Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Men's Hockey - Harvard/Dartmouth (7/8 Nov)

RPI's roller-coaster season and offensive fright-fest continued over the weekend by rolling all of the major trends of up-and-down play and struggles in scoring into 120 minutes of a single ECAC travel-partner pairing at home. The Engineers came back down from their sweep of Union by falling to a strong-looking Harvard squad 4-0, coming back the next night to top Dartmouth 2-1 in a game they trailed most of the way and won practically at the death.




After the sweep of Union, minimal lineup changes were in order - Chris Bradley ultimately sat out the entire weekend (the circumstances make it seem likely to have been an injury, but that's not confirmed), and Bradley Bell took his place against the Crimson.

The Engineers provided Harvard with their first shutout of the season last year, and they managed it again this season, managing a meager 14 shots on goal in the entire game against the Crimson. Harvard likely blocked even more shots than RPI got through to netminder Steve Michalek, but ultimately the Crimson senior only needed to be sharp in a very limited number of chances for the Engineers.

Meanwhile, Harvard juniors Jimmy Vesey and Brian Hart stepped up big time to power the Harvard victory. Vesey scored a pair of goals on the power play, the first coming late in the first period to give the Crimson a 1-0 lead, and the second coming 14 minutes into the second period to put Harvard up 3-0. Both goals were scored with ruthless efficiency on the power play, a far cry from the desperately poor man advantage that the Crimson put up in Troy a couple of years back. Vesey proved dangerous the entire game, creating opportunities seemingly out of nowhere, and generating excellent chances practically every time he was left alone.

Hart's goal was particularly strong. After a failed back pass by the Engineers went the length of the ice into the RPI zone, Hart pounced on it and set up behind the RPI net. With Kasdorf looking to seal up the right side of the net, Craig Bokenfohr tried to handle the left, and Hart managed to fake both out with a solid deke move, then simply wrapped the puck around the left side of the net and dumped it in on the backhand to make the score 2-0.

Harvard picked up an even strength goal a minute into the third period to seal the 4-0 win. RPI rarely looked likely to break onto the scoresheet, managing just five shots in the last 20 minutes even after Harvard's offensive output had eased. Jason Kasdorf was really only beaten on Hart's goal and had a fairly decent outing despite the four-goal night for the opposition, stopping 23 of 27 shots and honestly doing his usual job of keeping the scoreline from being worse with some key stops against a Harvard team that had all the answers it needed on offense.




Luke Curadi was probably the biggest and most unexpected scratch on Saturday night, his status is unknown. The Engineers also removed Jimmy DeVito and Bradley Bell, replacing the trio with Parker Reno, Jake Wood, and Phil Hampton. Otherwise, the Engineers' offensive lines were almost completely untouched despite the previous night's power outage, as all four lines have shown some good signs of synergy even though they haven't always produced on a given night.

The Saturday game against the Big Green seemingly played out almost exactly the way the previous Saturday's game at Union did. Just as in Schenectady, the Engineers fell behind 1-0 after 14 minutes, this time allowing a power play goal to Dartmouth's Jesse Beamish.

From there, the 1-0 lead for Dartmouth held up for much of the remainder of the game, throughout the rest of the first period and the entire second period. And, as at Union, the Engineers got themselves off of a scoring drought in the third, although it would come far earlier this time. Milos Bubela finally got his first goal of the season with assists to Viktor Liljegren and Craig Bokenfohr 4:43 into the third to tie the game at one.

At Union, the Engineers needed overtime to pick up the late win, but this time around, with the game tied for much more of the final period, they got the job done in regulation instead. With just 18.2 seconds remaining before overtime, Zach Schroeder managed to get himself onto the scoring sheet with his first of the year, cashing in on a rebound generated by a golden opportunity from Lou Nanne for his biggest single tally in quite some time, powering a 2-1 victory for the Engineers right at the death.

The goal salvaged a weekend split for an RPI team that didn't look like a team that swept the defending national champions a week prior, and couldn't manage to score a goal in the weekend's first five periods, a drought of 104:43 which certainly isn't close to the longest goal drought of the season for a team that has struggled to score goals and hasn't always had the most iron-clad defense at times. Despite it all, the Engineers remain in first place all by themselves in the ECAC with six points, although all other teams save Union have games in hand on RPI. By winning percentage, RPI trails 2-0-0 SLU and Quinnipiac, but they remain in a good position going forward. No doubt most of the league would trade places with them on the table in a heartbeat.

RPI's key early season ECAC schedule continues next weekend as they wrap up their longest homestand of the season by hosting Princeton and Quinnipiac. By the end of the next weekend, they'll be six games into the ECAC schedule, five of which will have been at home. The remainder of the Engineers' league games afterwards will consist of 10 road games and 6 home games, a deep split that underscores the need for points this upcoming weekend as RPI seeks to remain in first place early on.

Current ECAC Standings
1. RPI - 6 points (3-1-0)
2. St. Lawrence - 4 points (2-0-0)
3. Quinnipiac - 4 points (2-0-0)
4. Harvard - 4 points (1-0-2)
5. Clarkson - 3 points (1-0-1)
6. Dartmouth - 3 points (1-1-1)
7. Colgate - 2 points (1-1-0)
8. Princeton - 2 points (1-1-0)
9. Yale - 1 point (0-1-1)
10. Union - 1 point (0-3-1)
11. Cornell - 0 points (0-2-0)
12. Brown - 0 points (0-2-0)

Harvard at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/7/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Harvard 4, RPI 0

RECORD: 3-6-0 (2-1-0, 4pts)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/8/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Dartmouth 1

RECORD: 4-6-0 (3-1-0, 6pts)

Upcoming games
14 Nov - Princeton
15 Nov - #20 Quinnipiac
18 Nov - at UConn
25 Nov - at New Hampshire
28 Nov - at Michigan

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