Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Men's Hockey - at Harvard/Dartmouth (12/13 Feb)

In the home-stretch, RPI is proving to still be a team that's pretty much all over the place when it comes to results. In a game this past Friday that basically everyone expected them to lose - and one they probably should have lost if the shots on goal were any indication whatsoever - they pulled out a 2-1 upset over the Harvard Crimson that looked like a season resurrection. The next night, however, the Engineers slogged through a difficult outing against Dartmouth, holding the lead for well over half the game but once again giving up that lead in the third period on their way to a 2-1 loss.




Drew Melanson remained out with an injury sustained in the St. Lawrence game, and the Engineers fielded roughly the same lineup they did against Clarkson on Freakout! night, the major exception being Jimmy DeVito's move to the second line, putting Kenny Gillespie on the grind line with Travis Fulton at center.

The first period played out as a microcosm of what the entire game would prove to be - faceoffs completely dominated by Harvard, as well as possession in the attacking zone and shots on goal. That's usually a pretty strong recipe for defeat, and it looked as though defeat was certainly in the cards when the Crimson notched the game's first goal after a relentless attack in the first nine minutes was paid off with Brayden Jaw's first of the year on a blast from the point to make it 1-0.

But Harvard's lead did not last long. Completely against the flow of play, the Engineers got that goal back just 2:19 later when a forechecking Mark Miller kept the puck on the Harvard half of the ice and shuttled it to Phil Hampton who took it deep into the Crimson end before whipping it on net. Merrick Madsen made the initial save, but the rebound went into the slot, where a crashing Jake Wood buried it for his eighth goal of the season to tie things up.

Harvard continued to pour it on throughout the remainder of the first period, but the Engineers managed to escape with the 1-1 goal in large part thanks to some quality goaltending by Jason Kasdorf, who made 18 saves on 19 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

The barrage continued into the second period, but the Engineers began looking very comfortable playing in their own end. The lopsided shot totals continued, but the Crimson did not appear in imminent danger of scoring besides their possession control. Meanwhile, the Engineers again got themselves a goal against the flow of play to take a most unexpected lead.

Jared Wilson blasted a shot from the point in nearly the same place as Jaw in the first period, and Madsen again made the initial save, which was directed toward Alex Rodriguez. The puck appeared to get stuck in Rodriguez's jersey, but while the players in front slowed their play in anticipation of the whistle, the puck came free to Kenny Gillespie, who instantly blasted it to the back of the net for a 2-1 RPI lead on Gillespie's fourth goal of the season.

From there, it was a white-knuckle ride to the end. Harvard superstar Jimmy Vesey, who hit three posts against the Engineers in Troy, ended with an eye-popping 13 shots on goal, but Kasdorf managed to steer every single one of them aside during the course of the game. By the time all was said and done, the home team put 50 shots on goal, and Kasdorf preserved the win by saving 49 of them in what could only be called controlled chaos in the RPI zone for the final 35 minutes of the game. While it appeared Harvard could score at any time, it didn't necessarily seem that they would thanks to a strong team defensive effort keyed by Kasdorf.

In a game that seemed by most metrics to be one that should have been dominated by Harvard, RPI managed to come away with a victory in a result that seemed at the time to be one that could well propel the Engineers back toward the top four.




Rolling with the same lineup as they used on Friday night, the Engineers took advantage of some very lax play by Dartmouth in the defensive end to establish the early lead, but that lead was ultimately not one they could extend to the end of the game.

Poor play by the Big Green combined with a sudden resurgence of success in the faceoff circle for the Engineers early on in Hanover, leading to a very dominating opening 10 minutes for RPI that included the game's first goal. Travis Fulton took the puck unmolested behind the Dartmouth net, stopping after coming around to the goaltender's left. Still unchallenged, he simply looked up and found Mike Prapavessis waiting on the other side of the crease. Fulton passed across, and Prapavessis one-timed it to the back of the net to make it 1-0 RPI.

The Engineers were unfortunate not to get more goals in the opening 10 to 15 minutes, not just because of the way the rest of the game played out, but because they probably earned a couple of more tallies. They dominated the attacking zone in ways reminiscent of Harvard the previous night, but whether it was narrow misses, passes that just didn't connect, or rebounds that were just barely steered away, RPI was unable to get anything more during their first period dominance.

The ice tilted back in Jason Kasdorf's direction in the second period, but the RPI defense held up well even as the offensive attack all but completely died out. The senior netminder made 9 saves against only 2 the other way for James Kruger as RPI took their 1-0 lead into the final period but obviously needing a bit of a turnaround in order to reach the final whistle with that lead.

Early on in the third, it became very clear that if that turnaround did not eventually happen, Dartmouth would find the tying goal at some point, a drastic difference from the RPI defense's stand in the third period on Friday. The Big Green continually knocked on the door in the opening minutes, even putting one in off a shot that Kasdorf dropped, but the Engineers were saved by an early whistle on the play.

Following that waved-off goal, RPI gained some golden chances to extend their lead on a succession of unforced errors by Dartmouth, but they could not take advantage after several icings by the Big Green.

A tripping call against Milos Bubela in the defensive zone with just under 10 minutes left in regulation finally left the door open wide enough for Dartmouth to get through. The Big Green's poor power play was powered by their momentum, and they used the extra man to finally put one through on a slapshot from the point by Ryan Bullock with plenty of time for Dartmouth to continue their charge and find the go-ahead.

RPI was, in all honesty, lucky to get themselves into overtime with an opportunity to steal out of Hanover with at least one point that they probably hadn't earned over the course of the final 45 minutes of regulation - but the luck ran out with just over a minute left in the extra period when Troy Crema scored on a put-back into an open net to give Dartmouth the 2-1 victory for RPI's first overtime loss of the season.

The Engineers have now lost four of their last five games down the stretch, a trend they need to reverse in a big hurry if they're going to have a positive end to their season. They have a difficult task on Friday against the #1 team in the nation in Quinnipiac, but the Bobcats are no longer unbeaten in ECAC play after falling on Friday to St. Lawrence, and the Engineers did come within seconds of achieving that feat themselves last month in Hamden. With a Princeton team that hasn't won a game since early December coming on Saturday as the final home game of the season, a home sweep may be the only way back into the top four discussion.

Current ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 30 pts (13-1-4)
2. Yale - 25 pts (11-4-3)
3. Harvard - 23 pts (10-5-3)
4. St. Lawrence - 22 pts (10-6-2)
5. Dartmouth - 20 pts (10-8-0)
6. RPI - 20 pts (7-5-6)
7. Clarkson - 19 pts (8-7-3)
8. Cornell - 18 pts (7-7-4)
9. Union - 13 pts (4-9-5)
10. Colgate - 10 pts (4-12-2)
11. Princeton - 8 pts (3-13-2)
12. Brown - 8 pts (2-12-4)

#18 RPI at #9 Harvard
ECAC Game - Bright-Landry Hockey Center (Boston, MA)
2/12/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 2, Harvard 1

RECORD: 15-10-6 (7-4-6 ECAC, 20 pts)

#18 RPI at Dartmouth
ECAC Game - Thompson Arena (Hanover, NH)
2/13/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Dartmouth 2, RPI 1 (OT)

RECORD: 15-11-6 (7-5-6 ECAC, 20 pts)

Upcoming games
19 Feb - #1 Quinnipiac
20 Feb - Princeton (Senior Night)
26 Feb - at Colgate
27 Feb - at #16 Cornell
04 Mar - ECAC First Round Game 1

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