Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Men's Hockey - at Denver (17/18 Oct)

RPI's grueling early season schedule continued over the weekend with a second consecutive long trip west to faceoff against the Denver Pioneers, a matchup that featured a pair of teams with multiple links to one another. The Engineers have never had an awful lot of success traveling to Denver, that that lack of success continued as they were soundly defeated in 3-0 and 4-1 results. Both nights, RPI did themselves in with a relatively early major and game misconduct that created a short bench in the thin Colorado air, and offense, for a second and third straight game, was hard to come by.




After the offensive power outage against the Golden Gophers, Seth Appert toyed with lines a little bit. With Milos Bubela out with an injury, Travis Fulton got his first start of the year, and the team's two strongest scorers, Matt Neal and Jacob Laliberte, were put on different lines. Freshman Viktor Liljegren, who's shown quite a bit of promise, graduated to first-line center.

The intended effect clearly wasn't met from the very start. Setting the tone for the entire weekend, Denver came out blazing in the first period, throwing a remarkable 20 shots on net. RPI's defense, which has been as strong as the offense has struggled, managed to keep every single one of them from reaching the back of the net, led by junior goaltender Jason Kasdorf.

Going the other way, the Engineers struggled to get decent shots off, much as they did against Minnesota. They managed only 9 shots in the first period, and then only 6 in the second.

The crack in the defense started 4:30 into the second period as Luke Curadi was assessed a checking from behind major and a game misconduct, leaving RPI with only five defenders for the remainder of the game. The Engineers escaped from the major penalty kill without giving up a goal, but three minutes later Quentin Shore scored for the home team on a turnover in the RPI zone to make it 1-0. Exactly three minutes after that, Zac Larraza's goal on a power play (created by only the third penalty of Jacob Laliberte's college career) made the score 2-0.

That was essentially the entire meaningful scoring of the game, as Kasdorf remained strong in net throughout the contest. RPI managed more shots in the third period as they sought to cut the Pioneers lead in half, but they were unable to solve DU netminder Evan Cowley. Ty Loney scored an empty-netter in the final minute to ice the game for a 3-0 victory, but it was Kasdorf, who made 39 saves on 41 shots, who was made the game's third star for the second time in as many games.




Having been shut out in consecutive games, the line juggling intensified for Saturday night. All of the top producers were put on one scoring line, Fulton and Drew Melanson were removed from the lineup, and oddly enough, Craig Bokenfohr and Phil Hampton were moved onto the fourth line. Hampton played at forward in the Engineers' exhibition game, but Bokenfohr as a forward was quite a surprise. Bradley Bell replaced Bokenfohr on the blue line.

Penalties got the Engineers in trouble quickly on Saturday. Curtis Leonard picked up a slashing call in the game's first minute, and a goaltender interference call on Zach Schroeder (for a hit that saw DU's starter, Tanner Jaillet, pulled from his first collegiate game after only 2 minutes, with Cowley returning in net) gave Denver a short 5-on-3, but RPI managed to kill both of those penalties.

However, as with Friday night, it was a major penalty that helped get the scoring underway. Bokenfohr was given a major and a game misconduct for kneeing just 5:38 into the game, and unlike the major on Friday, Denver cashed in. The Pioneers scored twice on the major, with power play goals by Trevor Moore and Matt Marcinew to make it 2-0 before the Engineers returned to full strength.

An interference penalty to Curadi minutes after RPI got their fifth skater back led to a third power play goal for DU as Larraza scored his second of the weekend to make it 3-0. RPI, who had managed two shots on Jaillet in the first two minutes, did not muster a single shot on Cowley in the final 18 or so, and were outshot 18-2 in the first period, an even more lopsided tally than from the first night.

Larraza's second goal of the night and third of the weekend came 3:05 into the second period, making the score 4-0, and at that point, although he could hardly be blamed for much of the carnage, Seth Appert lifted Kasdorf from the net - perhaps more to save his psyche than anything else - and inserted senior Scott Diebold for his first game action of the year.

Diebold performed admirably in relief, stopping all 16 shots that he saw in 36:55 of ice time, but it was not enough to spark the RPI offense back into life. Five minutes after Larraza's second goal, Jake Wood, who had a great game drawing penalties (instead of taking them as he frequently does), drew a penalty shot for being hauled down on the breakaway. In line with RPI's luck offensively, Wood lost control of the puck while advancing on the net and never even got a shot off.

Denver took a number of penalties following the Wood penalty shot, giving the Engineers six distinct opportunities on the power play during the second half of the game, but it wasn't until a shot from the point by Chris Bradley with 35 seconds left in the game that the Engineers cashed in on the man advantage. His first goal of the season came with assists to Schroeder and Lou Nanne, the latter's first collegiate point. That broke up the shutout and by the skin of their teeth, RPI managed to avoid being shut out in three consecutive games for the first time since November 1996.

Finally, the Engineers return to Troy to open their home schedule next weekend against decidedly softer competition than they faced in their first four games - 1-2 Bentley, who allowed six goals against Sacred Heart last time out. RPI needs to put points on the board against the Falcons with the Union home-and-home waiting on the horizon.

RPI at #16 Denver
Non-conference Game - Magness Arena (Denver, CO)
10/17/14 - 9:30pm

RESULT: Denver 3, RPI 0

RECORD: 1-2-0

RPI at #16 Denver
Non-conference Game - Magness Arena (Denver, CO)
10/18/14 - 9:00pm

RESULT: Denver 4, RPI 1

RECORD: 1-3-0

Upcoming games
24 Oct - Bentley
25 Oct - Bentley
31 Oct - #2 Union
1 Nov - at #2 Union
7 Nov - Harvard

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