Friday, March 14, 2014

Men's Hockey - ECAC First Round vs. Dartmouth (7/8/9 Mar)

All season long, one of the biggest issues with the Engineers has been a lack of killer instinct. Throughout the year, that lack of ability to finish games turned wins into ties and losses with some frequency. Last weekend, that trend returned in full force, showing itself over the course of RPI's first round home playoff series against Dartmouth in two ways that ended the Engineers' season. First, after a solid 4-1 victory in Game 1, that lack of killer instinct allowed the Big Green to get back into the series with a 3-2 win in Game 2, then appeared in the 3rd period of Game 3 as RPI blew a 4-2 lead with 20 minutes remaining to lose 5-4.

Game 1
Higgs-Zalewski-Haggerty
Neal-Bubela-Laliberte
McGowan-Miller-Schroeder
Fulton-Rogic-Tinordi

Leboeuf-Leonard
Bradley-Dolan
Curadi-Bokenfohr

Diebold

Mike Zalewski and Travis Fulton made their returns to the RPI lineup in time for the playoffs, replacing Jake Wood and Jimmy DeVito. None of the Engineers' five freshmen would ultimately see any ice time during the series against Dartmouth, and the RPI lineup did not change in any of the games.

RPI jumped on Dartmouth early in the first period of game one, collecting a pair of goals by Ryan Haggerty to go up 2-0 ten minutes into the game. Haggerty's first goal came moments after the Engineers' first power play of the game got underway, and the second one came on a backhanded shot off an intercepted pass in the Dartmouth zone.

The RPI penalty kill then got active, killing off a holding call to Guy Lebeouf before being pressed into hard service late in the period as back to back penalties to Mike Zalewski and Mark McGowan put RPI on a long 5x3 kill that straddled the first and second periods. They got through both penalties unscathed, and then just over a minute after returning to full strength went up 3-0 as Jacob Laliberte scored on a rebound in front of the net.

A Bo Dolan penalty six minute later got Dartmouth on the board as a shot from the point came weakly into the slot due to a broken stick, but the off-powered motion forced the defense into a bad position, and the loose puck was scooped up and put in the back of the net to make it 3-1.

Zach Schroeder picked up an insurance goal - his second of the season - 66 seconds into the third to make it 4-1, and as time ticked away Dartmouth appeared willing to head to Game 2 down one game to none. Scott Diebold made 29 saves on 30 shots to pick up the victory for the Engineers.

Game 2
Higgs-Zalewski-Haggerty
Neal-Bubela-Laliberte
McGowan-Miller-Schroeder
Fulton-Rogic-Tinordi

Leboeuf-Leonard
Bradley-Dolan
Curadi-Bokenfohr

Diebold

Dartmouth came out of the gate a different team that had limped to a three-goal loss the previous night, setting the pace early. A goal by Eric Neiley was waved off due to goaltender interference, but Neiley would start the scoring off nonetheless on the power play seven minutes in to make it 1-0 Dartmouth. That RPI was not down by more than that after one period was a testament to the solid play of Scott Diebold, who made 18 saves on 19 shots in the first 20 minutes to keep RPI in the game.

Jacob Laliberte scored his second goal in as many nights 8:43 into the second period to even the score at one, and for a brief moment it looked as though momentum may have swung into the Engineers' favor. Just over a minute later, however, that momentum was blunted by poor play in the defensive zone as Dartmouth's Jesse Beamish got to a loose puck in the RPI zone and put it home to put the Big Green up 2-1.

The Engineers did not waste time tying the score again, however, as a power play opportunity produced a goal by Ryan Haggerty, his 27th of the season, only two minutes later to make it 2-2 as RPI outplayed Dartmouth in the latter half of the second period, and despite a very shoddy first period, looked to be in position to move on with a solid showing in the third period.

The third, however, more closely resembled the first period than the end of the second. Dartmouth came out firing, and Diebold did everything he could to keep RPI in the game until Neiley hit the twine for the third time on the evening, but only counting for the second time, putting Dartmouth up 3-2 with 6:14 left in the game.

The Engineers did get some extended opportunities at the end of the game to hit the tying goal for the third time, as Neiley took a cross-checking call in the Dartmouth end with 1:19 left while Diebold was out of the net. That set RPI up with a 6-on-4 advantage through the end of the game, but they were unable to put one past Charles Grant, and the deadlocked series went on to a Game 3 on Sunday night.

Game 3
Higgs-Zalewski-Haggerty
Neal-Bubela-Laliberte
McGowan-Miller-Schroeder
Fulton-Rogic-Tinordi

Leboeuf-Leonard
Bradley-Dolan
Curadi-Bokenfohr

Diebold

It was a familiar face getting the Engineers off on the right foot on Sunday as Ryan Haggerty scored his fourth goal of the weekend to put RPI up 1-0 just 3:39 into the deciding Game 3, setting the tone right. Things started looking very good for the Engineers as a Dartmouth penalty two minutes later put RPI, who had scored on the power play in each of the first two games, on the man advantage. However, the Engineers' feast-or-famine strategy of having five forwards out on the power play would come back to haunt them. 

When Haggerty was unable to control a pass at the blue line, it was immediately pounced on by Dartmouth's Tim O'Brien, who went the length with it on the breakaway. Scott Diebold made the initial save, but the rebound went right to O'Brien who was moving to Diebold's left, and he put home that rebound for a shorthanded goal that made the score 1-1.

Mike Zalewski would score 10 minutes later to make it 2-1, but the circumstances that led to O'Brien's goal still seemed to overshadow the Engineers' lead. 

RPI maintained that one-goal edge for most of the 2nd period. They were unable to extend the lead on a 5x3 opportunity midway through the period even despite calling timeout before the 30 second opportunity - in fact, they did not even record a single shot on the two-man advantage.

The worries over the failure to score seemed to evaporate about five minutes later, as Chris Bradley scored his 3rd goal of the season in a bit of a role reversal goal. Mark McGowan took the shot from the point, and Bradley redirected the shot into the net to put RPI up 3-1.

A Dartmouth goal with 1:55 left in the 2nd period threatened to sap RPI's momentum heading into the deciding 20 minutes, but McGowan would respond less than a minute later by jamming home a puck that was stuck in a scrum in front of the Dartmouth net to make it 4-2 RPI.

Taking a two-goal lead into the final period is usually a superior place to be, but Dartmouth responded as one would expect a team to respond with their backs against the wall, and much as with the first period of Game 2, RPI put forward a passive response to that desperation. A goal by Eric Neiley, his third of the weekend, cut the Engineers' lead in half just 2:10 into the period.

Still, the Dartmouth onslaught came, and still, RPI looked uninterested in meeting the task. About seven minutes after Neiley's goal, Brandon McNally tied the game, and still the Big Green were the aggressors. Both teams got power play opportunities with the score tied, but the game remained deadlocked with with just under 3 minutes to play once the RPI power play expired, the second of the two.

Brad Schierhorn stepped up about 40 seconds after the Big Green finished killing their penalty, rocketing home a perfect pass to complete the Dartmouth comeback, putting the visitors ahead for the first time on the evening with 2:14 left on the game clock.

Suddenly, it looked like the Engineers were interested in playing offense, but the frenzied attempts late with the goaltender pulled were too little, too late. Despite outscoring Dartmouth 10-9, the Engineers lost twice and had their playoff experience end after just three games for the second consecutive season.

Other junk - RPI's last home playoff series victory came in 2004 over Princeton. They have lost five such series since (2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014).

Ryan Haggerty, on Wednesday, signed an NHL contract with the New York Rangers, foregoing his senior season.

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.


Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC First Round, Game 1 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/7/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Dartmouth 1

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

RECORD: 15-14-6 (8-9-5 ECAC, 21 pts)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC First Round, Game 2 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/8/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Dartmouth 3, RPI 2

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

RECORD: 15-15-6 (8-9-5 ECAC, 21 pts)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC First Round, Game 3 - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
3/9/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Dartmouth 5, RPI 4

BOX SCORES

RECAPS

RECORD: 15-16-6 (8-9-5 ECAC, 21 pts)


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