March 4, 2011

ECAC Hockey Journal: RPI misses the point

After scoring 67 goals in 21 2/3 conference games, RPI really needed one more score.

Engineers senior Joel Malchuk lit the lamp midway through the second period last Saturday to tie his team with Quinnipiac in their last regular season game, 2-2. Neither team scored the rest of the way and RPI came away from the draw with a single point.

At the end of the weekend, the Engineers were tied for fourth place in the conference standings with Cornell and Princetonat 24 points apiece. After tiebreakers, Cornell was granted the fourth seed and was the final team awarded with a bye for the first round of the ECAC Hockey tournament.

Had RPI scored just one more goal, if the Engineers could have found a way to break their tie with the Bobcats and grab that extra point with a win, they would have claimed the fourth seed, sat back and watched as the other eight ECAC teams beat each other up in Round 1.

Instead, they finished the season losing four of their last six games (1-4-1), and they find themselves in a best-of-three series with Colgate, a team that’s won four of its last seven (4-2-1).

Though No. 5 RPI (11-9-2, 19-10-5ECAC Hockey) should beat the last-place Raiders (4-15-3, 7-24-3), they would be wise not take the series for granted. They should know better than any other team that sometimes all it takes is one goal to decide which teams will be playing next weekend, and which will not.

NEHJ Player of the Week

Ryan Carroll, sr., Harvard

Carroll has gone from splitting time with fellow senior Kyle Richterto earning his keep as the team’s top ‘tender. He’s started the team’s last three games and won his last five starts, carrying a .933 save percentage during that stretch.

Looking Ahead

No. 9 Brown at No. 8 Quinnipiac, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (if necessary)

Brown senior captain Harry Zolnierczyk was named Ivy League Player of the Year, finishing with a team-leading 31 points and 16 goals. He’ll do his best to carry the Bears as they work without last year’s leading scorer, Jack Maclellan, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a foot injury Feb. 18.

Around ECAC Hockey

Brown

The Bears had one other player who received a postseason All-Ivy award. Freshman defenseman Dennis Robertson was named to the second team. He and Princeton freshman forward Andrew Calof (first team) were the only Ivy League rookies named to the first or second teams.

Clarkson

The No. 7 seeded Golden Knights will host their first ECAC tournament games in three years when they welcome No. 10 Harvard this weekend to Potsdam, NY.

Colgate

Junior forward Austin Smith will look to have a big series against RPI this weekend. In his four career playoff games he has five goals and an assist for six points.

Cornell

The Big Red did almost everything they could to give away their spot as one of the conference’s top four teams. They went 1-3 in their final four games, but still were able to hold onto the No. 4 seed by winning a three-way tiebreaker with Princetonand RPI.

Dartmouth

Big Green junior goalie James Mello (Rehoboth, Mass.)was the only unanimous selection to the All-Ivy League first team. He tied for the nation lead in save percentage (for keepers who played at least 33 percent of his team’s total minutes) at .929.

Harvard

Since falling 4-0 to Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot, Harvard is 5-1 in its last six games as it heads into the tournament.

Princeton

The No. 6 seed Tigers will host No. 11 St. Lawrence this weekend in the first round of the tournament. Princetonswept the season series between the teams, winning 5-1 at home in December and 5-3 at St. Lawrence in January.

Quinnipiac

The Bobcats have the luxury of two solid going into the tournament. Junior Dan Clarke stopped 33 of 31 Union shots to tie the Dutchmen last weekend, 2-2. Sophomore Eric Hartzell is eighth in the country in save percentage this season (.923).

Union

The Dutchmen beat Princeton 5-0 to close out their regular season and win the Cleary Cup as the ECAC’s top team. On Monday, they were awarded with the No. 4 ranking in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

St. Lawrence

Saints freshman forward Greg Carey finished the year leading the team in goals (18) and points (34), but he’ll face a challenge this weekend going up against Princeton’s freshman goalie, Sean Bonar, who splits time in net but ranks 12th in the nation in goals against (2.24). 

RPI

Even with high-scoring clubs like Yale (4.28 goals per game, first in the country), and Union (3.75 goals per game, third), the ECAC has had top of the line defenses this season. They have three of the top four teams in terms of goals allowed, and RPI is fourth among them at 2.21 goals allowed per game.

Yale

The Bulldogs will have this weekend off, but they were very active collecting honors this week. They had five players named to the All-Ivy First or Second teams, including senior first-teamer Broc Little (Rindge, NH) and senior second-teamer Chris Cahill (North Andover, Mass.). Four of the five players were seniors.

Phil Perry can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.