Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Men's Hockey - at Dartmouth (30 Jan)

The Engineers are certainly at a tipping point of the season - the point where every team reaches the same number of games and then it's a rush to the finish. That point is now, with every team sitting on 14 games played with 8 to go over the next four weeks. That tipping point intersected with a terrible outing in the Mayor's Cup against Union, and with one game on the weekend, they needed to make a statement against Dartmouth. That statement was not a strong one, as RPI fell 3-1 on the road against the Big Green.

Liljegren, Bokenfohr



Milos Bubela was out of the lineup for what was deemed a "coach's decision," there remains no timetable on the returns of Travis Fulton and Mark Miller, and Jake Wood served the first of his two game suspension on Friday, leaving the Engineers with just 10 forwards available for service. All played, and Craig Bokenfohr was moved up to play forward as well. Parker Reno took his place on the blue line, and oddly we didn't see Bradley Bell or Phil Hampton come in to fill the one remaining empty bench spot.

The Engineers came out with a good burst of energy, but were unable to score early in the game and their jump fizzled eventually, especially after giving up the first goal of the game for the first time in five outings. With Bokenfohr off on a tripping call, Dartmouth scored the game's first goal on the power play after Curtis Leonard accidentally kicked the puck into his own net after a shot by Eric Neiley rang off the post.

Just about a minute and a half later, the Big Green struck again, this time at even strength on a redirection of a shot from the point through a screen. Just like that, RPI was down 2-0 and the fight looked pretty grim. Dartmouth controlled the remaining six minutes of the period.

For the second straight game, the Melanson-Bourbonnais-Gillespie line was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Engineers, and they came through in the second period to make a game of things. Riley Bourbonnais poked home a shot by Jared Wilson during a scrum in front of the net to half the Dartmouth lead 11:32 in to the second.

The Engineers only got two power plays in the game, but neither were particularly spectacular. The first came at the very end of the second period, giving RPI a lengthy minor power play with fresh ice to start the third, but it went absolutely nowhere - in fact, it was counter-productive, as Dartmouth scored a shorthanded goal to go up 3-1. On the second power play opportunity just a few minutes after the first had expired, Dartmouth got a shorthanded breakaway, stopped only when Zach Schroeder hauled down Jack Barre. That resulted in a penalty shot that Barre put wide.

Further attempts to come back by the Engineers were stymied by late penalties to Neal and Laliberte. RPI managed to keep the Big Green from scoring on the empty net they had for most of the last three minutes of the game, but they didn't come close to scoring themselves with the extra attacker. The loss dropped the Engineers to .500 on the ECAC season and into a position that threatened to have them down in the bottom four of the league. After Saturday's games concluded, they sat in a tie for 8th with Dartmouth, a tie they currently win on league wins (7 to 6).

The good news is that RPI is only 2 points out of 4th, since they're existing in the always muddled middle of the league. They control their own destiny up to 5th. The difference between finishing 6th and 7th is lining up to be pretty wide, since the 9th and 10th ranked teams are likely to be ones with some degree of punch to them.

The stretch run commences on Friday, and it starts with the annual trip to the North Country with yet another snowstorm potentially bearing down on the region, which is always fun. The North Country teams comprise exactly half of the Engineers' remaining games, and Clarkson/St. Lawrence are certainly doing pretty well right now. Back in a funk after winning three in a row and looking like they could take on the world, RPI is in strong need of another turnaround weekend.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 23 points (11-2-1)
2. St. Lawrence - 20 points (10-4-0)
3. Harvard - 18 points (8-4-2)
4. Clarkson - 16 points (7-5-2)
5. Yale - 16 points (7-5-2)
6. Cornell - 15 points (7-6-1)
7. Colgate - 15 points (6-5-3)
8. RPI - 14 points (7-7-0)
9. Dartmouth - 14 points (6-6-2)
10. Union - 11 points (5-8-1)
11. Princeton - 3 points (1-12-1)
12. Brown - 3 points (1-12-1)

RPI at Dartmouth
ECAC Game - Thompson Arena (Hanover, NH)
1/30/15 - 7:05pm

RESULT: Dartmouth 3, RPI 1

RECORD: 9-18-1 (7-7-0, 14pts)

Upcoming games
06 Feb - at St. Lawrence
07 Feb - at Clarkson
13 Feb - Brown
14 Feb - #15 Yale (Big Red Freakout!)
20 Feb - at Cornell

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