Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Men's Hockey - Brice Alaska Goal Rush (16/17 Oct)

Right off a big upset of #1 Boston College, the Engineers were off to Alaska for a pair of games against the two teams from the Last Frontier. 0-3 all time against those schools on their home turf, RPI did quite a bit to put themselves into a position to succeed on both nights, but couldn't follow through, as uneven play and penalties in the third periods against both the Seawolves and the Nanooks doomed the Engineers to move to 0-5 against Alaskan teams in Alaska, falling 4-3 to UAA on Friday and 4-2 to UAF on Saturday.




A fast-paced but even first period between the Engineers and Seawolves was mostly a feeling-out for both teams, the first whistle not coming until the period was nearly half over. Shots were only 10-9 in favor of UAA, but the Seawolves earned the game's first goal with about five and a half minutes left in the opening frame as UAA's Dylan Hubbs scored to put the nominal home side ahead 1-0.

The second period was much more to RPI's liking, a dominant period for the Engineers that saw them taking a lead into the final 20. Evan Tironese scored his first collegiate goal five minutes into the second to tie the game, striking on a great give-and-go with linemate Lou Nanne. Not long after Tironese's goal, UAA began getting into a bit of penalty trouble, taking a tripping call and a kneeing call for back-to-back man advantage opportunities for the Engineers. Late in the latter penalty, RPI got a glimpse of the future as Meirs Moore, competing in his first collegiate game on the blue line as the Engineers' power play quarterback of the future, notched his first college goal to put RPI ahead 2-1.

RPI came out slow for the third period and they paid for it almost immediately. Austin Azurdia took advantage of an opening to tie the game at two just 1:24 into the third period. Seconds later, A hooking penalty to Milos Bubela put RPI on the penalty kill, a place they'd been with some frequency starting just a minute after Moore's goal had put them ahead. The Bubela penalty was killed off, and Bubela himself would score during a penalty kill minutes later to give RPI the lead back at 3-2. But a march to the box that included Nanne and Tironese gave UAA an opening, and during a 4-on-3 on Fairbanks' Olympic-sized ice surface, Seawolves freshman Wyatt Ege struck to tie the score, then just three minutes later hit again with a laser of a shot that put UAA up for good at 4-3.

Kasdorf was pulled for the final 1:15, but RPI could not find the tying goal, and despite a solid early 40 minutes, the Engineers had to swallow a loss due to poorly timed penalties and an overall sub-par effort in the final period.




Fresh off a solid performance against UAA, Jake Wood was graduated to the top line, while Drew Melanson, who has struggled to find his pace early this season, was moved to the grind line. With both Alaska schools winning on Friday night, the title was definitively out of reach, but RPI still had their sights set on what could have at least been a worthwhile victory.

The Engineers were the ones who pounced on Saturday night against the actual hosts. An early penalty against the Nanooks was cashed in on quickly by Riley Bourbonnais, who netted his team-leading third goal of the season just six seconds into the man advantage off a faceoff win by Tironese to put RPI up 1-0 3:25 into the game. Five and a half minutes later, Wood scored his first of the year on a shorthanded breakaway. With Zach Schroeder off for tripping, a UAF shot was blocked at the blue line and Wood pounced on it, giving him a long breakaway that he put home to put the Engineers up 2-0 nine minutes into the game.

From there, however, it was a slow bleed for RPI. The Nanooks had two power play chances late in the first period, including one that carried over into the second. The Engineers eventually went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill, but the penalties certainly helped swing momentum at inopportune times. The carried-over penalty helped UAF establish control early in the second period, and the home team cut the lead in half with a goal by Tayler Munson at 5:30 of the middle frame.

Another RPI penalty early in the third period set the table for the tying goal. While the Nanooks didn't score on the tripping penalty to Jared Wilson, they did put one past Jason Kasdorf 10 seconds after the penalty expired, so it's not too much of a stretch to say that the penalty at least put them in a good spot to create a scoring opportunity. Colton Sparrow's first goal of the season tied the game up, then UAF took the lead on a 4-on-4 tally four and a half minutes later as Peter Krieger scored his first of the year.

RPI looked fairly beaten at that point, even just down a goal. The Nanooks poured on the shots all night long, especially in the third period where Kasdorf made an incredible 21 saves to keep the Engineers alive. They were given a golden opportunity with 1:46 left as Zach Frye took a roughing call for UAF, but with Kasdorf out of the net on the ensuing draw in the Nanooks zone, UAF won the faceoff and proceeded to shoot the puck the length of the ice and directly into the net for the 4-2 win on Munson's second goal of the night.

Kasdorf finished with a career-high 47 saves on 49 shots, an effort that led to his being named goaltender of the tournament despite RPI's two losses.

The Engineers will be looking for a bit of home-cooking and perhaps a bit of whatever magic they had against Boston College as they come home to face another Power 5 conference ranked opponent in Michigan. It should be a raucous crowd at least for Saturday, as the game is expected to be sold out. It's not a must win by any stretch of the imagination, but they're going to have to show a little more heart up front against a top-level opponent.

RPI vs. Alaska-Anchorage
Non-conference Game - Carlson Center (Fairbanks, AK)
10/16/15 - 8:00pm

RESULT: Alaska-Anchorage 4, RPI 3

RECORD: 1-2-0

RPI at Alaska
Non-conference Game - Carlson Center (Fairbanks, AK)
10/17/15 - 11:00pm

RESULT: Alaska 4, RPI 2

RECORD: 1-3-0

Upcoming games
24 Oct - #11 Michigan
30 Oct - at #18 Union
31 Oct - #18 Union (Black Saturday)
06 Nov - at Clarkson
07 Nov - at #17 St. Lawrence

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