Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Men's Hockey - Colgate & Cornell (16/17 Jan)

It's pretty impressive how much perceptions can change in college hockey in a very short period of time. Some of it can be described as overreaction swinging from one direction to the other, but make no mistake - one good weekend can certainly make a season's outlook an awful lot brighter. Two weeks ago, RPI was mired in a long losing streak and being roundly written off. This past weekend, the Engineers are suddenly being toasted again after a dominating pair of games at home, upsetting nationally-ranked Colgate 4-1 on Friday night and then shutting out Cornell 3-0 on Saturday. There's still a long way to go, but suddenly a long season looks considerably more interesting.




Returning home for the first league games in Troy since mid-November, the Engineers were just about back to full strength. Still missing from the previous outing due to injury were Travis Fulton and Mark Miller, it's still unknown when either will be back in the lineup.

The Engineers jumped on Colgate early on Friday night, picking up a goal by Mark McGowan on a redirect of a shot by Luke Curadi to take a 1-0 lead just 2:08 into the contest. It was the senior's 3rd goal of the season. Colgate would get it back late in the first on a one-timed shot by Kevin Lough after a faceoff in the Engineers' zone to tie things back up heading into the first intermission.

The first two periods were practically devoid of offensive chances for either team. Colgate held a 12-8 edge in shots 40 minutes into the game, meaning that the teams were averaging only a single shot every 2 minutes.

RPI busted things open in the third period, with the senior forwards leading the way. Matt Neal's second goal of the season - and second in as many games - came 56 seconds into the third to put the Engineers back in front and a tally by Jacob Laliberte about two and a half minutes later made it 3-1 in favor of the home team.

That was all the Engineers would need to pick up their second consecutive ECAC win. RPI dominated the third period, keeping the puck down in the Colgate end for most of the final 20 minutes and outshooting the Raiders 15-6. Neal would pick up a second goal on an empty netter with 29 seconds remaining to clinch the victory. Jason Kasdorf stopped 17 of 18 shots to pick up the victory in net.




No changes were made to the lineup heading into the Cornell game with the exception of a switch between the third and fourth lines, as Jake Wood was moved up to play on the third line as the left wing with Drew Melanson moving to the fourth line.

The first period on Saturday was similar to the first period on Friday, just without the goals. Not a lot of offensive chances for either team as RPI took a 8-7 edge in shots. The Engineers tended to dominate play at even strength, but were hampered by three penalties taken during the opening frame that gave the Big Red plenty of opportunity to open the scoring, but the penalty kill did its job early on. Ultimately, these would be the only three penalties of the game for RPI.

Jake Wood broke the scoreless deadlock 7:45 into the second period with a shot that looped up and over Cornell goaltender Mitch Gillam's shoulder and into the net to give the Engineers their third straight 1-0 lead (after having only accomplished that edge three times prior to last weekend). Wood was being hooked at the time of his shot, which gave RPI their only power play of the game immediately following the goal, but it was a poor effort on the man advantage.

The score remained 1-0 heading into the final period of play, but RPI came out quickly for the final period once again to take a more commanding lead. Jacob Laliberte's second goal of the weekend and fourth of the season was generated by Matt Neal, who kept a clearance attempt banked off the glass from leaving the zone, then quickly zipped it up to his classmate, who beat Gillam five-hole for the 2-0 lead.

Two and a half minutes later, the Engineers scored on a 2-on-1 break as Mark McGowan dished to Jared Wilson across the crease, and the freshman put it past a badly positioned Gillam to make the score 3-0. Gillam, who had the nation's best goals against average and save percentage coming into the game, was pulled in favor of Hayden Stewart following the goal by Wilson, his third of the year.

RPI continued to pour it on through the remainder of the third period, forcing the new Cornell goaltender to make nine saves, but it wasn't until an icing call against RPI with 3:44 remaining in the game that momentum shifted distinctly in Cornell's favor. Pulling the netminder for the extra attacker, they kept the Engineers pinned in their own zone for the remainder of the game, winning faceoffs, maintaining puck control, and peppering the RPI net with shots. Fortunately for the home team, Jason Kasdorf was right on top of his game. When all was said and done, the junior had made 14 saves in the final period as part of a 26 save night overall in picking up his first shutout of the season.

The schedule is somewhat unkind to the Engineers over the next two weeks, as they won't immediately get a chance to build on their three-game winning streak in league. This coming weekend, they fight for pride and local glory in defending the Mayor's Cup against Union in Albany - essentially, the only piece of hardware denied the Dutchmen last season. After that, they get just one game the following week at Dartmouth, as the corresponding game at Harvard was played at the end of December. Nevertheless, some folks are starting to compare this team with the 2012-13 team, which had a rough season until January and then went on a serious run to finish 2nd in the ECAC. That might be tough to duplicate and it's probably too early to say that the Engineers are that dangerous a team, but things certainly look a lot brighter than they did after losing to Quinnipiac to make it nine losses in a row. There's still so much to play for.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 20 points (10-2-0)
2. Harvard - 16 points (7-2-2)
3. St. Lawrence - 14 points (7-4-0)
4. RPI - 14 points (7-6-0)
5. Yale - 13 points (6-3-1)
6. Colgate - 13 points (6-3-1)
7. Clarkson - 12 points (5-4-2)
8. Cornell - 10 points (5-5-0)
9. Union - 9 points (4-7-1)
10. Dartmouth - 7 points (3-6-1)
11. Brown - 2 points (1-9-0)
12. Princeton - 2 points (1-11-0)

By winning percentage
1. Quinnipiac (.833)
2. Harvard (.727)
3. Yale (.650)
4. Colgate (.650)
5. St. Lawrence (.636)
6. Clarkson (.545)
7. RPI (.538)
8. Cornell (.500)
9. Union (.375)
10. Dartmouth (.350)
11. Brown (.100)
12. Princeton (.083)

#15 Colgate at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/16/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Colgate 1

RECORD: 8-16-1 (6-6-0, 12pts)

Cornell at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/17/15 - 7:07pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Cornell 0

RECORD: 9-16-1 (7-6-0, 14pts)

Upcoming games
24 Jan - vs. Union (Albany, NY)
30 Jan - at Dartmouth
06 Feb - at St. Lawrence
07 Feb - at Clarkson
13 Feb - Brown

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