Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Men's Hockey - Clarkson & St. Lawrence (27/28 Feb)

The Engineers needed a strong weekend and a little bit of help in order to secure home ice for the first round. They came within a goal on Friday of getting everything they needed, but they'll still be on the road despite a solid final weekend. A 3-3 tie on Friday against Clarkson guaranteed that RPI would be on the road in this coming weekend, but a strong effort against one of the best teams in the league on Saturday, St. Lawrence, produced a 4-3 victory to push the Engineers toward the post season having been unbeaten in three of their final four contests.

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

Leonard-Bradley
Curadi-Bell
Prapavessis-Wilson

Kasdorf

Matt Neal returned to the lineup after missing the previous weekend's games in Central New York - he replaced Kenny Gillespie and slotted into an all-senior line.

The first period was action packed and full of scoring - five goals scored between the two teams in the first 20 minutes (that's one every four minutes for you math majors). The average almost got started right on, as Viktor Liljegren scored at 4:07 of the first period to put RPI in front 1-0. But just over a minute later, the Engineers put themselves in a tough spot as a Jake Wood hooking call was followed just four seconds later by a high-sticking call against Curtis Leonard, giving Clarkson a long five-on-three opportunity. The Engineers killed most of it well, but the Golden Knights broke through for a tying goal 21 seconds from the end of Wood's penalty.

A hooking call against Riley Bourbonnais about four minutes later created a goal for Clarkson that was essentially a power play goal, coming seven seconds after the penalty expired and while the puck remained in the RPI end. That put the Golden Knights up 2-1, but it was destined to be a short-lived lead for the visitors.

Just under a minute later, Drew Melanson tied the game up with his seventh goal of the year, and four minutes after that Mark McGowan netted number six on the year to make it 3-2 RPI.

Clarkson pulled their netminder, Steve Perry, to start the second period, as Perry had allowed three goals on just 10 shots in the opening period. The second, however, would prove to be the Jason Kasdorf show, as the junior goaltender made 14 saves to maintain RPI's lead. The Engineers mustered just two shots in the middle frame, which featured no goals despite the first period goal bonanza.

A potenital tipping point came 2:22 into the third, as Jimmy DeVito was assessed a five-minute major for a reckless knee-to-knee hit against Clarkson's James de Haas. The penalty was slightly mitigated by a retaliation penalty assessed to Kevin Tansey, who immediately went after DeVito, but nonetheless, Clarkson would enjoy three full minutes of major penalty power play time once Tansey's penalty was over. The RPI penalty bent, but did not break, keeping the Engineer lead at 3-2.

With under seven minutes left to play, Clarkson pulled themselves back even with the Engineers, as James Howden scored on a shot that Kasdorf was slightly screened on by one of his own defenders, just barely missing snagging the shot with his glove.

The tying goal helped build momentum for the visitors, who dominated the remainder of the period and much of the ensuing overtime. By the end of the game, the Engineers managed only 8 shots on Lewis, two fewer than they managed in the first period alone. Behind Jason Kasdorf's play, RPI did manage to hold on for the tie, but that was enough to ensure that they would be on the road in the playoffs.

St. Lawrence
Liljegren-Schroeder-Bubela
Melanson-Miller-Nanne
Neal-McGowan-Laliberte
Wood-Bourbonnais-DeVito

Leonard-Bradley
Curadi-Bell
Prapavessis-Wilson

Diebold

For senior night, Scott Diebold got the start in net - the only real change to the RPI lineup from the previous night. All of the graduating seniors were in the starting lineup.

A Jake Wood penalty led to the first goal for the opposition for the second straight night on Saturday as St. Lawrence scored an odd goal that coincided with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on one of its own players in the final minute of the period. It was the Saints' third power play opportunity of the opening 20 minutes.

RPI responded in the second with their second three-goal period of the weekend. After an entire season of barely missed nets and hitting several pipes, Mike Prapavessis finally came through with his first collegiate goal two and a half minutes into the second period, tying the score. SLU regained the lead 2:31 later on a laser of a shot by defenseman Eric Sweetman. From there on out, however, it was the Drew Melanson show.

The RPI freshman tied things up midway through the period. After catching a home-run pass from Bradley Bell, Melanson gained the zone on the breakaway and faked out St. Lawrence netminder Kyle Hayton scored for his 8th goal of the season. The assist for Bell was the freshman's first collegiate point, ensuring that every Engineer skater now has recorded at least one point on the season. Then, two minutes later on the power play, Melanson put home a rebound off a shot by Prapavessis, putting the Engineers ahead 3-2.

It was looking like a serious case of deja vu - a 3-2 RPI lead heading into the third period, and some seriously strong play by the opposition in search of the tying goal. Diebold stood strong in net during the second period, stopping 15 of 16 shots in the middle frame, and he continued heroic play during the third period as well, but was beaten on another laser shot from the point by Sweetman with just over nine minutes left in regulation.

From that point, RPI fans could be forgiven for groaning and basically saying "here we go again." It was the third time in four games that the Engineers had surrendered a lead in the third period. But the script was not about to play out in the same way it had been playing out. About three minutes later, as RPI fought to regain the lead, Mark McGowan was pulled down after getting behind the defense on his way toward the net, and he was awarded a penalty shot. McGowan calmly moved to his left and outwaited Hayton, scoring the go-ahead goal with six and a half minutes left in regulation.

Scott Diebold equally was not about to be denied on senior night. He stood proud and tall in net for the remainder of the game, remaining cool under pressure late as St. Lawrence pulled Hayton for the extra attacker. His play helped the 4-3 lead stand up, ending RPI's winless streak at nine (which equaled their nine-game losing streak from earlier in the year) and picking up a win that guaranteed the Engineers 9th place and a trip to Potsdam to take on Clarkson.

With the Golden Knights falling to Union that same night, the Engineers could have been the ones hosting Clarkson if only they'd been able to hold that Friday lead. The good news is that Clarkson has only picked up a single win and a single tie in their last nine games. The bad news is, both of those were against RPI. Still, the last playoff series the Engineers won in 2012 was won in Potsdam, and there are signs of life in both the offense and the defense. Anything is possible, even in a season as long as this one has really been for the Engineers.

Final ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 35 points (16-3-3)
2. St. Lawrence - 29 points (14-7-1)
3. Yale - 28 points (12-6-4)
4. Colgate - 26 points (11-7-4)
5. Dartmouth - 26 points (12-8-2)
6. Harvard - 25 points (11-8-3)
7. Cornell - 22 points (9-9-4)
8. Clarkson - 19 points (8-11-3)
9. RPI - 18 points (8-12-2)
10. Union - 17 points (8-13-1)
11. Brown - 13 points (5-14-3)
12. Princeton - 6 points (2-18-2)

First Round matchups
#12 Princeton at #5 Dartmouth
#11 Brown at #6 Harvard
#10 Union at #7 Cornell
#9 RPI at #8 Clarkson

Clarkson at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/27/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Clarkson 3 (OT)


RECORD: 9-23-3 (7-12-2, 16pts)

#19 St. Lawrence at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
2/28/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, St. Lawrence 3

RECORD: 10-23-3 (8-12-2, 18pts)

Upcoming games
06 Mar - at Clarkson
07 Mar - at Clarkson
08 Mar - at Clarkson (if necessary)
13 Mar - ECAC Quarterfinals (at higher seed, if qualified)
14 Mar - ECAC Quarterfinals (at higher seed, if qualified)

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