Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Men's Hockey - at Maine (7/8 Oct)

The opening weekend is almost never an opportunity to define a season, but it's at least a good way to get an early vibe for the most part. Even on a long road trip like Maine, it's hard to look at RPI's season opener and feel overly positive. While it's hard to go into any barn on the road and win twice in two nights, the expectations on results from the Maine road trip had to be a lot higher than the end results - a pair of losses, one a sound defeat and one a heart-crushing loss as the Engineers looked flat in a 5-1 loss on Friday before blowing a lead in the third period to fall 4-2 on Saturday.

Friday
Liljegren-Bourbonnais-Wiffen
Ohrvall-Tironese-DeVito
Nanne-Melanson-Rodriguez
Wood-Hayhurst-Polino

Wilson-Reno
Prapavessis-Grant
Bell-Reilly

Perry

The starting lineup was actually very little changed from the exhibition contest. As expected, Lou Nanne replaced Jake Marrello on the third line. Perhaps the only minor surprise was on the third blueline pairing, as both Bradley Bell and Will Reilly suited up at the expense of Meirs Moore.

Any wishes that the penalty-fest that marred not only the McGill exhibition in Troy but exhibition contests across the country were limited to games between NCAA and Canadian teams were dashed pretty quickly on Friday night. As games around the country became similar death marches to the penalty box, so too was the season opener in Orono. Seven minor penalties were called in the first period alone - none of which resulted in any power play goals being scored.

The Black Bears jumped out to a quick lead about six minutes into what had previously been a pretty back and forth affair. Freshman Patrick Shea scored at 6:06 of the first to put the home team ahead, and then just 1:26 later another freshman, Mitchell Fossier, made it 2-0 to put RPI in a serious road hole early in the game.

In dire need of the next goal, RPI hit a post and came perilously close to netting one over the next 20 minutes, but simply couldn't find a way to beat Maine netminder Rob McGovern, who made 23 saves in the opening 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Fossier made it 3-0 at almost exactly the same time in the second period that he'd scored during the first period.

Late in the second, the Engineers picked up four power plays, almost back-to-back-to-back-to-back (the last one created a short 5x3 opportunity), but still were unable to get anything done.

Maine pretty much sealed things up two minutes into the third period when yet another freshman, Chase Pearson, notched his first collegiate goal to make it 4-0 in the home team's favor. Jared Wilson responded 45 seconds later, 9 seconds into a power play opportunity, but it was quite obviously too little, too late. Fossier finished up by completing a hat trick in his first collegiate game at 14:45 of the third period.

The Engineers went 1-for-10 on the power play, while the Black Bears were 0-for-7, a rare bright spot for RPI on an otherwise dismal night. Chase Perry had limited returns in his first official game in an RPI sweater, making 31 saves on 36 shots.


Saturday
Bourbonnais-Tironese-Rodriguez
Melanson-Hayhurst-Nanne
Wood-DeVito-Polino
Liljegren, Ohrvall

Wilson-Reno
Prapavessis-Grant
Manley-Reilly
Bell

Perry

Brady Wiffen went off in the second period and did not return, and then did not factor into the starting lineup on Saturday. His effective replacement was Charlie Manley, making his RPI debut and giving the Engineers 11 forwards and 7 defensemen - although this lineup choice may have been heavily influenced by the number of players RPI brought on the trip to Maine.

A penalty to Wilson for hooking five minutes into the game - ending what was seemingly the longest stretch of 5x5 play all weekend to that point - turned into a shorthanded goal for the Engineers as Riley Bourbonnais scored on a breakaway 19 seconds after the kill began to put RPI ahead 1-0. That lead lasted for nearly 10 minutes until senior Blaine Byron tied things up with about four and a half minutes left in the opening period.

A five-minute major to Jake Wood for kneeing four minutes into the second period looked like a negative turning point for the Engineers, but for the second consecutive penalty kill, RPI managed to go +1 while down a man. Drew Melanson's first goal of the season, assisted by Jacob Hayhurst (for his first collegiate point) was scored short-handed just over a minute into the major, putting the Engineers ahead 2-1, which was the scoreline for the next 20 minutes.

Perry made 21 saves on 22 shots in the first two periods, but the offense in front of him left the door open for the third period, and Maine took advantage. Daniel Perez scored for the Black Bears about six minutes into the final period on a delayed penalty to Bourbonnais to knot the score, and Friday night's hero, Fossier, scored to put them ahead about three and a half minutes later.

The Engineers put 11 shots on goal after Perez tied the score, but couldn't put another one past Rob McGovern - and in fact, scored no even-strength goals on the entire weekend. Pearson scored an empty-netter with eight seconds left to seal the weekend sweep for Maine, whose freshmen scored just eight goals all of last season but accounted for seven of Maine's nine goals this weekend.

Saturday's game was also a serious departure from Friday (and the exhibition) in terms of penalties. Just seven power plays on Saturday, where there had been seven in the first period alone on Friday. The Engineers do at least go forward boasting a 100% penalty kill (11-for-11) in two games, which is 24-for-24 if one includes the exhibition (which you shouldn't).

Next up for the Engineers is an even bigger test - one game next weekend in North Dakota against the #1 team in the nation and the defending national champions. The Fighting Hawks opened their season by bludgeoning Canisius twice at home, 6-0 and 4-1. A step in the right direction for RPI would be to at least put up a better front than did the Golden Griffins, who managed just 28 shots on the weekend.

RPI at Maine
Non-Conference Game - Alfond Arena (Orono, ME)
10/7/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Maine 5, RPI 1

RECORD: 0-1-0

RPI at Maine
Non-Conference Game - Alfond Arena (Orono, ME)
10/8/16 - 7:00pm

RESULT: Maine 4, RPI 2

RECORD: 0-2-0

Upcoming games
15 Oct - at #1 North Dakota
21 Oct - Niagara
22 Oct - RIT
28 Oct - Union
29 Oct - at Union

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