Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Men's Hockey - at Colgate/Cornell (26/27 Feb)

With a mathematical chance of reaching as high as 3rd and at least a halfway decent chance of nabbing a first-round bye with a road sweep to end the season, the Engineers faltered on Friday night, ending the possibility of either of those happening with an uninspiring 2-0 loss at Colgate. But they managed to salvage a bit of respectability by battling back in the third period at an equally desperate Cornell the next night, scoring with the extra attacker to nab a 3-3 tie that secured a tie for 5th in the final standings, the #6 seed in the tournament, and a date with Brown at home next weekend - where a loss would have resulted in a tie for 7th, the #8 seed, and the always unpredictable RPI-Union matchup for the playoffs.

Rodriguez, Gillespie



With Parker Reno's return to the lineup pretty much confirmed the previous week, it was expected that Seth Appert was ready to roll with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen as the team did earlier in the season, but it was difficult to pinpoint exactly which forward would be coming out of the lineup to accomodate the setup. An injury to Travis Fulton made the point fairly moot, as Reno returned to his original pairing with Jared Wilson.

Opening their final weekend of games at the nearly 60-year-old Starr Rink, Colgate jumped quickly on a lethargic-looking RPI team and then rode a strong defensive front to a 2-0 victory. Both of the Raiders goals came in the first 10 minutes and were generated by the Spink twins, with Tyson setting up Tylor for his 10th and 11th goals of the season at 1:42 and 9:05 of the first period.

From there, it was mostly a matter of Colgate's defense standing big when it had to - not that it had to with any real frequency. Arguably, RPI's best looks came during the second period, when they put 14 shots on goal, but they were unable to find a breakthrough against Charlie Finn and the Raider D.

Riley Bourbonnais did get two solid opportunities to put the Engineers on the board in the third period, but was denied on the breakaway midway through and had an apparent goal waved off due to being played in off a high stick. Ultimately, in the final 20 minutes, RPI was their own worst enemy, shooting either high or wide when taking their chances, and they recorded just five shots on goal in the final frame.

The loss scotched any possibility of the Engineers managing to climb into the top four of the ECAC, and given that they'd locked up at least home ice in the first round the previous weekend, the only question remaining was who the opponent would be in Troy the next weekend. The possibility of finishing anywhere between 5th and 8th still loomed as the scene shifted to Ithaca for the season finale.

Clary, Rodriguez



In addition to the rough go of things on Friday night, RPI also had to contend with growing injury concerns as Lou Nanne and Zach Schroeder both went down during the game. Schroeder suffered a broken thumb, putting him out for the Cornell contest, while Nanne was at least able to return to a lineup that pretty much at this point can't afford any more absences. Essentially, the Engineers had no healthy scratches at Lynah Rink.

After giving up the early 1-0 lead to the opponent on Friday night, Saturday got off to an even more ominous start with the Big Red scoring even earlier - just 28 seconds into the game, when the puck glanced off an RPI skate and past Kasdorf to put the home team ahead on the very first shift of the game.

The RPI goal drought continued into the second period, finally ending at 8:28 of the middle frame after 106:34 without a goal when Viktor Liljegren netted his fifth goal of the season on the breakaway to tie the game up at one. But that equanimity was short lived - almost as short as the game's initial draw. Just 32 seconds after Liljegren's goal, Anthony Angello - who had also scored the game's first goal - scored on a tight-angle shot to put Cornell right back into the lead again.

The quick succession of goals - and falling behind so quickly for the second time on the evening - seemed to take the wind out of RPI's sails for the remainder of the period, but to their great credit the Engineers didn't fold their tents and finally, they got a good bounce helped them keep pace in the third period.

About four minutes into the third, a shot by Chris Bradley was saved by Cornell's Mitch Gillam, but the puck popped directly up into the air. When it came down, it went off a couple of sticks and then Gillam's shoulder, and ended up in the back of the net to make it 2-2.

Five and a half minutes later, Cornell took the lead a third time after a loose puck in front of the cage was put home after Jason Kasdorf was taken out of the play by a hit. The referees reviewed the goal and discovered no malfeasance, so once again, the Engineers were playing from behind.

They still trailed with about two minutes remaining in regulation, which led to Kasdorf being pulled for the extra skater after an icing call against Cornell. This isn't a tactic that has worked well for RPI over the last few years, but there's a reason teams do it - there's a definite advantage to having the extra skater when the game is on the line. And this time, it worked for the Engineers. 24 seconds away from their 7th loss in the last 9 games - and surely an 8th place finish - Milos Bubela's shot pinballed off a couple of different players and into the back of the net to give the Engineers an improbable 3-3 score.

By the time the extra session was underway, the three potential outcomes carried with it three different potential opponents. A win for RPI would mean Princeton, a tie would bring Brown, and a loss would have Union. Both netminders were busy in the overtime period, with Kasdorf stopping four shots and Gillam three, but in the end neither team was able to recreate some of the bizarre goals that they'd scored in regulation, and the Engineers earned a hard-fought point in what has to be considered a good tie.

We'll have more later in the week on Brown - which has been a traditional bugaboo for the Engineers in recent playoff seasons. But for now, the metric is simple. Win two games this weekend, or the season's done.

Final ECAC Standings
1. Quinnipiac - 37 pts (16-1-5)
2. Yale - 31 pts (14-5-3)
3. Harvard - 28 pts (12-6-4)
4. St. Lawrence - 25 pts (11-8-3)
5. Clarkson - 23 pts (10-9-3)
6. RPI - 23 pts (8-7-7)
7. Dartmouth - 22 pts (11-11-0)
8. Cornell - 22 pts (8-8-6)
9. Union - 18 pts (6-10-6)
10. Colgate - 14 pts (6-14-2)
11. Brown - 12 pts (3-13-6)
12. Princeton - 9 pts (3-16-3)

First Round
#12 Princeton at #5 Clarkson
#11 Brown at #6 RPI
#10 Colgate at #7 Dartmouth
#9 Union at #8 Cornell

#17 RPI at Colgate
ECAC Game - Starr Rink (Hamilton, NY)
2/26/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Colgate 2, RPI 0

RECORD: 16-13-6 (8-7-6 ECAC, 22 pts)

#17 RPI at #16 Cornell 
ECAC Game - Lynah Rink (Ithaca, NY)
2/27/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: RPI 3, Cornell 3 (OT)

RECORD: 16-13-7 (8-7-7 ECAC, 23 pts)

Upcoming games
04 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 1)
05 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 2)
06 Mar - Brown (ECAC First Round Game 3, if necessary)
11 Mar - at #12 Harvard/#19 St. Lawrence (ECAC Quarterfinals Game 1, if qualified)
12 Mar - at #12 Harvard/#19 St. Lawrence (ECAC Quarterfinals Game 2, if qualified)

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