Monday, March 3, 2014

Men's Hockey - at Brown/Yale (28 Feb/1 Mar)

Coming into the final weekend of the regular season, the Engineers knew they would be playing in the first round of the playoffs, the top four slots in the league being firmly out of reach. They also knew they needed some points in order to guarantee that they would be playing at home in the first round. After grabbing those points with a 3-0 victory against Brown and after playing a decent first period against Yale, the Engineers folded into a 5-0 loss, ending the regular season on a sour note.




Milos Bubela returned to the RPI lineup Friday night, replacing Jimmy DeVito, with lines reassembled accordingly. A win or a tie against Brown guaranteed the Engineers home ice in the first round of the ECAC tournament, and while they eventually got there, it took quite some time before the result of the game became unbalanced.

After a first period with no goals and no scoring (albeit with an 11-7 shot advantage for the Engineers), RPI managed to get through the second period without giving up the game's first goal despite a pair of penalties in the middle stanza, one to Mark McGowan for tripping and the other a penalty for too many men that came at the very tail end of RPI's only power play of the period.

The first two periods were basically a goaltender's duel between Scott Diebold and Brown freshman Tyler Steel, with the latter stopping 18 shots to the former's 17 through the first 40 minutes. Both teams had their opportunities, especially Brown who rung two shots off the post.

Shortly after killing Brown's third power play early in the third period, the Engineers would be the first ones onto the board somewhat against the flow of play as Jacob Laliberte rocketed home a rebound off a shot by Matt Neal to score his 6th goal of the year, making it 1-0 Engineers.

Brown's attack did not let up despite going down, and the Bears continued to put the pressure on Scott Diebold. The junior netminder was forced to make several saves to maintain RPI's edge. That pressure eased slightly when once more the Engineers managed a goal against the flow of play. An opportunistic shot by Mark Miller along the Brown blueline was misjudged by Steel, going in on the short side to put RPI up 2-0 on Miller's 3rd goal of the year.

Ultimately, two bad penalties by one of Brown's top forwards, Matt Lorito, helped bring an end to the Brown threat. His nearly back to back calls for hooking and cross-checking allowed RPI a little more breathing room as Brown threw the kitchen sink at the Engineers trying to claw their way back into things. It was not to be, as Diebold stood strong with a 34-save shutout. Zach Schroeder, long snake-bitten on scoring goals, finally secured his first of the year by hitting the empty net just 10 seconds after Steel had vacated it, sealing the victory for RPI and securing home ice in the first round.




With home ice in their back pockets, RPI could take some heart in the fact that nothing that happened outside of their game against Yale would have any impact on where they finished - they would only help determine their opponent, something that was completely out of their hands. The metric was simple. A win would make the Engineers the 6th seed in the tournament, a loss or tie would leave them 7th. In both cases, they would be hosting an undetermined team from the same potential field of teams, making the difference fairly moot with the exception of limiting the potential quarterfinal opponents.

Mike Zalewski, who battled illness over the weekend, was ruled out for the game, and Jake Wood stepped in to take his place. Travis Fulton was also swapped out of the lineup to be replaced by Jimmy DeVito.

The first period was a classic back-and-forth, physical, speed-driven period between RPI and Yale. Both teams picked up plenty of scoring chances, there were plenty of hits, and neither team looked to be giving an inch of ice. Five minutes in, RPI was killing a penalty to Guy Leboeuf that was fortunate to be only a minor, and just after the Lebeouf penalty ended, a high-sticking call to Matt Neal put them right back on the penalty kill, but both times a strong showing on the kill ended without goals for the home team. The 9-8 shot total - the Bulldogs holding the advantage - was very indicative of the evenly played period at even-strength.

Then, as the second period got underway, only one team really seemed to come out for it, and Yale was that team. The Bulldogs began dominating basically every facet of the game as the Engineers shrunk away from their transitional game, their physical play, and their speed. The lopsided shot total for the middle frame - 18-3 for Yale - was also very indicative of how things went. Yale opened the scoring 9:12 into the second period with a goal by Jesse Root. That it was the only goal of the period spoke volumes of how well Scott Diebold was playing in net for the Engineers - his play alone kept RPI in the contest after 40 minutes. Despite how poorly the team was playing, the Engineers were still a good bounce away from tying things up.

In the third period, however, RPI looked even more unready or unwilling to face the Yale challenge, and the floodgates soon opened. An Anthony Day goal 2:25 in made it 2-0, and 10 minutes later a goal from Frankie DiChiara basically sealed RPI into 7th place as the home team took a 3-0 lead with under 8 minutes to play. After 8 shots in the first period, the Engineers managed just 10 more for the remainder of the game, and two more goals given up with under two minutes to play produced a 5-0 rout that ended the regular season.

After a wild ending in Ithaca between Cornell and Harvard, the overtime game that was the last one to finish produced three different potential opponents for the three different potential outcomes. A tie would see Harvard on their way to Troy for the first round. A win by the Crimson would produce Brown. However, with Cornell scoring in the final minute of the overtime period, the Dartmouth Big Green, one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch, were the ones ordering up a bus to Houston Field House next weekend.

Other junk - Ranked ECAC teams this week included Union (swept Yale/Brown, no change with 1 first place vote), #6 Quinnipiac (beat SLU and tied Clarkson, up two), #13 Cornell (lost to Dartmouth and beat Harvard, down two), #16 Yale (lost to Union and beat RPI, down one), and #18 Colgate (lost to Harvard and beat Dartmouth, down two). Clarkson (17) also received votes. Other ranked teams on the RPI schedule include #1 Minnesota (up one with 37 first place votes), #2 Boston College (down one with 12 first place votes), and #7 Ferris State (down three). Denver (27, previously ranked 20th), New Hampshire (16), and Mercyhurst (8) also received votes.

Ryan Haggerty won the ECAC goal scoring crown by netting 14 goals in league play, one more than Union's Daniel Carr or St. Lawrence's Matt Carey.

Brock Higgs is a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, given to a senior in each sport with committment to "community, classroom, character and competition." The online vote counts for 1/3 of the final vote tally, and you can vote once per day. To support Brock, click here.

Final ECAC Standings
1. Union - 37 points (18-3-1)
2. Colgate - 29 points (13-6-3)
3. Quinnipiac - 28 points (12-6-4)
4. Cornell - 26 points (11-7-4)
5. Clarkson - 24 points (11-9-2)
6. Yale - 24 points (10-8-4)
7. RPI - 21 points (8-9-5)
8. St. Lawrence - 18 points (7-11-4)
9. Brown - 17 points (8-13-1)
10. Dartmouth - 16 points (7-13-2)
11. Harvard - 16 points (6-12-4)
12. Princeton - 8 points (4-18-0)

ECAC First Round matchups
#12 Princeton at #5 Clarkson
#11 Harvard at #6 Yale
#10 Dartmouth at #7 RPI
#9 Brown at #8 St. Lawrence

RPI at Brown
ECAC Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
2/28/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Brown 0

RECORD: 14-13-6 (8-8-5 ECAC, 21 pts)

RPI at #15 Yale
ECAC Game - Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
3/1/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Yale 5, RPI 0

RECORD: 14-14-6 (8-9-5 ECAC, 21 pts)

Upcoming games
07 Mar - Dartmouth (ECAC First Round - Game 1)
08 Mar - Dartmouth (ECAC First Round - Game 2)
09 Mar - Dartmouth (ECAC First Round - Game 3, if necessary)
14 Mar - at ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 1 (if qualified)
15 Mar - at ECAC Quarterfinals, Game 2 (if qualified)

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