Thursday, November 20, 2014

Men's Hockey - Princeton/Quinnipiac, at UConn (14/15, 18 Nov)

Three games in five nights is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. When your team is battling illness and injury, it tends to make things worse, especially when that team is still trying to get into an offensive groove. With all of that as the backdrop, it makes the 1-1-1 record the Engineers put together in that three game stretch pretty easy to accept, especially considering the manner in which the only loss came about. After taking down Princeton 3-1 on Friday night, RPI fell by the same score against Quinnipiac in somewhat controversial fashion, bouncing back with an even more depleted roster on Tuesday night with a 1-1 draw against Hockey East's UConn.




We got a little more clarity on some of the absences seen the previous week - Chris Bradley has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, Luke Curadi out with a concussion, and added to that list for the ECAC weekend was Matt Neal, who was sick.

The Engineers managed to score the game's first goal for only the second time all season as Mark Miller rocketed a pass from Drew Melanson to the back of the net at 8:45 of the first period to give RPI a 1-0 edge. Three minutes later on the power play, another one-timer from just about the same part of the ice put the Engineers up 2-0 as Jared Wilson blasted a pass by Milos Bubela for his second goal of the season.

Princeton almost halved the RPI lead late in the first period, but the apparent goal was waved off due to the net being disloged by an Engineer checked into the cage by a Princeton player.

RPI carried the 2-0 edge into the third period, pretty much sealing things up with a second goal by Miller midway through the final frame. Like the first two goals, it was an a one-timed shot from near the top of the slot, and this feed came from the stick of Riley Bourbonnais.

The Tigers pulled back within two just under two minutes later with a power play goal by Ben Foster that ended Jason Kasdorf's shutout bid, but Princeton would get no closer. The Engineers managed 35 shots on goal, a big improvement from their outing a week prior against Harvard, and Kasdorf stopped 24 of 25 shots for the victory.




Late in the Princeton game, the Engineers lost Milos Bubela to a concussion, leaving the already short-staffed Engineers with just 12 healthy forwards. Freshman Kenny Gillespie was inserted into the lineup, seeing his first collegiate action.

As with Friday night, it was RPI who struck first. A centering pass by Wilson was tapped home by a speeding Lou Nanne for his team-leading fourth goal of the season, putting the Engineers ahead 1-0 just 5:22 into the game.

RPI continued to dominate play in the first period until a tripping call against Craig Bokenfohr put them on the penalty kill. That kill did a pretty decent job, but late in the Bokenfohr penalty, a dicey tripping call against Mike Prapavessis put the Engineers down two men for 18 seconds. That danger zone was killed off without much of a problem either, but then an even dicier call against Parker Reno for high-sticking generated yet another two-man advantage for Quinnipiac, this one 17 seconds long. The Bobcats ultimately cashed in for a goal, but it came 19 seconds after the Reno call, officially coming 5-on-4, but tying the game nonetheless to the great displeasure of the home fans.

A deadlocked and fairly uninteresting second period gave way to a more interesting third period, and the Bobcats took the lead just under six minutes into the third with some sustained pressure in the RPI zone. The Engineers spent a good 90 seconds trapped in their own end, getting the puck out once but not far enough out to change the line that had been stuck out there for some time, and Quinnipiac eventually converted to take a 2-1 lead.

The Engineers did not back down. Despite struggles on the power play all night, they were the beneficiaries of a holding call with just over five minutes left to play. Early in the advantage, Prapavessis dug the puck out of the corner and then skated through the slot, trying to outwait Bobcat goaltender Michael Gartieg. When Gartieg went down, Prapavessis took a shot that rang off the post, and in the immediate interim, Quinnipiac's Michael Peca slid into the net to dislodge it. Immediately after the net was dislodged, Drew Melanson picked up the rebound and put it into the open cage for what should have been his first collegiate goal. Called a goal on the ice, the officials reviewed it and disallowed the goal for reasons that were not made abundantly clear.

The 2-1 lead for Quinnipiac intact, the Engineers pulled Kasdorf from the net late, but gave up an empty-netter to seal the victory for the Bobcats.

All told, RPI played a brave game despite some horrendous officiating practically from start to finish, and despite missing some very key players. They also lost another two important forwards during the game, as Lou Nanne was boarded behind the Quinnipiac net in the third period (no call), leading to him skating off favoring his surgically repaired shoulder, while Zach Schroeder picked up an ankle injury during the night.




Now with only 11 healthy forwards following the loss of Nanne and Schroeder and the return from illness of Matt Neal, Kenny Gillespie was again in the lineup, joined on the fourth line by Craig Bokenfohr. The Engineers dressed literally every healthy skater they had available for their mid-week non-conference road game, and reports got out after the game was over that defenseman Phil Hampton was battling an illness himself despite playing.

After an uneventful first period, UConn got themselves on the board first in the cavernous XL Center (which is almost literally across the street from the RPI Hartford campus) about three minutes into the second period, shortly after the Engineers killed off their second penalty of the game. The Huskies pounced on a turnover in the RPI zone and put it past Diebold to go up 1-0, but it was the only goal the senior would allow on the evening. He eventually stopped 33 of 34 shots that he faced.

RPI pulled back within one late in the period, with Drew Melanson making up for the power play goal he was deprived of three nights earlier, officially notching his first collegiate goal from Neal and Curtis Leonard with just 2 ticks remaining on the clock to make it 1-1.

UConn dominated the third period almost completely, outshooting the Engineers 13-4, but Diebold was rarely tested beyond his capacity. The Huskies came close on a couple of occasions to taking the lead, but were unable to convert on one-timers or put shots wide. To some extent, RPI was lucky to get to the overtime period.

In that overtime period, however, it was all RPI as they poured on the output. They managed 7 shots in the extra five minutes, more shots than they managed in either the first or the third periods, and only two shy of their second period production. However they weren't able to find the winning goal, having to settle for a 1-1 tie, a draw that undoubtedly goes into the book as a "good" tie considering that they scored the game tying goal and fielded a less than ideal lineup.

RPI is off this weekend, but is back in action this coming Tuesday as they travel to play a struggling New Hampshire team in Durham ahead of a trip to Michigan against the equally struggling Wolverines. Most of the injured players are expected to be back in the lineup by the time the team gets to Ann Arbor.

By the way, the #1 team in the nation right now? 10-0-0 Michigan Tech. If anyone ever tells you that RPI's never going to get back to where they once were, they're lying.

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

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

RESULT: RPI 3, Princeton 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 5-6-0 (4-1-0, 8pts)

#20 Quinnipiac at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/15/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Quinnipiac 3, RPI 1

College Hockey Stats

RECORD: 5-7-0 (4-2-0, 8pts)

RPI at UConn
Non-conference Game - XL Center (Hartford, CT)
11/18/14 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 1, UConn 1 (OT)

RECORD: 5-7-1 (4-2-0, 8pts)

Upcoming games
25 Nov - at New Hampshire
28 Nov - at Michigan
29 Nov - at Michigan
05 Dec - at Yale
06 Dec - at Brown

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