Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Men's Hockey - Arizona State (11/12 Dec)

The first half of the regular season rolled to a close with a non-conference weekend against the Sun Devils of Arizona State, a first-year program arguably the weakest opponent on RPI's schedule this year. While such weekends have often left Engineers fans nervous about success, RPI left no doubt in taking care of business at home, sweeping ASU 5-1 and 4-1 on back-to-back nights to halt their winless streak at three and give the Engineers a run of 12 games unbeaten in their last 14 for calendar year 2015.




The most significant change in the RPI lineup was the splitting of the vaunted "M-N-M" line, as the top three lines each included a member of the Engineers' most prolific attacking trio of the last two seasons. Fresh off his shutout against Harvard, Jason Kasdorf's number was called for the second consecutive night - while Jared Wilson was out of the lineup for an undisclosed reason.

It took RPI a little bit of time to get things going in the early going - Arizona State actually hit the post about 8 minutes into the game for the closest either team came to scoring to that point - but once they found paydirt, things began to accelerate. A drop pass by Jake Wood for Drew Melanson ended with the sophomore picking out his corner to beat ASU's Ryland Pashovitz top shelf to put the Engineers ahead 1-0. Then, just 15 seconds later, Riley Bourbonnais scored his 9th goal of the season, crashing the net to put home a shot by Lou Nanne to give RPI the 2-0 edge.

Minutes later, the Sun Devils got a huge opportunity to get themselves back into the game with a long 5-on-3 power play thanks to successive penalties by Melanson and Mike Prapavessis. The RPI penalty kill, strong in recent weeks, held up to the scrutiny, and the Engineers closed out the first period with the 2-0 edge on a 15-7 lead in shots.

RPI hit the gas again in the second period, going up 3-0 on the first collegiate goal for Jesper Ohrvall about seven minutes in. Waiting just outside the crease, the freshman backhanded to the roof of the cage a rebound off a shot by Kenny Gillespie as part of a barrage that saw the Engineers lace Pashovitz with 16 shots in the middle stanza.

Jake Wood's 6th goal of the year came just over five minutes into the third period, basically sealing the game up tight on a tight-angle shot to Pashovitz's left. ASU would spoil Jason Kasdorf's bid for a second straight shutout with a power play goal by Joey Raats with six minutes left to play, but RPI gained the four-goal lead back three-and-a-half minutes later with Ohrvall connecting for the second time on the evening, going north-south and goalpost to goalpost before shooting to the back of the cage to make it 5-1 RPI.

The Engineers unleashed 45 shots on the evening to power the victory, while Kasdorf finished with a respectable 23 saves on 24 shots for his fourth win of the year.




A minor swap on defense as Tommy Grant was paired off with Chris Bradley (which happened late in Friday's game), while Mike Prapavessis and Parker Reno, RPI's top two assist leaders, were also paired off. Cam Hackett also got some additional playing time in as the Engineers' split the weekend in net.

RPI wasted little time in picking up where they left off the previous night, and once again, an RPI freshman managed to notch his first collegiate goal in the process. Five minutes into the game, a loose puck bounced to the top of the slot, and Tommy Grant moved up from the blue line to rip one through traffic to the net for the 1-0 lead on Grant's first college point.

But that was as far as the Engineers would get in the first period - they seemed to lack the urgency they played with on Friday night, urgency that had ASU coach Greg Powers calling RPI the hardest working team the Sun Devils had played against to that point. Shots in the first period were relatively even at 10-9 Engineers, and it looked like there'd be a possession fight over the last 40 minutes.

There was a different kind of fight instead about six minutes into the second period - not a full blown scrap, but a serious bout of pushing and shoving that resulted in two Arizona State penalties against just one for RPI, creating a power play for the Engineers. Jesper Ohrvall solved RPI's long-running power play woes, at least for one outing, by notching his third goal of the weekend by sending a nice feed from Meirs Moore into the net about 30 seconds into the man advantage to put the Engineers ahead 2-0.

Late in the period, a power play chance for ASU while the Sun Devils trailed 2-0 gave them the golden opportunity to get back into the game for the second consecutive night. And while RPI's penalty kill did their part by killing off the penalty, the aggressive kill also lengthened the Engineer lead. A clearance by Phil Hampton went to Riley Bourbonnais, who had snuck behind the ASU blueline along with Milos Bubela. A 2-on-0 breakaway was put home by Bubela, who scored his third short-handed goal of the season to make it 3-0 RPI, capping a dominant second period in which the Sun Devils simply could not control the puck for any serious stretch of time, as borne out by the 14-3 edge in shots for the Engineers.

As on Friday night, the Sun Devils avoided being shut out in the final 10 minutes of regulation, this time scoring an even-strength goal as they slowly, across the third period, began to swing some momentum back in their direction. Cody Gylling's third goal of the season on a 2-on-1 break with 7:24 left in the 3rd period spoiled Hackett's push for his first collegiate shutout, but that was as much as ASU would be able to muster. Bourbonnais scored his third point of the evening and 10th goal of the year with an empty-netter in the final minute to give RPI a 4-1 victory and the weekend sweep.

So ends the first half of the season - RPI now has a three-week break for the holidays, picking back up on the road against Miami. The RedHawks have struggled this season, to an extent that we haven't seen in the previous three seasons in which RPI and Miami have done battle. The RedHawks have won seven in a row against the Engineers, including six in the Appert era, but if RPI can return from break playing the way they have for the last two months, they may be able to find a breakthrough of some kind in Ohio.

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

By winning percentage
1. Quinnipiac (.875)
2. Cornell (.812)
3. Harvard (.688)
4. RPI (.688)
5. St. Lawrence (.643)
6. Yale (.500)
7. Princeton (.375)
8. Dartmouth (.375)
9. Brown (.333)
10. Union (.312)
11. Colgate (.278)
12. Clarkson (.143)

Arizona State at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/11/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 5, Arizona State 1

RECORD: 9-6-3 (4-1-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

Arizona State at RPI
Non-Conference Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
11/12/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Arizona State 1

RECORD: 10-6-3 (4-1-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

Upcoming games
02 Jan - at Miami
03 Jan - at Miami
07 Jan - at Princeton
15 Jan - #9 Cornell
16 Jan - Colgate

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