Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Men's Hockey - at Brown/Yale (29/30 Jan)

Perhaps it was the exception that proves the rule - "first to three wins" is a common saying in hockey, especially in college hockey. Both nights this past weekend, the other team was first to three before the Engineers had scored their first. On Friday against Brown, RPI turned the tables by pumping in the next four to secure an improbable victory, 4-3, but on Saturday after falling behind 3-0, the Engineers simply could not break onto the scoreboard in a 3-0 loss.

Brown
Melanson-Schroeder-Nanne
Miller-Bubela-Wood
Ohrvall-DeVito-Liljegren
Bell-Fulton-Rodriguez

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Grant
Moore-Hampton

Kasdorf

Bradley Bell returned to the lineup for just the third time this season, dressing as a forward for the first time in his collegiate career - the Engineers otherwise keeping the same lineup intact that won the Mayor's Cup game against Union.

RPI has had their share of difficulties with Brown of late, going winless in their last three games against the Bears including a 3-3 draw in Troy in November that was controversial as Brown had a fairly clear goal waved off in overtime. On Friday, the Bears wasted no time getting themselves into a position of command, as Josh McArdle scored 2:39 into the contest to put Brown ahead 1-0 as part of a fairly dominant opening 20 minutes for the home team.

Brown extended their lead in the second period, as super freshman Tommy Marchin notched his 11th goal of the season on the power play at 5:45 of the middle frame, making it 2-0, and then going up 3-0 on a bad turnover by Meirs Moore deep in the RPI end. Alex Brink put it home to give Brown a seemingly insurmountable home lead.

But the Engineers weren't quite whipped yet, and they managed to climb back into contention in a most unlikely manner - on the power play. Despite entering the night with just 9 power play tallies on the season, RPI managed two in the final six minutes of the second period to make it a real contest again. Viktor Liljegren scored his second goal of the season just two and a half minutes after Brink's goal to get the Engineers on the board, and then a big blast by Jared Wilson on the power play made it to the back of the net to cut Brown's lead to one at 3-2.

The Engineers were strong in the third period in seeking the tying goal, and they appeared to have it early in the period when Mark Miller was initially credited with RPI's third goal of the night, but it was eventually overturned due to a lack of video evidence that the puck had fully crossed the line after a lengthy review. That kind of thing is a good way to dampen the morale of a team throwing everything they can into their comeback, but to their credit, the Engineers kept working for the tying goal, and they got it eight minutes into the period as Liljegren notched his second goal of the night to complete the comeback.

Then, just 51 seconds later, RPI nabbed the lead for the first time, with the red-hot Lou Nanne scoring his sixth of the season to make it 4-3 Engineers, a lead that Jason Kasdorf made stick with 11 saves in the final period as the shell-shocked Bears found it difficult to mount an offensive response until the final moments with the netminder pulled. Marchin very nearly tied the game in the waning moments, but a big save by Kasdorf preserved the win.

Coupled with Yale's loss to Union, the comeback win fueled a golden opportunity for the Engineers the next night: three points ahead of Yale and just one point behind idle Harvard after the Crimson's win over Princeton, a road sweep would not only put the Engineers in second place by themselves, it would give them a five point cushion over fourth.

Yale
Melanson-Schroeder-Nanne
Miller-Bubela-Wood
Ohrvall-DeVito-Liljegren
Clary-Fulton-Rodriguez

Bradley-Prapavessis
Wilson-Grant
Moore-Hampton

Kasdorf

Bell and his linemates saw very little ice-time in the second half of the Brown game - during the comeback - and he was replaced in the lineup by Lonnie Clary, the only healthy forward who made the trip to southern New England.

While RPI had a big opportunity to seize the moment and take firm control of their first-round bye destiny, the Bulldogs, who'd had an eight-game unbeaten streak snapped the previous night, certainly had other ideas. Yale took advantage of a flat first period from the Engineers to pounce quickly on the visitors, getting two first period goals from defenseman as All-ECAC blueliner Rob O'Gara scored his first goal of the year six minutes into the game to make it 1-0, and then a beautiful rip by freshman Anthony Walsh from the top of the slot eight minutes later made it 2-0.

The Engineers appeared to be pulling themselves back into contention late in the second period with some improved play, but they were unable to get any quality shots against Alex Lyon, one of the best netminders in the conference. Lyon made 18 saves in the first two periods to keep the score 2-0 heading into the third.

RPI may have been able to come back from a 3-0 deficit on Friday because they went down by three with nearly half the game remaining, and the Brown defense is frequently suspect. When Yale took a 3-0 lead seven minutes into the third period on a goal by Cody Learned, the mountain was easily twice as high, since RPI was afforded only 13 minutes to erase the gap against Yale's rock-solid defense. The Bulldogs simply stuck to their defensive plan, which was brilliant the entire night, and helped their netminder record his third shutout of the season with 29 saves.

Seth Appert is a firm believer in fighting until the end - and even down 3-0, he pulled Jason Kasdorf for the extra attacker with about three minutes left. The team continued to show heart even after hope for even a draw was gone, selling out to stop the empty-netter and continuing to push for the first goal that never came.

While a win would have made a first-round bye very, very likely, with a loss the final three byes are in firm toss-up mode, with just four points separating Harvard in 2nd from SLU in 6th. Especially with three games against nationally ranked opponents following this coming weekend - two on the road and the one at home against the #1 team in the country - the Freakout! pairing of St. Lawrence and Clarkson may be a serious determinant on whether the Engineers will need to fight through two playoff rounds to reach Lake Placid or get the luxury of playing at home for only one. A home sweep would give RPI 22 points on the year, edging them oh so close to that promised land. But lost points will be far harder to pick up again down the road.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 25 pts (11-0-3)
2. Harvard - 19 pts (8-3-3)
3. RPI - 18 pts (6-2-6)
4. Yale - 17 pts (7-4-3)
5. Dartmouth - 16 pts (8-6-0)
6. St. Lawrence - 15 pts (7-6-1)
7. Cornell - 14 pts (6-6-2)
8. Clarkson - 13 pts (5-6-3)
9. Union - 10 pts (3-7-4)
10. Princeton - 8 pts (3-9-2)
11. Colgate - 8 pts (3-10-2)
12. Brown - 7 pts (2-10-3)

#16 RPI at Brown
ECAC Game - Meehan Auditorium (Providence, RI)
1/29/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 4, Brown 3

RECORD: 14-7-6 (6-1-6 ECAC, 18 pts)

#16 RPI at #11 Yale
ECAC Game - Ingalls Rink (New Haven, CT)
1/30/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Yale 3, RPI 0

RECORD: 14-8-6 (6-2-6 ECAC, 18 pts)

Upcoming games
05 Feb - St. Lawrence
06 Feb - Clarkson (Big Red Freakout!)
12 Feb - at #7 Harvard
13 Feb - at #20 Dartmouth
19 Feb - #1 Quinnipiac

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