Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Men's Hockey - Dartmouth/Harvard (4/5 Dec)

A mixed bag weekend is nothing new for Engineer fans, but returning home for the last ECAC weekend of the calendar year, it's possible that RPI's string of good luck when it comes to bounces may have run its course - or maybe there's a bit of regression to the mean to be done. Still, despite a 1-point weekend courtesy of the team's first ECAC loss (2-1 to Dartmouth) and a fairly thrilling goaltender's duel (a scoreless draw with Harvard), there's plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to handicapping the Engineers the rest of the way.

Dartmouth
Liljegren-Bubela-Rodriguez
Melanson-Miller-Nanne
Bourbonnais-Schroeder-Wood
Ohrvall, Gillespie

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Reno
Moore-Hampton
Grant

Hackett

Alex Rodriguez earned an upgrade to the top line thanks to his outstanding play in his first four college outings, while Seth Appert chose to return to the 11x7 lineup that RPI had run so well during its stretch of injuries, pulling Travis Fulton out and replacing him with Tommy Grant in order to better matchup with Dartmouth's size.

The Engineers came out flat in their return to home ice, and Dartmouth pounced, challenging Cam Hackett with 11 shots in the opening period, picking up the game's first goal thanks to some very strong forechecking which persisted throughout the opening 20. Carl Hesler dug out a puck by acing Kenny Gillespie to the punch and quickly rifling it through traffic in front and past Hackett on the short-side to put the Big Green ahead 1-0.

RPI responded much better in the second period, putting a little bit more pressure on Dartmouth sophomore Devin Buffalo, who was in just his second collegiate game (following a 1-1 draw with Michigan a week prior). While the Big Green did a decent job all game long of shutting down the wings, the Engineers pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone for a solid counter-attack that tied the game up. Mike Prapavessis picked out Rodriguez well on the wing, and the freshman burst up the boards to get off a shot that rebounded off Buffalo and right to a trailing Milos Bubela, who put it home for his third of the season.

Dartmouth's wing control helped them secure what proved to be the game winner in the third period. As freshman Karan Toor pinched the wall to keep the puck in the zone following an RPI clearance attempt, he moved it quickly to Grant Opperman, who found Brett Patterson with lots of open ice. Patterson took his shot from the top of the faceoff circle, simply beating Hackett to the same side that produced Dartmouth's first goal of the night, making it 2-1 with 11 minutes left in the third period.

The RPI comeback effort was seriously hampered by an odd five-minute call against Lou Nanne for hitting from behind. Off a faceoff in the Dartmouth end, Nanne went into the corner with a Big Green defenseman and seemed to trip near the zamboni entrance, going head first into the boards and colliding with the defender. Despite being the one shaken up by the play, Nanne was called for the major by the trailing referee, requiring the Engineers to kill five minutes of penalty time while trailing, and leaving their top scoring line without one of its dynamic cogs.

The Engineers had their chances late to tie it up, rolling with the extra attacker for 96 seconds, but they were unable to put one past Buffalo, who finished with 28 saves on 29 shots for his first collegiate win as RPI fell for the first time in seven ECAC matches.

Harvard
Liljegren-Bubela-Rodriguez
Melanson-Miller-Nanne
Bourbonnais-Schroeder-Wood
Ohrvall-Fulton-Clary

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Reno
Moore-Hampton

Kasdorf

With RPI mired in back-to-back losses for the first time in over a month, things were switched up a little with Kasdorf returning between the pipes for the first time since his injury on November 6, fully rested and fully healed. He did not disappoint.

Much as with the Friday night game, RPI came out sluggish in the first period, and Harvard looked ready to capitalize throughout the opening minutes. The high-powered Crimson offense controlled the puck and the RPI zone for much of the first 20, winning puck battles and peppering Kasdorf with 20 shots. The Engineer senior looked calm and at times even casual in turning aside every single one. There would be more work ahead for him, but getting out of the first period without allowing a goal was crucial.

Slowly, over the course of the game, RPI picked up momentum. The second period was a bit more even, but Harvard sill outshot the Engineers 33-12 across the first 40 minutes. Nevertheless, RPI had its scoring opportunities in the second, perhaps coming closest when Meirs Moore rang one off the inside of the post after getting his shot to elude sophomore Merrick Madsen, but it stayed out of the net.

Moore would hit the post again in the third, and Hobey finalist from last season Jimmy Vesey would touch iron twice in the third period himself without scoring. The tide really started to move RPI's way in puck possession during the final frame, yet still, neither team was able to connect. The Engineers had a full two minute power play chance after a slashing call to Sean Malone with less than 10 minutes to play, but couldn't find a way to nab the game's first goal - though Jared Wilson would hit the crossbar as the penalty expired. RPI was themselves fortunate not to give the Crimson a late power play of their own as a late charge went uncalled.

Jake Wood and Wiley Sherman had opportunities to score in the overtime period for RPI and Harvard respectively, but both netminders continued to be on their game in the extra period. Madsen made 4 stops for the Crimson and Kasdorf added 2 for the Engineers as they finished with 32 and 43 saves to combined for a total of 75 in a scoreless draw.

It was the first 0-0 game for RPI in nearly 90 years, since a scoreless draw with the Amherst Lord Jeffs in 1927, and the first one to take place in Troy in nearly a century, since a 0-0 tie with Mass. Agricultural (now UMass) in 1917. Oddly enough, it was also the 3rd 0-0 draw in ECAC play this season, following similar performances from Cornell/Yale and St. Lawrence/Quinnipiac, all of whom also boast top-end goaltending.

With the ECAC done until after Christmas, the Engineers next finish up their 2015 schedule with a visit from Arizona State for a pair this coming weekend. The Sun Devils are in their first season as a Division I program, but they've picked up three wins against Division I teams already this year - one against the same Alaska Nanooks who went on to beat RPI the following week, and two against Lake Superior State in the Upper Peninsula. The Engineers should be solid favorites against ASU, but they've got to watch against let downs against the upstarts from the southwest.

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)

Dartmouth at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/4/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Dartmouth 2, RPI 1

RECORD: 8-6-2 (4-1-2 ECAC, 10 pts)

#8 Harvard at RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
12/5/15 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 0, Harvard 0 (OT)


RECORD: 8-6-3 (4-1-3 ECAC, 11 pts)

Upcoming games
11 Dec - Arizona State
12 Dec - Arizona State
02 Jan - at Miami
03 Jan - at Miami
07 Jan - at Princeton

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