Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Men's Hockey - Dartmouth and the Mayor's Cup (24/25 Jan)

In a weekend where a reeling team desperately needed a jumpstart, the RPI Engineers took steps to put the season back on track with a big pair of victories. The first win, a 4-2 victory against Dartmouth on Friday night, gave the Engineers two important ECAC points, while the second one, a 2-1 victory in the Mayor's Cup game against Union, finally got a monkey off the team's back and provided a solid upset victory that is likely to serve as some kind of turning point in the season, depending on the impact of the much talked about aftermath.




A jumbling of the lines from the last time the Engineers were on the ice nearly two weeks prior was in the cards for RPI's first home game in over a month. The jumble created a pair of scoring lines and what Seth Appert called "two third lines." Craig Bokenfohr also made the lineup for just the second time this year.

The first period consisted mostly of a feeling out process for both teams, neither playing overly physical and neither contesting too many decent scoring opportunties. The period ended with the Engineers holding a 10-6 shot edge.

RPI got things going quickly in the second period with Ryan Haggerty snapping his goal-scoring drought with his first goal since December 7. He scored off the post and in on a one-timer in the slot from a pass by Brock Higgs to make it 1-0 with his 19th goal of the season.

From there the physical play picked up significantly on both sides, but it was RPI being called for all of the penalties, taking three penalties in a row (two to Johnny Rogic), but the Big Green power play was unable to convert on any of them.

About a minute after the second Rogic penalty ended, RPI made it 2-0 on a tic-tac-toe play. Haggerty, with the puck behind the RPI net, passed to Jacob Laliberte near the slot, and Laliberte one-touched a pass to Milos Bubela on the side of the cage. Bubela's one-timer hit a wide open net to double the RPI lead.

Three minutes later, Dartmouth scored shortly after a faceoff in the RPI zone with a shot from the point that went through a screen, forcing Diebold to dive too late to his left to stop the puck. That goal made it 2-1.

With the next goal crucial, RPI regained their two-goal edge a little under eight minutes into the third period as Matt Neal scored down low with his 10th goal of the season to make it 3-1 Engineers. But four minutes later, Dartmouth would get the goal back shortly after killing a penalty. With the penalized player streaking out of the box, the Big Green found him with a head-man pass, creating a breakaway that they scored to Diebold's left.

With Dartmouth's goaltender pulled late in the game, it looked like the Engineers were in for another nailbiting ending as the Big Green pushed hard for the tying goal. The pressure wasn't truly relieved until there were only about 10 seconds left as Mike Zalewski jumped on a loose puck and brought it down ice, getting an open look at the empty net before being hauled down from behind while coming up the boards. The referees, after initial consultation, awarded a penalty shot which was registered as an automatic goal since there was no goaltender in the net, sealing the win for the Engineers with about six seconds left in the game.

The victory snapped a six-game winless streak and a four-game losing streak for the Engineers, producing their first win since a 5-2 triumph over Princeton in early December.




The challenge of one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, and the Engineers' most fierce rival, was next on neutral turf. The designated home team this year, RPI rolled with the same lineup on Saturday night that had procured victory on Friday.

The Engineers actually controlled much of the play in the first 20 minutes but, as can happen against a solid team like Union, ended up trailing 1-0 due to a spot error that was pounced upon. After an early penalty kill, RPI got a power play of their own and were looking fairly decent on that advantage until the puck squirted away and into the neutral zone behind all five members of the top power play unit, all forwards. Shayne Gostisbehere raced after the puck, which preceded him down ice and into the RPI zone. Diebold elected not to play the puck, and the Union junior took it behind the RPI net and wrapped it around and in without any challenge from Engineer skaters, making it 1-0 on a shorthanded goal.

Union appeared to come out of the locker room flat in the second period, and the Engineers pounced to capitalize, dominating possession in the Union zone before Bubela notched his second goal of the weekend about five minutes in to make it 1-1. For the next five minutes, it appeared that a 2-1 RPI lead was inevitable, so out of sorts were the Dutchmen on defense. Interestingly, a Union penalty to Matt Hatch seemed to be the spark that snapped the Dutchmen out of their funk, as the ensuing power play by the Engineers never got out of the gate, only once even gaining the attacking zone and never truly getting set up.

That kill, along with a pair of RPI penalties that created a tense 3-on-5 penalty killing situation for the Engineers, definitely swung all the momentum back in the Union direction, but Diebold and his defense stood strong through the onslaught, making 9 saves in the final 10 minutes of the second period to preserve the 1-1 tie.

The referees swallowed their whistles during the third period, though they didn't have much of an excuse to use them anyway in what was definitely turning into a solid back and forth battle between the rivals. Union appeared to mostly have the upperhand for the third period, but RPI was getting their own scoring opportunities from time to time as well. The breakthrough came with 3:38 left in regulation, as Zalewski scored his second goal of the weekend to give the Engineers a 2-1 lead somewhat against the flow of play.

Union wasted no time in pulling their goaltender, going with six skaters just over a minute later. The Dutchmen buzzed the RPI zone, looking for that tying goal, and the Engineers could scarcely move the puck out of the zone. The Engineers iced the puck a few times, but that was the best they seemed to be able to do. Scott Diebold continued coming up large, including making a diving glove save with just about 30 seconds left on the clock.

An icing call with 1.7 seconds left created one final chance in the RPI zone for Union, but Zalewski won the faceoff back into an empty corner to kill the rest of the clock and give the Engineers the weekend sweep, the Mayor's Cup, and their first victory over Union in 11 tries over the last three seasons.

There were other things that happened in the immediate interim, you may have heard about them.

The victory completed RPI's first weekend sweep since twin victories over Sacred Heart and BU in late October, and marked the Engineers' first win of the season that did not include a goal by Ryan Haggerty.

Other junk - Despite the rebound, the Engineers are only at .500, still not enough to garner any votes in the latest USCHO poll. Ranked ECAC teams include #3 Quinnipiac (idle, up one), #4 Union (beat Harvard and lost to RPI, down one), #11 Cornell (tied SLU and beat Clarkson, up one), #13 Yale (split with Brown, down three), #15 Clarkson (swept at Colgate/Cornell, down two), and #18 Colgate (swept Clarkson/SLU, previously unranked). No other ECAC teams picked up votes. Eight different ECAC teams have been ranked this season with the addition of Colgate, including all six New York teams. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (no change with 44 of 50 first place votes), #2 Boston College (no change with 6 of 50 first place votes), #6 Ferris State (no change), and #16 Denver (no change). New Hampshire (7) and Mercyhurst (2) also received votes.

Mike Zalewski and Luke Curadi picked up game-disqualifications in the unpleasantness after the Mayor's Cup game was over, they will not be able to play this coming Friday. Supplemental discipline handed down by the ECAC on Monday will also make Ryan Haggerty and Bo Dolan ineligible on Friday.

At 19 goals, Haggerty is tied for 2nd in the nation with Boston College's Kevin Hayes. Hayes' teammate, Johnny Gaudreau, leads with 22. Haggerty is 11th in the nation in points per game (1.30), second in goals per game (0.83), and fifth in power-play goals with 8.

Jacob Laliberte has jumped into the top 20 in the nation in assists per game at 0.78.

Jake Wood has 53 penalty minutes this season, Brock Higgs has 49 and Mike Zalewski 47, all more than Milos Bubela last season, the team leader with 43. Wood leads a team that is currently 3rd in the nation in total penalty minutes per game (17.3).

The North Country trip beckons at one of the most difficult points in the season to go - when it's massively cold out. The far tougher game will come on Friday, against nationally ranked Clarkson with four regular starters serving a suspension. They will all be available on Saturday, against a struggling St. Lawrence squad.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 20 points (10-2-0)
2. Colgate - 19 points (9-3-1)
3. Quinnipiac - 19 points (8-2-3)
4. Clarkson - 16 points (8-4-0)
5. Cornell - 16 points (6-3-4)
6. Yale - 13 points (5-4-3)
7. Brown - 11 points (5-6-1)
8. RPI - 11 points (4-5-3)
9. St. Lawrence - 7 points (2-7-3)
10. Harvard - 7 points (2-9-3)
11. Princeton - 6 points (3-9-0)
12. Dartmouth - 5 points (2-10-1)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC Game - Hobey Baker Memorial Rink (Princeton, NJ)
1/24/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Dartmouth 2

College Hockey Stats
RECORD: 9-10-4 (4-5-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

RPI vs. #3 Union
Mayor's Cup Game - Times Union Center (Albany, NY)
1/25/14 - 7:30pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Union 1

RECORD: 10-10-4 (4-5-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

Upcoming games
31 Jan - at #15 Clarkson
01 Feb - at St. Lawrence
07 Feb - #13 Yale
08 Feb - Brown (Big Red Freakout!)
14 Feb - at #18 Colgate

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