Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Men's Hockey - Icebreaker Tournament (10-12 Oct)

The Engineers got their season out of the gates with a difficult assignment - the annual Icebreaker tournament, which always features some of the top teams in the nation. The way it played out was probably one of the toughest paths possible, featuring a game against the homestanding Notre Dame Fighting Irish followed by the consensus favorites for the national championship, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. RPI picked up an upset victory in the first round by knocking off the Irish, 3-2, but learned they have a long way to go to challenge the very best in the nation, playing well but falling 3-0 to Minnesota.

Notre Dame
Neal-Laliberte-Bourbonnais
McGowan-Bubela-Schroeder
Wood-Liljegren-Melanson
Nanne-Miller-DeVito

Leonard-Bokenfohr
Curadi-Prapavessis
Wilson-Bradley

Kasdorf

Lines and pairings for the Engineers against Notre Dame were similar to the ones put forward for the exhibition matchup the previous weekend. Milos Bubela was reinserted into the lineup on the second line, moving Lou Nanne to the fourth line.

After a back-and-forth, fast-paced 10 minutes to start the game as both teams got their competitive legs underneath them, a penalty to Jared Wilson was the first item of note on the box score, producing a penalty kill that RPI got behind them with little fuss. Notre Dame would, however, score the game's first goal shortly after killing a penalty of their own with very little problem, getting a tally from Mario Lucia to take a 1-0 lead with just under three minutes left in the game.

RPI wasted very little game time getting the goal back. After a cross-checking call against the Irish with 11 seconds left in the first period, freshman Viktor Liljegren scored the Engineers' first goal of the season, and the first of his career, on the power play just 42 seconds into the second period to knot the game up at one.

Five minutes later, it was Jacob Laliberte scoring his first of the year on a redirection of a shot by Matt Neal to put RPI ahead for the first time. After that, it was the Engineers' penalty kill that saved the day, scotching power play opportunities for Notre Dame off penalties to Drew Melanson and Jake Wood.

Another penalty by Wood in the early third period looked to give the Irish their fifth power-play chance of the game, but a penalty to Lucia six seconds later ended it before it even began. Notre Dame did end up making the most of the ensuing 4-on-4, tying the game at two with a goal by Jordan Gross. But as the 4-on-4 continued, and with Wood about to exit the penalty box, RPI earned what would eventually be the game winning goal from junior Mark Miller, who put back a shot by Zach Schroeder to put the Engineers ahead for good.

Jason Kasdorf, in his first official game for RPI in almost a full calendar year, stopped 14 of 15 Notre Dame shots in the third period to seal the victory, as the Irish spent much of the last 10 minutes of the game with the puck down in the Engineers zone. He made 31 saves on 33 shots overall.

The victory set up an early Sunday championship game against #1 Minnesota, who had been 4-3 winners over Minnesota-Duluth earlier on Friday. There were no games played on Saturday due to the Notre Dame football game taking place on campus that day, which would have completely dominated the tournament's conclusion otherwise.

Minnesota
Neal-Laliberte-Bourbonnais
McGowan-Miller-Schroeder
Wood-Liljegren-Melanson
Nanne, DeVito

Leonard-Bokenfohr
Curadi-Prapavessis
Wilson-Bradley
Bell

Kasdorf

Bubela, who didn't see an awful lot of ice time on Friday, was pulled out of the RPI lineup against the Golden Gophers. The Engineers dressed just 11 forwards, two of which (Nanne and Schroeder) are from families with Minnesota hockey alums in their ranks. In Bubela's place, Bradley Bell suited up for his first official action as an RPI Engineer, skating as a seventh defenseman.

From the very outset of the game, it was apparent that Minnesota was the dominant team. The Golden Gophers controlled basically every aspect of the game from start to finish, and it was a testament to how well RPI played in response that the final score was not worse than it ended up becoming. Some observers said the Engineers looked like they were a step behind the #1 ranked team in the country, it was probably more accurate to say that Minnesota was a step ahead.

The Gophers collected just one goal in each of the three periods, getting points from Seth Ambroz in the first, tournament MVP Hudson Fasching in the second, and Connor Reilly in the third. The first two goals were on redirects in front that were primarily a function of Minnesota's superior puck control, the third was a power play goal immediately after the first faceoff of the man advantage, a booming shot from the point that Kasdorf probably would have preferred a second chance at, quite possibly the only goal of the weekend that he gave up that he could have done better with.

The Engineers took their chances throughout the game and put a respectable 22 shots on Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox, but many of their opportunities were not high-percentage chances, and Wilcox gave up few rebounds. Despite Wilcox's shutout, it was Kasdorf who was named the game's third star after a second consecutive 31-save effort, this time making 31 saves on 34 shots, including a couple of breakaway saves against some of the best shooters in the country.

For the next three weekends, the Engineers will have only a single opponent in a weekend series. It starts with another long road trip, this one to the NCHC's Denver, and follows with the home openers against Bentley and the annual home-and-home against Union.

RPI at #12 Notre Dame
Icebreaker Game - Compton Family Ice Arena (South Bend, IN)
10/10/14 - 7:30pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Notre Dame 2


RECORD: 1-0-0

RPI vs. #1 Minnesota
Icebreaker Game - Compton Family Ice Arena (South Bend, IN)
10/12/14 - 12:00pm

RESULT: Minnesota 3, RPI 0


RECORD: 1-1-0

Upcoming games
17 Oct - at #16 Denver
18 Oct - at #16 Denver
24 Oct - Bentley
25 Oct - Bentley
31 Oct - #2 Union

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