Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Men's Hockey - at North Dakota (15 Oct)

It was always going to be hard to expect anything about traveling to the defending and eight-time national champions, and the end result was pretty much as one would have expected. RPI was actually fairly efficient with their shots, scoring twice on 14 of them, but of course, 14 shots is not what you're looking for against a team like North Dakota, who have proven in their first three games to be very stingy on defense and full of firepower on offense. The end result was a 5-2 defeat from which the Engineers can at least draw some positives going forward, if not a victory for the resume.

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

Prapavessis-Reno
Wilson-Reilly
Manley-Grant
Moore

Perry

Whatever Brady Wiffen's injury is, it kept him from traveling with the squad and the Engineers again went with an 11x7 lineup, with Meirs Moore returning from a minor thumb injury and replacing Bradley Bell among the starting 18, with a healthy amount of line jumbling as well.

The first goal was a repeat from both RPI and North Dakota's last outings - the Engineers scored first and the Fighting Hawks gave up the first goal. Evan Tironese notched his first goal of the year and his second collegiate goal when he one-timed a pass from Riley Bourbonnais past UND netminder Cam Johnson to put the Engineers ahead 1-0 on their first shot of the game.

RPI maintained that lead for much of the first period, and even had two opportunities to extend that lead on the power play, but both power plays were cut short by penalties taken by Viktor Liljegren. The Swedish junior took a tripping penalty just under a minute into RPI's first power play of the game, and then a hooking call about 20 seconds into the Engineers' second man advantage.

UND tied things up with about 4:30 left in the first period as sophomore Joel Janatuinen struck pretty much out of nowhere with a one-timer from Ludvig Hoff to put the Fighting Hawks on the board.

The Engineers didn't fall behind until almost six minutes into the second period. North Dakota took a 2-1 lead on a goal by super-freshman Tyson Jost, and just over a minute later a second goal by Janatuinen gave the home team a more comfortable 3-1 edge.

After a very solid penalty kill for RPI about five minutes later, freshman Will Reilly found Jake Wood on an outlet pass, and the senior was off to the races. Wood buried the puck just three seconds after a penalty to Mike Prapavessis ended - technically an even-strength goal but functionally a short-handed tally as the play began before the penalty concluded, but nevertheless pulling the Engineers back within a goal with two goals scored on just 10 shots in the first two periods of the evening.

But the ending still wasn't terribly in doubt, and the Fighting Hawks left zero doubt early in the third period, as a goal by Cole Smith five and a half minutes into the final period gave UND their two-goal cushion back, and the conclusion of the hat trick by Janatuinen - the second hat trick scored on the Engineers in three games - pretty much sealed things tight. After putting five shots on goal in each of the first two periods, RPI managed just four in the third period, certainly not anywhere close to being enough to pull back the three-goal hole. Chase Perry was once again a hard-luck loser in net with 33 saves on 38 shots - it really wasn't poor play by the Engineers that caused the loss, more just the outstanding play by the home team getting the job done without a shadow of a doubt.

Again, this wasn't an unexpected result. RPI was going to need to catch North Dakota on a bad night in order to find success and it just wasn't in the cards. The Fighting Hawks didn't even look particularly bad in the first period, when the Engineers led for over 10 minutes. So it's an 0-3 start for RPI, but that's probably not the best metric for measuring them just yet. The sweep at Maine suddenly looks a lot better after the Black Bears split with Quinnipiac in Orono over the weekend, with both games going to overtime - and from here, the schedule not only gets a touch easier, it also shifts home for the first time... and for the next five consecutive weekends.

RPI went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill on the evening, extending their streak of penalty kills to start the season off with 17 successful kills in a row. Only Bemidji State (22) has started off their season with more successful kills without allowing a power play goal, and Penn State (15) is the only other non-Ivy that has yet to allow a power play goal.

On the flip side, the Engineers are 1-for-19 on the power play to start the season. Only Alaska-Anchorage (1-for-23) and, amazingly, Boston College (a mind-numbing 0-for-20) have been worse on the power play to start the season. Mercyhurst, Minnesota, and St. Cloud State all have yet to score a power play goal as well, but all have fewer than 10 opportunities, so let's not be too harsh on them just yet.

In the meantime, the first two games of a nine-out-of-ten in a row homestand - the one being a road trip all the way to Schenectady - get underway this weekend against Niagara and RIT of Atlantic Hockey. RIT is no slouch, but they're not Maine on the road and they're not the defending national champions. The key, especially on Saturday night against the Tigers, is for the Engineers to display what they've learned in three tough games and show that they can win games that they're supposed to win, even if they couldn't win games they weren't necessarily favored to win.

RPI at #1 North Dakota
US Hockey Hall of Fame Game - Alfond Arena (Orono, ME)
10/15/16 - 8:00pm

RESULT: North Dakota 5, RPI 2

RECORD: 0-3-0

Upcoming games
21 Oct - Niagara
22 Oct - RIT
28 Oct - Union
29 Oct - at Union
04 Nov - Brown

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