Monday, February 3, 2014

Men's Hockey - at Clarkson/St. Lawrence (31 Jan/1 Feb)

There was a bit of a mixed train of thought heading into the North Country trip this season. First, as last year's sweep demonstrated in part, the formerly "dreaded" North Country experience didn't really have to be all that dreaded, but with four players (two top scorers and two top defenders) and the coach suspended for Friday's till at Clarkson, an expectation kind of set in that any result against the Golden Knights would be gravy. The Engineers certainly didn't get any kind of result at all, falling 3-0, but the return of the suspended players paid immediate dividends the next night as RPI ended the road trip on a high note with a 4-3 victory over St. Lawrence.

Bourbonnais, Higgs



Out of necessity, due to league rules on the number of players that can suit up in any given road weekend and the number of players who were out due to suspensions stemming from the melee at the end of the Union game, RPI ended up dressing one player fewer than they were allowed, which in this case meant dressing only 11 forwards. Unexpectedly, Jake Wood was not in the lineup at all, replaced by Mark McGowan, and Riley Bourbonnais came in for one of the suspended players.

Bad penalties put the Engineers behind the eight-ball early in this one, as Guy Lebeouf took three straight minors in the game's first 27 minutes to blunt what little attack the Engineers had left following the suspensions. On the first of those penalties, Clarkson converted to go up 1-0 on the power play 7:33 in.

The second period, long a point of contention with RPI, proved to be especially brutal and ended any opportunity the shorthanded Engineers had at salvaging anything from Friday's contest. Clarkson netted their second goal of the game at 2:48, and scored an extra-attacker goal during a 4-on-4 with a delayed penalty to Craig Bokenfohr con the way, making it 3-0. The Bokenfohr penalty was a major for hitting from behind, ending the sophomore's night early and making RPI even more shorthanded than they already were. Clarkson didn't score on the long power play, but up three goals and dominating the shots 16-3 in the middle stanza, they really didn't have to.

The third period basically consisted of Clarkson going into full lockdown mode, and the punchless Engineers had little response for it, leading to the 3-0 conclusion. Scott Diebold didn't play poorly in net, stopping 26 of 29 shots, but RPI managed only 16 shots in return.

St. Lawrence



With the exception of Mark McGowan playing in place of Jake Wood, the lineup for the St. Lawrence game was actually the exact same lineup and line combination that played against Union a week prior.

The Engineers gained immediate dividends from the return of the suspended players. On the very first shift, 43 seconds in, Mike Zalewski scored his 6th of the season and 3rd in as many games, with one of the assists going to the similarly returning Ryan Haggerty, to make it 1-0 RPI.

RPI maintained that lead for 13 minutes, but a penalty to Milos Bubela provided the Engineers with their first look at the nation's #1 power play (the Saints score power play goals at about 30%, which is about the only thing they had been doing well), and SLU converted on the man advantage to make it 1-1.

That lasted for less than a minute, as Haggerty responded with his 20th goal of the year on an opportunistic shot that was just a bad goal for the St. Lawrence goaltender to give up, as RPI regained the lead just 54 seconds later.

The very dreaded 2nd period loomed, however. It's uncanny how rough things can be for RPI in the middle frame and on Saturday night it was no exception. Despite outshooting the Saints 12-9 and taking no penalties, the Engineers gave up two goals in the second to go down 3-2. The first came about seven and a half minutes in to tie the game, then another goal with two and a half minutes left in the second gave SLU their first lead of the game.

But in a scene that RPI just hasn't put up much this season, there was a bounceback in the 3rd period. Mark Miller, who grew up in the North Country, notched his 2nd of the year to tie it 3-3 six minutes into the 3rd, and then Haggerty's second of the game and 21st of the season with just a hair over eight minutes left made it 4-3.

A bad interference penalty by Bo Dolan with about 3:30 left gave St. Lawrence a golden opportunity with their deadly power play, but the RPI penalty kill stood strong, and the Engineers then withstood 1:14 of 6-on-5 to escape with two points for the weekend.

Other junk - Ranked ECAC teams this week include #3 Quinnipiac (beat Dartmouth, no change), #4 Union (lost to SLU, beat Clarkson, no change), #9 Cornell (swept at Yale/Brown, up two), #13 Yale (lost to Cornell and beat Colgate, no change), and #14 Clarkson (beat RPI and lost to Union, up one). Colgate (ex-#18, 23 votes) was the only other ECAC team to pick up votes this week. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (no change with 40 first place votes), #2 Boston College (no change with 10 first place votes), #5 Ferris State (up one), #15 Denver (up one), and #20 New Hampshire (previously unranked). Mercyhurst (11) also received votes.

With 21 goals, Ryan Haggerty has tied Chase Polacek's 2010-11 season for 2nd most goals by an Engineer in the last 10 campaigns. He trails only Polacek's junior year in 2009-10, which featured 26 goals. He rates 10th in the nation in points per game at 1.38, and trails BC's Johnny Gaudreau by 2 goals for the national lead there (no one else has more than 19). His second goal at SLU was his 5th game winner of the season, tying him for the national lead with Gaudreau and four others.

Jacob Laliberte was missing from the end of the St. Lawrence game, rumor has it that the junior has a separated shoulder but nothing is confirmed.

Next for RPI is Freakout! weekend. On Friday, the Engineers host Yale, and in the last couple of seasons, RPI-Yale has provided some very exciting hockey games. If you can't stay awake for that one, check your pulse. Freakout! features the return of Brown to the Field House, and the final new opponent of the season. RPI has waited 11 months to get some revenge on the Bears for the skin-of-their-teeth win in last year's playoff series, they'll get to go for it in front of a packed house.

ECAC Standings
1. Union - 22 points (11-3-0)
2. Quinnipiac - 21 points (9-2-3)
3. Cornell - 20 points (6-3-4)
4. Colgate - 19 points (9-5-1)
5. Clarkson - 18 points (9-5-0)
6. Yale - 15 points (6-5-3)
7. Brown - 13 points (6-7-1)
8. RPI - 13 points (5-6-3)
9. St. Lawrence - 9 points (3-8-3)
10. Harvard - 9 points (3-9-3)
11. Dartmouth - 7 points (3-11-1)
12. Princeton - 6 points (3-11-0)

RPI at #15 Clarkson
ECAC Game - Cheel Arena (Potsdam, NY)
1/31/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Clarkson 3, RPI 0

College Hockey Stats
RECORD: 10-11-4 (4-6-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

RPI at St. Lawrence
ECAC Game - Appleton Arena (Canton, NY)
2/1/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, St. Lawrence 3

RECORD: 11-11-4 (5-6-3 ECAC, 13 pts)

Upcoming games
07 Feb - #13 Yale
08 Feb - Brown (Big Red Freakout!)
14 Feb - at Colgate
15 Feb - at #9 Cornell
21 Feb - St. Lawrence

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