Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Men's Hockey - at Bentley/New Hampshire (20/24 Nov)

Another weekend, another couple of wins for an RPI team that is certainly on more than a little bit of a roll - although neither win came easy. On the road against Bentley and at home against New Hampshire on Friday and Tuesday nights respectively, the Engineers jumped out to 3-0 leads twice but ultimately needed to rally in the third period twice as well on their way to 3-2 and 4-3 victories that extended their unbeaten streak to eight in a row - their longest unbeaten streak since the 1998-99 season.

Bentley
Liljegren-Bourbonnais-Wood
Melanson-Miller-Nanne
Fulton-Schroeder-Gillespie
Ohrvall, Rodriguez

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Reno
Moore-Hampton
Grant

Hackett

Alex Rodriguez made his collegiate debut on Friday at one of the smallest rinks in all of college hockey, replacing Lonnie Clary in the lineup. As with the previous weekend, Jason Kasdorf was available as a potential injury backup for Cam Hackett, but he ultimately did not play in either game the Engineers had over the five day period.

RPI's increasingly vaunted "M-N-M" line of Mark Miller, Lou Nanne, and Drew Melanson provided the spark and energy for the Engineers' offense throughout their first visit to Bentley, but specifically powered things during the first period, picking up two big goals to give the visitors the early edge. Nanne scored his third goal of the season with a helper from Melanson at 8:41 to put RPI ahead 1-0, and Miller added to that lead with a tally from Melanson at 17:44 of the period, his fourth goal of the year.

Meanwhile, the RPI penalty kill kept the Falcons held down during the opening 20 minutes, successfully killing off a pair of penalties to preserve the 2-0 lead. Then, midway through the second, Mike Prapavessis struck with his first goal of the season, putting back a rebound off a shot by Zach Schroeder, giving the Engineers a crucial 3-0 edge.

That's roughly the time when the tide began to shift in Bentley's favor. The home side, led by a line of Andrew Gladiuk, Max French, and Kyle Schmidt, pushed back fiercely. Hackett held up for much of the middle period, making a game-high 13 saves, but did let one by during a 4-on-4 counter-attack from the Falcons as Jake Ahlgren's goal got Bentley on the board.

Bentley's top line converted for a tally at 6:44 of the third period to really tighten the game up, but that was as close as the Falcons would get. Another 11 saves by Hackett in the third contributed to a 31-for-33 night for the freshman netminder, and RPI's defense dug deep late to come away with the victory against a very tenacious Bentley squad.

Riley Bourbonnais had a six-game point scoring streak snapped by missing the scoresheet against the Falcons, but he remained in the team lead for goals and points.

New Hampshire
Liljegren-Bubela-Bourbonnais
Melanson-Miller-Nanne
Wood-Schroeder-Gillespie
Ohrvall-Fulton-Rodriguez

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Reno
Moore-Hampton

Hackette

Milos Bubela returned to the lineup for the first time in nearly a month since suffering an injury against Union, allowing RPI to field the usual 12x6 lineup that most teams roll with. Functionally, he replaced Tommy Grant in the lineup, and three of the four forward lines were juggled a bit to accommodate for his return.

Prapavessis got the Engineers off to a quick start with his second goal of the year, second in as many games, and second RPI goal in a row by getting a shot from the point through everyone at 2:54 of the first period, just after intercepting a weak clearance attempt by UNH. The unassisted goal made it 1-0 RPI for the sixth time in the last eight contests.

Early in the second period, Melanson scored his second goal of the year by slamming home a rebound off a shots by both of his linemates, beating UNH netminder Danny Tirone into an open net for the 2-0 edge at 5:49 of the second. Just over three minutes later, shortly after killing off a dangerous UNH power play, Bourbonnais got himself back onto the scoresheet. With the Wildcats playing relatively lax defense and Bourbonnais himself fresh out of the penalty box, he slipped behind the UNH D and took a feed from Jake Wood, pounding it home for his team-leading 7th goal of the season and putting the Engineers ahead 3-0 for the second time in as many contests.

But that edge did not last long - much of it evaporated minutes later due to a poor hit by senior Milos Bubela, who was called for elbowing in the defensive zone. On the delayed call, UNH's Andrew Poturalski went to work. tipping home a shot from the point to put the Wildcats on the board before going back on the power play. Poturalski scored again on the ensuing man advantage less than a minute later, and just like that, the 3-0 lead was only 3-2.

Poturalski completed the natural hat trick just 1:04 into the third period, tying things up with his nation-leading 11th goal of the season, almost single-handedly knotting things back up with three goals in less than 10 minutes of game time. But as we've seen with RPI this season, losing a lead in the third period was not a time for giving up, and the Engineers fought valiantly in the final period, eventually cashing in with just 4:01 remaining in regulation. A good forecheck by Alex Rodriguez, playing in just his second collegiate game, provided a measure for Parker Reno to move up and keep the puck in the attacking zone. A quick feed to Travis Fulton produced a shot that Rodriguez deftly deflected past Tirone to give RPI a 4-3 lead.

From there, UNH looked for opportunities to give themselves that crucial 6-on-5 edge, but the Engineers displayed calm, level-headed defense by maintaining puck possession to an extent that the Wildcats were really never able to pull Tirone from the net, and the game ended with the puck down in the UNH end, where it had been for much of the final two minutes of the game, and the Engineers prevailed, skating off without being on the losing side for the eighth consecutive contest.

The emergence of Rodriguez on the fourth-line tempers slightly the loss of Evan Tironese, who on Monday underwent shoulder surgery and will be lost for the rest of the season. The freshman appeared in only six games this year, and as we have yet to reach the midway point of the season, he should be eligible for a medical redshirt, which will make him a redshirt freshman next year, a silver lining to some bad news for the Engineers.

The eight-game unbeaten streak is now the longest of the Appert era, and the longest overall since a nine-game winning streak in the 1998-99 season. They will look to extend that streak this coming weekend as they travel to Notre Dame for the annual Shillelagh Tournament. On Friday, they take on Ben Barr and the Western Michigan Broncos, a team that has struggled at times to keep the puck out of the net. On Saturday, they face off with a nationally-ranked team no matter who it ends up being, as #18 Notre Dame or #8 Harvard will be the opponent.

In ECAC play while RPI was in non-conference action, much of the league played the games in hand they had over the Engineers (except for Clarkson and St. Lawrence, which still have one game in hand), and RPI remains in first place, albeit now tied with Quinnipiac, who drew with the Golden Knights and Saints for their first blemishes on their record (though still undefeated). RPI returns to ECAC play in two weeks' time against Dartmouth and Harvard at home, closing out the 2015 portion of their league schedule.

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

By winning percentage
1. Quinnipiac (.833)
2. RPI (.833)
3. Harvard (.750)
4. Cornell (.750)
5. St. Lawrence (.700)
6. Yale (.667)
7. Brown (.333)
8. Dartmouth (.333)
9. Colgate (.250)
10. Clarkson (.200)
11. Union (.167)
12. Princeton (.167)

RPI at Bentley
Non-conference Game - John A. Ryan Skating Arena (Watertown, MA)
11/20/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Bentley 2

RECORD: 6-4-2 (4-0-2 ECAC, 10 pts)

New Hampshire at RPI
Non-conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/24/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, New Hampshire 3


RECORD: 7-4-2 (4-0-2 ECAC, 10 pts)

Upcoming games
27 Nov - vs. Western Michigan (South Bend, IN)
28 Nov - at #18 Notre Dame/vs. #8 Harvard (South Bend, IN)
04 Dec - Dartmouth
05 Dec - #8 Harvard
11 Dec - Arizona State

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