Monday, January 13, 2014

Men's Hockey - at Princeton/Quinnipiac (10/11 Jan)

A season that began with a great deal of promise for the Engineers continued to dwindle as they returned to ECAC play, and ahead of the final week off of the season, RPI appears on the edge of the abyss. A night after falling to then last-place Princeton, 2-1, the Engineers came out flat against Quinnipiac and paid the price, falling into a 5-0 hole and eventually losing by a 6-2 score for the third time in four games. That extends RPI's losing streak to four games, and their winless streak to six.




With the Princeton game representing probably the first game the Engineers have been favorites in since... the last time they played Princeton, the RPI lineup got a serious revamp, with the 2nd through 4th lines being jumbled pretty significantly since the conclusion of the Mariucci Classic. Most notably personnel-wise, Mark McGowan and Parker Reno came out of the lineup, replaced by Mark Miller and Phil Hampton, respectively.

RPI not only got the jump in momentum in New Jersey, they also picked up the game's first goal as Luke Curadi pinched in to pick up a loose puck behind a scrum in front of the net to pot his second goal of the season and give RPI a 1-0 lead 14:49 into the game.

The Engineers would hold that lead for a grand total of 66 seconds, ultimately their only lead of the weekend. Ryan Haggerty was called for cross-checking seconds after the Curadi goal, and Princeton capitalized on the ensuing power play to make it 1-1.

Still, RPI maintained the pressure throughout the first 40 minutes of the game, outshooting the home team by a 25-13 shot advantage through two periods but still could not break the deadlock, leading to a very similar feeling - after all, the Engineers dominated play for 50 minutes against the Tigers in Princeton last season, only to suffer a 4-1 loss after giving up two empty netters.

1:04 into the third period, deja vu became more of a reality when Princeton scored to go up 2-1 on a defensive breakdown by the Engineers. Once in front, the Tigers went into a defensive trap, sapping the Engineers' scoring opportunities going forward. A late 6-on-4 opportunity in the game's last 40 seconds didn't provide the breakthrough the Engineers needed, and they fell for the second year in a row at Princeton despite controlling large swaths of the game.




Very little in the way of change for the Engineers' lineup as the scene shifted to the distinctly more difficult contest at Quinnipiac - where the Tigers had been in last place on Friday, the Bobcats were in first place on Saturday. Mark McGowan returned to the lineup, replacing Milos Bubela, necessitating a slight jumble of the 2nd and 3rd lines from Friday.

RPI came out of the gate lethargic against Quinnipiac, and the Bobcats wasted very little time in making them pay. A terrible turnover in the defensive zone created one of the easiest goals you'll ever see to put the home team up 1-0 just 4:37 into the game, and from there it was one mistake after another. A second bad turnover made it 2-0 at 11:19, and a pair of penalties in rapid succession to McGowan and Matt Neal produced a 5-on-3 that Quinnipiac converted to make it 3-0.

The lackadaisical play continued well into the second period, enabling Quinnipiac to go up 4-0 about five minutes into the period. RPI began to show some signs of life midway through the period, but a late power play on a charging call against Jake Wood created the Bobcats' fifth goal of the game with 0.3 seconds left in the middle frame, making it 5-0 heading into the second intermission. Quinnipiac outshot RPI 19-13 in the first two periods.

Diebold's rough night ended with that fifth goal, as freshman Jake Soffer got his first collegiate ice-time by playing the third period. At this point, the Bobcats had largely called off the dogs, but Soffer still picked up 11 saves in 20 minutes in a decent showing.

Eight minutes into the third, RPI finally got on the board with a power play goal by Neal, his 9th goal of the season. Two minutes later, on another power play chance, Matt Tinordi notched his 4th of the year to make the score 5-2 with 10 minutes remaining. The Engineers were playing well with the man advantage and a ray of hope was streaking through a slightly open door, but the door was shut tight two minutes later. After a too many men penalty on the Engineers, Quinnipiac scored to make it 6-2, which would be the final in a loss for the third time in four games for the Engineers, all against teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

Other junk - Befitting a team that's now two games under .500 that hasn't won in over a month, the Engineers dropped fully out of the USCHO ranking by not receiving a single vote for the first time since February 4, 2013. Ranked ECAC teams this week include #5 Quinnipiac (swept Union/RPI, up two), #6 Union (lost to QU and beat Princeton, down two), #8 Yale (beat Harvard, up two), #12 Cornell (idle, no change), and #14 Clarkson (split with Merrimack, down three). Colgate (18) also received votes. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (no change with 48/50 first place votes), #2 Ferris State (up one with 1/50 first place votes), #4 Boston College (up one), #16 Denver (up one), and #17 New Hampshire (up three). Mercyhurst (5) also received votes.

Without a goal in six straight games, Ryan Haggerty has now lost the national lead in goals to BC's Johnny Gaudreau. The BC junior now has 19 to Haggerty's 18, which does leave the RPI junior alone in 2nd, two ahead of Bentley junior Alex Grieve in 3rd. Haggerty's 8 power play goals remains tied for the national lead with two others.

RPI's offense is down to 3.14 (yes, pi) goals per game, which means they've underachieved offensively in each of the last six games of the winless streak.

Defensively, after being among the leading teams in the nation in October, the Engineers are down to 38th, almost at a team GAA of 3.00 with 2.95.

The Engineers take a week off, during which time most of the league will be playing some of its games in hand. They pick up again at home for the first time in over a month when they host Dartmouth, then they get Union in Albany for a game that's going to be ugly in a hurry if the Engineers play like they've been playing of late.

ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 19 points (8-2-3)
2. Union - 18 points (9-2-0)
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 (3-5-3)
8. Brown - 7 points (3-4-1)
9. Harvard - 7 points (2-6-3)
10. St. Lawrence - 6 points (2-4-2)
11. Princeton - 6 points (3-9-0)
12. Dartmouth - 4 points (2-8-0)

RPI at Princeton
ECAC Game - Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
1/10/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Princeton 2, RPI 1

College Hockey Stats
RECORD: 8-9-4 (3-4-3 ECAC, 9 pts)

RPI at #7 Quinnipiac
ECAC Game - TD Bank Sports Center (Hamden, CT)
1/11/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Quinnipiac 6, RPI 2


RECORD: 8-10-4 (3-5-3 ECAC, 9 pts)

Upcoming games
24 Jan - Dartmouth
25 Jan - vs. #6 Union (Albany, NY)
31 Jan - at #14 Clarkson
01 Feb - at St. Lawrence
07 Feb - #8 Yale

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