Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Men's Hockey - Cornell & Colgate (15/16 Jan)

Usually, a three-point weekend is a pretty solid result, even at home and even when it started off with a win. But there was something distinctly unsatisfying about the three out of four points taken by the Engineers in their return to full ECAC action at home against Cornell and Colgate. Following an interesting chess match between the Big Red and Engineers, won 1-0 by RPI, the Saturday night game against a growing-in-confidence Colgate team featured three disallowed goals and a haphazard performance, ending in a 2-2 tie. Had the results (or games) been swapped, the feeling might have been a bit better, since the tough outing came more recently than the solid victory.




The big injury news coming into the weekend was undoubtedly the loss of Parker Reno to a shoulder injury, which is expected to keep him out for much of the remainder of the regular season, if not longer. Reno has been exceptional this season for the Engineers, both offensively and defensively, and his loss from the lineup is a definite blow to RPI's stretch run.

When the Engineers have been successful this season - and, quite frankly, throughout his career - it's been very much attributable to outstanding play by their goaltender, Jason Kasdorf. He paced RPI to a victory over then-#1 Boston College in October at the Field House, put together a solid enough performance to back a scoreless draw with Harvard last month, and picked up right where he left off in that game to power the Engineers against Cornell.

For the second consecutive home ECAC outing, Kasdorf made more than 40 saves to preserve a shutout for RPI, this time picking up 44 saves against the Big Red. The Engineers didn't put nearly as much rubber on Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam, but they were able to sneak one past him in the second period for the game's only tally.

Mike Prapavessis almost literally took the puck on a guided tour of the Cornell zone, essentially looping all the way around from the goal line on one side of the net, around the boards, the blue line, and the other boards and nearly back to the goal line on the other side. His journey attracted a lot of attention from the Cornell defense, and Prapavessis found Chris Bradley standing all alone in the faceoff circle - he threw the puck through the slot, and Bradley one-timed it to the back of the net for what would prove to be the only goal of the game.

The third period saw Kasdorf stopping 14 shots to make Bradley's first goal of the year hold up as Cornell sought the equalizer. The most dangerous moments came early in the period, as RPI was forced to kill off a long two-man disadvantage after a penalty late in the second to Jared Wilson and another early in the third to Milos Bubela, leaving the Engineers without two crucial penalty killers in the process.

The victory extended the Engineers' unbeaten streak against Cornell to five in a row, and their record against the Big Red in the last five seasons to 5-1-3, and increased their record against Top 10 ranked teams this season to 3-1-1.




The injury situation continued to deteriorate heading into the Saturday game, as Riley Bourbonnais, the team's leading scorer, was on crutches after the Cornell game, and it later came to light that, as with Reno, Bourbonnais is likely to be unavailable for much of the stretch run, another blow to RPI as the team has lost their leading scorer for the second time this season after watching Evan Tironese disappear from the lineup due to a season-ending injury. However, as with Reno, RPI could get Bourbonnais back late in the regular season or for the playoffs. He was replaced in the lineup for Colgate by Alex Rodriguez.

Jared Wilson appeared to give the Engineers a 1-0 lead about 6 minutes into the game on a shot from the top of the faceoff circle, but it was waved-off due to contact with the goalkeeper by Viktor Liljegren, who was attempting a screen but made contact with the glove hand of Colgate's Zac Hamilton. The first period ended in a scoreless draw despite a 12-8 shot advantage for RPI.

Tommy Grant got RPI officially on the board with a blast from the blue line 5 minutes into the second period. Mere seconds later, off the enusing center ice draw, RPI put the puck in a third time, but had a goal disallowed for the second time as it had been put in with a kicking motion by Zach Schroeder.

Colgate evened the score with about five minutes left in the second after a bad giveaway deep in the RPI end by Prapavessis was turned on and put on goal by the Raiders' Evan Peterson. Kasdorf made the initial save, but the rebound was sent home by Hunter Racine to make it 1-1.

That score held up until midway through the third period, when Colgate appeared to take a 2-1 lead on a goal by Mike Panowyk, but that one was waved off because Peterson was standing on top of Kasdorf when Panowyk's shot came in.

The 2-1 scoreline came down moments later, but it was in RPI's favor as Milos Bubela did his usual coast-to-coast routine, finishing it off with a nice backhand for his 5th goal of the season and putting the Engineers ahead just seconds after they got away with an illegal hand pass in their own end. But Colgate would earn a measure of even-up after that miscarriage of justice, tying the game back up with Racine again picking up a rebound and moving it clear of Grant's back-check to put it in with 3:53 left in regulation.

A back and forth overtime period came and went without scoring, leaving both teams with an unsatisfying 2-2 tie that could have been much more for both sides. It kept RPI from making a bit of school history, as the women had swept their ECAC weekend against Union hours earlier, and RPI men's and women's hockey still have never swept league weekends in the same weekend (although they've combined to manage 7 points several times).

The three point weekend combined with Cornell's one point weekend to move RPI into second place by themselves, a point ahead of the Big Red in 3rd but seven points behind Quinnipiac in 1st. Awaiting the Engineers on Thursday in their next ECAC outing are the aforementioned Bobcats, the new #1 team in the nation - and RPI has a bit of a reputation for doing well this season against highly ranked teams.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 22 pts (10-0-2)
2. RPI - 15 pts (5-1-5)
3. Cornell - 14 pts (6-2-2)
4. Harvard - 13 pts (5-4-3)
5. Yale - 12 pts (5-3-2)
6. Dartmouth - 10 pts (5-5-0)
7. St. Lawrence - 9 pts (4-5-1)
8. Colgate - 8 pts (3-6-2)
9. Princeton - 8 pts (3-7-2)
10. Union - 7 pts (2-7-3)
11. Clarkson - 6 pts (2-6-2)
12. Brown - 6 pts (2-7-2)

By winning percentage
1. Quinnipiac (.917)
2. Cornell (.700)
3. RPI (.682)
4. Yale (.600)
5. Harvard (.591)
6. Dartmouth (.500)
7. St. Lawrence (.450)
8. Colgate (.364)
9. Princeton (.333)
10. Clarkson (.300)
11. Union (.292)
12. Brown (.273)

#8 Cornell at #20 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/15/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 1, Cornell 0

RECORD: 12-7-4 (5-1-4 ECAC, 14 pts)

Colgate at #20 RPI
ECAC Game - Houston Field House (Troy, NY)
1/16/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Colgate 2 (OT)

RECORD: 12-7-5 (5-1-5 ECAC, 15 pts)

Upcoming games
21 Jan - at #1 Quinnipiac
23 Jan - vs. Union (Albany, NY)
29 Jan - at Brown
30 Jan - at #12 Yale
05 Feb - St. Lawrence

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