Colorado College
North Dakota over Michigan Tech

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Night Update

SLU, Brown, and Cornell all swept their first round series and will advance to the quarterfinals of the ECAC playoffs, while Dartmouth defeated Harvard 4-1 to even that series at one game each and force game three tomorrow at 5pm.

As a result, none of the top four teams know who they'll be playing next weekend. Here's a quick summary of the two possible sets of matchups based on the result of the Dartmouth/Harvard series.

Friday, March 8, 2013

ECAC First Round Capsules

What an odd place we find ourselves in. Here we are, the first weekend of the ECAC Playoffs, and... nothing to do... in a manner of speaking, of course. For the first time since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 2003 (yeah, it's been that long), the Engineers earned themselves a free pass through the first round of the playoffs, which they've been a part of each of the last 10 straight seasons, the only team that could make that claim (along with Quinnipiac this year, they are the last to earn a bye). Problem is, the Engineers are 2-8 in quarterfinal games in that stretch, and haven't advanced to the semis since the expansion.

But we'll worry about that next week. Here are the first round matchups that get underway tonight.

#12 Harvard at #5 Dartmouth
Thompson Arena (Hanover, NH)
Last playoff meeting: 2011 ECAC Quarterfinals (at Dartmouth) - Big Green won 2 games to 1
Jan. 12: Dartmouth 3, Harvard 2 (Hanover)
Feb. 10: Dartmouth 1, Harvard 1 (Boston)
(Dartmouth wins season series, 3-1)

Dartmouth since February 1: 2-4-3
Dartmouth leading scorer: Tyler Sikura, sophomore. 10 goals, 18 assists.
Dartmouth starting goaltender: Charles Grant, freshman. 2.72 GAA, .912 save percentage.

Harvard since February 1: 4-4-2
Harvard leading scorer: Alex Fallstrom, senior. 8 goals, 11 assists.
Harvard starting goaltender: Raphael Girard, junior. 2.98 GAA, .913 save percentage.

Believe it or not, one of the hotter teams down the stretch in the ECAC was the team that ended up finishing in last place. After the Beanpot, which included yet another opening round loss and another big win over Boston University, the Crimson turned things around well, just not well enough to climb out of the basement. Still, Harvard is talented enough to be able to put together some solid results, as they showed at the beginning of the season.

That isn't great news for a Dartmouth team who was probably hoping the Crimson could have held on for the tie last Saturday against Princeton, a result that would have left a sputtering Colgate team in last place instead. The Big Green, after an exceptionally promising start, began struggling once 2013 started. Still, they were only swept once (in the first weekend of January), and remain tough to beat most nights. There's been some flux in net for Dartmouth, but they seem to have settled on Grant most nights.

Score-wise, it has been very simple for Dartmouth since December: score three goals, win the game. Give up three, lose the game (with one exception). That's pretty common anyway, but the Big Green have held that almost to a T through the last three months. They'll need to be sharp on both sides of the ice for a Harvard team that will be eager and ready to leave the results of the regular season behind and start anew in the playoffs with their late-season momentum.

#11 Colgate at #6 St. Lawrence
Appleton Arena (Canton, NY)
Last playoff meeting: 2010 ECAC Quarterfinals (at Colgate) - Saints won 2 games to 0
Nov. 30: St. Lawrence 4, Colgate 2 (Hamilton)
Feb. 2: St. Lawrence 3, Colgate 3 (Canton)
(St. Lawrence wins season series, 3-1)

St. Lawrence since February 1: 5-4-1
St. Lawrence leading scorer: Greg Carey, junior. 26 goals, 22 assists.
St. Lawrence starting goaltender: Matt Weninger, junior. 2.79 GAA, .914 save percentage.

Colgate since February 1: 1-7-2
Colgate leading scorer: Tylor Spink, freshman. 12 goals, 17 assists.
Colgate starting goaltender: Eric Mihalik, junior. 2.75 GAA, .904 save percentage.

The big news in this series is that Kyle Flanagan is expected to be in the lineup following his appendectomy early last week. That's very important for a St. Lawrence team that looked very out of sorts in the Capital District without him - a zero-point effort that may have actually done wonders for his Hobey Baker candidacy given how the team fared in his absence.

That's nothing but bad news for Colgate, which has been looking for breaks wherever they can be found over the last six weeks. The Raiders are grasping at straws defensively, as neither Mihalik nor freshman Spencer Finney have been able to keep the puck out of the net since February began. Combine that with a decrease in offensive output from the Spink twins during the second time through the ECAC, and it's a tall order ahead for Colgate.

Both teams come into the playoffs on three-game losing streaks. Only one has an element being placed back into the lineup that should provide some boost, and that team also happens to be at home. St. Lawrence came into last weekend in control of their own destiny for the #2 seed, Flanagan's health may have ultimately cost them four places, but they should still be considered the favorites to move on to the quarterfinals at home.

#10 Clarkson at #7 Brown
Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
Last playoff meeting: 1999 ECAC Quarterfinals (at Clarkson) - Golden Knights won 2 games to 0
Nov. 10: Brown 3, Clarkson 3 (Providence)
Jan. 11: Brown 3, Clarkson 2 (Potsdam)
(Brown wins season series, 3-1)

Brown since February 1: 4-3-2
Brown leading scorer: Matt Lorito, sophomore. 15 goals, 13 assists.
Brown starting goaltender: Anthony Borelli, senior. 1.77 GAA, .943 save percentage.

Clarkson since February 1: 4-5-1
Clarkson leading scorer: Allan McPherson, junior. 9 goals, 16 assists.
Clarkson starting goaltender: Greg Lewis, freshman. 2.98 GAA, .900 save percentage.

Brown learned early on this season that they were going to live and die with their defense, and once they turned to their senior netminder, Borelli, they started winning games they had been tying and tying games they had been losing early in the year. His emergence, practically by itself, has granted the Bears their first home playoff series in several years.

To say that Clarkson limped to the finish line is quite an understatement. Three straight losses by four goals or more - outscored 15-2 in those games - is never a good way to finish the season. The Golden Knights went from first-round bye contention to hitting the road in the first round in just two short weekends.

If Clarkson can't reverse its fortunes on both sides of the ice, it's going to make things very easy on the home team. It'll provide a boost to an otherwise weak offense with few major weapons aside from Lorito and it'll keep one of the league's hottest goaltenders right where he needs to be for his team to be successful.

#9 Cornell at #8 Princeton
Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
Last playoff meeting: 2009 ECAC Semifinal (Albany, NY) - Cornell 4, Princeton 3 (2 OT)
Nov. 9: Princeton 5, Cornell 3 (Princeton)
Feb. 9: Princeton 1, Cornell 0 (Ithaca)
(Princeton wins season series, 4-0)

Princeton since February 1: 3-6-1
Princeton leading scorer: Andrew Calof, junior. 13 goals, 23 assists.
Princeton starting goaltender: Mike Condon, senior. 2.42 GAA, .925 save percentage.

Cornell since February 1: 4-5-1
Cornell leading scorer: Greg Miller, senior. 14 goals, 15 assists.
Cornell starting goaltender: Andy Iles, junior. 2.37 GAA, .914 save percentage.

Shocking though it may be, the Big Red are not only playing in the first round - something they've only done once before since the tournament expansion - they're also on the road. Losing 10 games out of 11 in the middle of the season is a good way to get that done. However, since that 11-game stretch ended (with the home loss against the Tigers), Cornell is 4-1-1, including a five-game unbeaten streak snapped by a 2-1 loss to Yale this past Saturday to end the season. If you're going to suffer through a season as bad as Cornell's was, that's not a bad three weeks to end the season with.

Princeton, meanwhile, was one of those teams that managed to fly under the radar most of the year. They never went on hot streaks, as their longest winning streak was two and their longest unbeaten stretch was three. Yet they never really had any cold stretches either, save for the four straight losses, all at home, in February which saw their hopes for a first-round bye dashed. They needed a 3-point weekend on the road just to get themselves back to having home ice, which they earned with an overtime victory over Harvard on Saturday. Before then, they hadn't won since the 1-0 road victory over Cornell.

The Tigers did sweep the season series with the Big Red, and they've got home ice advantage, but their playing has got to be better than it was at the end of the season if they're going to get the job done and advance. Cornell was one of the last teams anyone wanted to see in the playoffs as the season was drawing to a close, and unless Princeton can return to the kind of hockey they were playing in January (and against Cornell in general), they could see themselves off to an early exit.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Closing the Book on the Pirri/D'Amigo Era

We've been as guilty as anyone - perhaps more than anyone - of pontificating about the arrival and sudden departure of Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo. Hopefully, this is the last one. Admittedly, it does feel a bit odd to still be talking about them, or even their era, when we're nearing the end of the third season without them, a season few ever expected to still see them in Troy anyway. That should underscore some of what the whole thing means to RPI hockey.

There's little doubt looking back now that the pair, in just one season in the Cherry and White, left an indelible impact on the program that could be felt for years going forward.

It somehow makes total sense that D'Amigo and Pirri became known as RPI commits within 10 days of each other during the summer of 2008. Committing some five months after current sophomore Jacob Laliberte and current junior Matt Tinordi, their names have been and will continue to be linked in the annals of RPI hockey.

They tantalized RPI fans with outstanding play in their final season in juniors, creating high expectations on them when they arrived on campus in the fall of 2009 - and then they didn't disappoint. Combining for 21 goals and 56 assists in their freshman seasons, helping to propel junior Chase Polacek and senior Paul Kerins to big years as well. D'Amigo was a major contributor to the United States' World Junior Championship gold medal, and ended up being the ECAC Rookie of the Year (though some, including this writer, felt Pirri was more worthy of the nod). They were expected to play a big role in what many felt would be a year of major expectations, perhaps not seen in Troy in a quarter century.

Then, just like that, they were gone.

There was really a confluence of events that led to both players leaving. First, the summer of 2010 saw an abnormal number of players choosing to forego college eligibility to sign pro contracts, in part due to the soon-closing window on the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, which had been very kind to entry-level bonuses. Second, D'Amigo it was said added a good 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which piqued the interest of then-Toronto GM Brian Burke, especially after the accolades he'd picked up in his freshman year. Third, Chicago - the team holding Pirri's NHL rights - had just won the Stanley Cup, but had pressed its team flat against the salary cap to do so and was holding a bit of a talent fire sale, opening roster slots in Chicago and with their AHL affiliate that needed to be filled.

Throw all of this together, and it's not hard to see why the dominoes fell as they did. If D'Amigo had not left, Pirri likely would have stayed as well, but at the end of the day, it was a perfect storm.

There were plenty of naysayers at the time who felt the duo were leaving school far too early, and in hindsight, that probably has been confirmed. Two full seasons on from their departure, they've combined for a grand total of six NHL games, all by Pirri. D'Amigo's struggles have been especially pronounced, highlighted by a difficult first season that began with hopes of making the NHL roster out of camp but slid into a struggle in the AHL and finally a trip to major junior, which is what RPI fans in particular feared most - what ultimately became a lateral move to the OHL.

Both probably could have used at least another year or two in college, but that is neither here nor there at this point. Now it appears the negative impact from their early departure - felt in a less-than-hoped-for showing in 2010-11 and a rough 2011-12 season - may finally have been mitigated. With the Engineers back in legitimate competition for a league championship and riding a streak of 10 wins in the last 12 games, the holes they left behind appear to have finally been filled on a team-wide basis, and with a very impressive set of recruits ready to arrive in the fall - not to mention the impending graduation of the players Pirri and D'Amigo arrived with - we can finally examine the lasting impact that their short association with RPI brought to the program.

There's an opportunity cost whenever a college team brings in a recruit of any kind. Bringing in D'Amigo and Pirri meant there would be no room for other forwards who could have potentially come to Troy, some of whom are surely playing for other teams right now as juniors and seniors. That's been a part of the game forever, though, and it becomes pronounced only when you lose your recruits early.

The matter of two suddenly open scholarships certainly comes into play as well. Four current sophomore forwards (all but Laliberte) committed to RPI in the weeks and months following the departure of Pirri and D'Amigo. If they hadn't left early, two of those four are probably playing somewhere else right now. Pick two guys out of Matt Neal, Ryan Haggerty, and Mark McGowan you wouldn't mind subtracting from this year's team. Didn't think so.

That covers the short-term impact. But what about the long-term?

Most of the players on this current team - the one that has finished higher in the ECAC standings than any team in the last 20 years - were recruited after Pirri and D'Amigo began playing at RPI. That's all of them with the exception of the graduating seniors and the aforementioned Tinordi and Laliberte. Consider those players and the outstanding talents expected to come into Troy next season, and compare them with recruits prior to Pirri and D'Amigo. There's an absolute increase in the talent level.

The bottom line is that these talented players provided a quick bump to the program that, after a short hiccup last season, seems to have provided what could well be a lasting boost to a team that may well have finally found its way out of the dark. Rather than lament their departures, going forward it is perhaps more appropriate to laud them for their contributions, limited as they may be in the direct sense.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Engineer Bracketology: Week 3

It may have been a good weekend for the Engineers as it pertains to their ECAC fate, but as to their NCAA fares... it could have been better. Even worse, there are now some pretty solid roadblocks in place that will make shoring up an at-large bid more difficult, which underscores the need for the Engineers to control their own destiny by going as deep into the ECAC tournament as they can, if not winning the championship to secure a bid the old-fashioned way.

1. Quinnipiac*
2. Minnesota
3. Miami*
4. UMass-Lowell*
5. New Hampshire
6. Boston College
7. North Dakota
8. Minnesota State
9. Denver
10. St. Cloud State*
11. Western Michigan
12. Yale
13. Niagara*
14. Notre Dame
15. Rensselaer
16. Alaska
17. Union
18. Boston University
19. Dartmouth
20. Wisconsin
21. Robert Morris
22. Providence
23. Air Force
24. Ohio State
25. Nebraska-Omaha
26. Ferris State
27. St. Lawrence
28. Holy Cross
29. Cornell
30. Northern Michigan
31. Colorado College
32. Merrimack
33. Brown

In: Alaska
Out: Dartmouth

In: Cornell, Air Force
Out: Colgate

15th at the start of the weekend, 15th at the end of the weekend. How does that relate to the bracket? Well, it doesn't change much for Rensselaer.

1. Quinnipiac
2. Boston College
3. St. Cloud State
4. Alaska

Grand Rapids
1. Minnesota
2. Minnesota State
3. Western Michigan
4. Rensselaer

1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Yale
4. Notre Dame

1. UMass-Lowell
2. New Hampshire
3. Denver
4. Niagara

This bracket is a mess as far as integrity is concerned, but it's pretty much the best we're going to be able to do to balance ticket sales with a need to avoid intraconference matchups, especially between the glut of WCHA teams currently holding down 2 and 3 seeds.

But, for the Engineers, it's no change at all from last week, with the exception of the teams playing in the second game. Same opponent, same venue. That's at least a little bit telling - after a home sweep, and despite rising as high as 13th in the Pairwise during the weekend, the Engineers are still stuck playing the Gophers, highlighting the importance of what goes on elsewhere. In this case, the Engineers ended the weekend with a net TUC loss despite beating St. Lawrence. Why? Because Cornell and their 1-1-0 TUC record joined the ranks, and Colgate with their 2-0-0 record fell out.

The TUC cliff illustrates the problem. I've included the Engineers' record against teams they've played.

26. Ferris State (.5073) - 1-0-1
27. Holy Cross (.5060)
28. St. Lawrence (.5057) - 2-0-0
29. Colorado College (.5042)
30. Merrimack (.5032)
31. Cornell (.5008) - 1-1-0
32. Northern Michigan (.5006)
33. Brown (.5003) - 1-0-1
34. Colgate (.4963) - 2-0-0
35. UConn (.4952)
36. Lake Superior State (.4908)

The TUC problem is still fairly pronounced. Four teams beneficial to the Engineers' TUC record are in danger of dropping below the TUC line, and one team that could help it is stuck below that line.

There are two problems moving forward, both involving the first round of the ECAC playoffs.

Problem #1 is the most pronounced - Colgate and St. Lawrence are playing each other this weekend in a best-of-three playoff series. That's extremely annoying. That's four potential TUC wins hanging in the balance. The hard truth is that we're probably going to have to kiss one of them goodbye permanently, since the team that loses that series is done for the season. St. Lawrence is already a TUC, and Colgate after getting swept over the weekend is going to have a hard pull to get back above the TUC line without causing irreparable harm to SLU. Look at it this way - the Raiders are 1-7-0 in their last eight. They're unreliable going forward. We're probably going to have to let them go, and root for SLU in order to shore up their position. If St. Lawrence gets swept, they will not be a TUC anymore. There's a possibility that a three-game series won by Colgate would end with both teams as TUCs, but it's no sure thing. The good news is that the series winner will be a TUC, but that doesn't advance the Engineers at all - especially if Colgate is the one that advances, and then gets clowned in the quarterfinals by either Quinnipiac or... that #2 seed.

Problem #2 is a little more nuanced - Cornell and Brown are two of the most likely opponents for the Engineers in the ECAC quarterfinals, which means Rensselaer is probably going to have to deliver a TUC death blow to one of these teams in order to advance to Atlantic City. Losing to them would hurt, because it would shore up that team as a TUC while killing the Engineers' record against that team, almost certainly putting them out of the tournament. Defeating them would drop them out as a TUC in all likelihood. This is where we start to see the seedier side of the Pairwise. This is how you end up seeing situations where teams can benefit themselves by losing.

We saw it two years ago - Rensselaer earned a national tournament berth despite losing to Colgate in three games two weeks prior to Selection Sunday. Why? Because they had a strong TUC record, and once they were out, they couldn't lose to TUCs anymore.

Ultimately, though, the Engineers have to soldier on and beat whoever is put in front of them. That lends itself to an RPI boost, which can be crucial in flipping some of these comparisons.

The bottom line? There's going to be little that Rensselaer can do at this point to improve their TUC record. It is what it is, and that severely limits the upward mobility. All the Engineers can really do now is to win games and boost their RPI.

It's not all bad news. The Tute did get a couple of comparisons flipped in their favor over the weekend:
Nebraska-Omaha - Now 2-0 in favor of the Engineers thanks to UNO getting swept by Wisconsin, but again, that just means the whole thing depends on RPI staying in Rensselaer's favor - they passed UNO in that metric over the weekend. Let's hope the bad ways continue for the Mavericks.

Dartmouth - Cornell as a TUC hurts the Big Green against the Engineers, since Rensselaer had a better record against the Big Red, but again, Dartmouth was 3-0-0 against Brown, so it's kind of a wash. The Engineers lead this now thanks to an RPI swap, we could probably be rid of Dartmouth as a problem if they were to lose to Harvard in the opening round of the playoffs. There's a secondary benefit of having Dartmouth out of the tournament - they're a likely draw for Manchester (as a method for boosting ticket sales), which is almost certainly the only eastern regional the Engineers can get sent to since Quinnipiac looks locked into Providence. If Dartmouth is there, the Engineers go west.

Unfortunately, one flipped back against them, one that's a real thorn in the side:
Northern Michigan - Nauseatingly annoying. Thanks to Colgate's departure as a TUC, this is back to the Wildcats on TUC and COp, and it's the reason the Engineers are behind Notre Dame in the PWR right now. Fortunately, they're almost over the TUC cliff themselves, which remains the best way to offload the Wildcats. If Michigan can sweep NMU in the CCHA first round this weekend, that would get rid of this comparison altogether (and permanently) and move the Engineers up past the Fighting Irish (a team that has plenty of odd comparison issues themselves). No team wants to be losing comparisons to teams 15 places below them in the Pairwise, and that's exactly what this is.

There are still a number of comparisons the Engineers are winning that we need to keep an eye on.
Providence - A win right now on RPI and TUC, neither are solid enough to be comfortable right now. Need the Friars to lose to UMass-Lowell, a TUC, for this to be firmed up.

Wisconsin - Same as Providence, with one caveat. They're playing St. Cloud State this week, which will make the Huskies a common opponent. If SCSU takes 3 points this weekend, it would make COp a wash and turn this into a purely RPI-centric comparison. If SCSU sweeps, the Engineers would win COp and make this a comparison we don't need to worry about. Either situation would help us in RPI and TUC, so we're rooting big for SCSU.

Boston University - 2-1 edge for the Engineers on RPI and COp, with the Terriers' point coming on the H2H win. Not much to worry on with COp, but RPI is close, and TUC is tied. BU swept three games with Merrimack this season, so the Warriors dropping below the TUC line would be helpful, as would BU losses to Northeastern - not a TUC, but the RPI hit would be good.

Union - As mentioned last week, this comparison is now hinging almost exclusively on RPI. Neither team plays this week, so we can worry about this later. We'd like to root against them in two weeks, but this is going to become problematic too, since they're likely to be playing Dartmouth in the quarterfinals, yet another reason to root for Harvard over the Big Green.

Alaska - The Nanooks aren't really a major threat to flip this comparison right now, but it's close enough that we really wouldn't mind if their season (at least, their pre-NCAA season, given that they're on the bubble) ended this weekend in the CCHA first round. A sweep of Michigan State would probably draw this one close.

Notre Dame - Not pressing since neither the Engineers nor the Irish play this week, but TUC is still close enough to make this worrisome, especially since Rensselaer is behind Notre Dame in RPI. Not much to do here but cross your fingers and hope it stays intact - but dropping Northern Michigan as a TUC would do wonders by itself (ND 2-0-0 against the Wildcats).

And alas, there still aren't many flippable comparisons out there that the Engineers are losing. Given that they aren't playing this weekend (and neither are many of these teams) there's not much out there that can be done on most of these.
Niagara - Not playing this week, but their losses to Air Force brought them down to earth. Still an RPI only comparison, so we'll touch on this more next week.

Yale - Basically the same as Niagara. We need an RPI change here and it won't be easy, but not worth getting worked up over since the Bulldogs are also off this week.

Western Michigan - Seeing a trend here. Same thing, not playing this week, needing an RPI change.

Minnesota State - Ah, finally. One where the team is playing. This is 2-2 thanks to the Mavericks' victory over the Engineers back in October, but Rensselaer wins TUC and COp. The RPI difference is big, but if they get swept this weekend they could be on their way down, putting this comparison within reach.

So, in real terms, the Michigan-NMU playoff series is the one we're watching most as it pertains to the Pairwise. A sweep by the Wolverines would be... very nice. Besides that, we are also big fans of St. Cloud State and UMass-Lowell this weekend.

ECAC Playoffs
Cornell over Princeton
Brown over Clarkson
Harvard over Dartmouth
St. Lawrence over Colgate

CCHA Playoffs
Michigan over Northern Michigan
Michigan State over Alaska
Bowling Green over Lake Superior State

Atlantic Hockey Playoffs
Mercyhurst over Army
Sacred Heart over Robert Morris

WCHA and Hockey East regular season series (Fri/Sat)
Northeastern over Boston University
UMass-Lowell over Providence
New Hampshire over Maine
UMass over Merrimack
Vermont over Boston College
Michigan Tech over Colorado College
St. Cloud State over Wisconsin
Minnesota-Duluth over Nebraska-Omaha
Bemidji State over Minnesota
North Dakota over Minnesota State
Alaska-Anchorage over Denver