Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

06/26/2012

Finally

For the few years I was scribbling nonsense on the Internet before I landed over at NBCSports.com’s ProHockeyTalk, every June would turn into a soap box for me to sound off on why Adam Oates belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His case was always easy to make. No, really, it was super easy to make.

Now? Now he’s a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The fight is over and a childhood hero is enshrined for eternity. Bias accepted here, there’s never been a doubt as to Oates’ career being Hall-worthy.

I am as happy as a hockey fan can be. The complaining, the indignant stat-prattling, the case-making, the whining about it all… It’s over. I don’t have to crow about an open-and-shut case anymore.

There’s no need to talk about the injustice of it all and continue alternating between banging my head against the wall and shouting from the mountain tops. Adam Oates: Hall of Famer.

Back in late September during the preseason, I wanted to interview Oates about being snubbed by the Hall. With him being the Devils assistant coach and it also being the team’s first preseason game of the year, the Hall was the last thing on his mind. All business, all the time. That’s part of what got the Washington Capitals to hire Oates as their head coach today on top of it all.

It feels a bit silly to feel as happy for what someone else accomplished, but that’s part of being a fan, right? Embracing those that helped bring the love of the game to you. Oates is the key figure on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of hockey. Oates, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Teemu Selanne. There are plenty other players I have a great appreciation for, but those four? They turned hockey from something I watched and enjoyed into something I obsess over and love dearly, maybe a bit too much if you ask some of my friends.

But Oates? He was the guy who sparked it all for me. Seeing a guy like that play live in person when you’re a kid leaves an impression on you. Seeing him win your favorite local team a championship hammers it home even more. Watching him excel as a professional for nearly 20 years is icing on the cake.

Adam Oates is a Hockey Hall of Famer. What a great day.

 

01/22/2010

RPI: Back To Business

Six weeks ago, the RPI hockey team last played a home game.  A month and a half away from the friendly confines of Houston Field House sounds a bit insane except when you consider that those six weeks all come when the students at RPI are on winter break it doesn’t sound so bad.  After all, home games without the bulk of your vocal home crowd suck ferociously.

For fans of the team that are only aware of the team while they’re at home, a few things happened.  They beat perennial powers (albeit ones in a down year) Boston University and University of Michigan in front of their home fans.  They swept a road weekend conference series at Quinnipiac and Princeton, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2007. They were also humbled by a very tough Michigan State team to lose the championship of the Great Lakes Invitational and also dropped their final meeting with Union College over in Schenectady.

The loss to Union has some folks up in arms because it’s Union College and they’re a local rival and  because head coach Seth Appert was quoted after the game saying this:

“I refuse to believe that they’re better than us. I believe in our guys, I have a lot of belief in that locker room, what we have in there. I have a lot of respect for Union. I think they’re a really good hockey team. I think they’re a Top 10 hockey team. But I don’t believe they’re better than us.”

Cocky words?  Not at all.  After all, each game with Union was decided by one goal this season (Union scoring an empty-net goal in the final game notwithstanding) and Appert did go on to heap a ton of credit on the Union program saying, “They’ve earned where they are.  Don’t get me wrong by what I say in terms of that question. They’re in first place in the league and they’ve earned every minute of that.”

Obviously Seth Appert wasn’t going rogue on anyone and his faith in his own team is quite clear where it stands.  Unlike teams in RPIs recent history, this year’s team hasn’t shown the penchant for fading and letting teams dominate them on the scoreboard like they used to.  However, for this team to spend six weeks away from the friendly confines and play six games and come away with a 4-2-0 record in that span against a handful of difficult opponents in very difficult settings is saying a lot for this team.

In more than a few games this year, situations have arisen where previous Engineers teams would fold up the tents instantly.  The game against Michigan sticks out as a prime example.  It was a game where they were ahead, some shady calls are made against them and Michigan storms back to tie the game and then things hang in the balance.  If that game happens even a season ago, RPI cracks and gives up two more goals to end that game and lose.  Instead, Marty O’Grady says, “Screw this,” and scores on an impossibly accurate snap shot to put RPI up for good in a 4-3 win.  RPI played this exact type of game two seasons ago against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and lost in front of a huge and largely Gopher-biased crowd.  Things change and things are certainly different for this RPI team.  Now they’re back at home and back on the hardcore ECAC schedule the rest of the way.  This weekend they see a couple of teams who in seasons past have been in the upper-middle part of the pack and still lurk as dangerous.

Dartmouth College comes to town not having seen RPI since the Engineers unceremoniously disposed of the sixth seeded Big Green in the ECAC Tournament last year and if you think revenge isn’t on their mind, you’re crazy.  The downside for Dartmouth is they’re just not very good this year.  They’re severely lacking scoring and even more severely lacking good goaltending.  Juniors Scott Fleming and Adam Estoclet lead Dartmouth in scoring with 15 points each and Fleming is the team’s leading goal scorer with eight.  Only two other players on the team are in double-digits in points and their main goaltender, Jody O’Neill, has a save percentage lingering around .890 and a 3.79 goals against average.

This does not bode well for the Big Green against RPI who sits as one of the highest scoring teams in the ECAC averaging 3.10 goals per game in conference matchups while allowing  just 2.40 goals against.  Dartmouth, on the other hand, has been scoring 2.60 per game while allowing 3.60 per.  Dartmouth, in this case, is going to have to turn the tables on RPI the way the Engineers did to them in last year’s playoffs.  The Big Green stumble into this game losers of seven of their last eight and winners of four games all season.

As for RPI’s opponent Saturday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson, there’s reason to believe that perhaps the ship is finally being righted in Cambridge.  After an uncharacteristic and abysmal start to the season where after opening their season with a win over Dartmouth Harvard went winless in their next ten games going 0-8-2 in those ten.  Since then, they’ve won three of their last five games including a win over #6 Yale.  Their two losses in that span came on the road against Minnesota so those can almost be excused since Minnesota is certainly the better team. Harvard’s gotten wins against Quinnipiac and Dartmouth (again) in that time and considering the Crimson were a team many believed would battle in the top half of the ECAC this would seem to indicate they’re getting their act together.

Harvard’s success has come at the hands of freshman and Montreal Canadiens first round pick Louis Leblanc.  Leblanc and his linemates Michael Biega and Maple Leafs Lightning draftee Alex Killorn have been the one sure thing, scoring-wise, head coach Ted Donato can count on.  Those three players are the Crimson’s three top scorers and Leblanc, of late, has been scoring goals in bunches while finally showing off the talent that made him the Habs top choice in 2009 (aside from being French-Canadian that is).

In goal is where things have gone a bit astray for Harvard.  Junior Kyle Richter returned after a one year absence to attend to “personal matters” and he’s been less-than stellar.  Meanwhile, junior Ryan Carroll has stepped up and provided some sense of sanity of late backstopping the team to their last two wins over Yale and Dartmouth.  In about half as many games as Richter has played, Carroll’s goals against is almost a full goal lower than Richter’s and he’s sporting a slightly better save percentage.  While I’m not sure Coach Donato wants to totally write off Kyle Richter, I’d bet that Ryan Carroll will get the nod this weekend for Harvard.

For as innocent as an RPI-Harvard might seem to be, all is not as indifferent as it might appear.  For instance, one thing RPI is going to have to look out for against the Crimson is the antics of the flying Biega brothers.  Whether its senior Alex Biega, junior Michael Biega or the latest addition, freshman Danny Biega the Engineers and Crimson seem to get together in scrummy fashion when it comes to them.   It all starts with the sandpaper-like play of defenseman Alex who is no stranger to the RPI crowd and he’s usually good for a skirmish or five over the course of a game. Adding in the very talented Michael Biega and his ability to get on the board, that automatically makes him disliked on the road.  It’ll be interesting to see which big brother Danny plays more like.

This game also offers RPI fans the opportunity to once again boo and mock junior defenseman Chris Huxley.  Four years ago, Huxley initially committed to play at RPI but then jumped ship when then head coach Dan Fridgen was not retained by RPI.  Through semi-shady dealings Huxley ended up reneging on his RPI commitment to go to Harvard, something which RPI fans have not forgotten about because each time Huxley touches the puck in Troy he’s booed by the faithful and even given an obvious last-name based nickname.  If you can’t figure out what it is, I’m not going to help you.

The RPI Bedwetter Fan View Of The weekend:

“The Friday night game against Dartmouth lingers as a possible “Superman” game where Jody O’Neill has the game of his life and RPI is stuck looking for answers against a goalie that has the horseshoe firmly implanted in his rectum.  The Saturday afternoon tilt against Harvard sits like a trap game.  Harvard is a team that’s wildly down this year but playing better of late and RPI will find it hard to match up with Leblanc’s line.  Allen York will give up some softies and RPI still won’t get anything done 5-on-5.  I haven’t been happy since 1985.”

The Right Way To Look At The Weekend:

RPI should roll Dartmouth and the Big Green’s porous goaltending should do their part to help solve any questions about their play at even strength.  I’ve got the feeling the game with Harvard is going to be a one goal semi-classic type of game.  Maybe I’m giving Harvard too much credit here, but there’s too much talent all over that team for them to keep losing games all year long.  That said, a solid game out of Allen York and Harvard doesn’t stand a chance.

Listen to this weekend’s games on WRPI online. 6:45pm Friday, 3:45pm Saturday.

01/06/2010

RPI’s Jerry D’Amigo – American Hero

Filed under: Jerry D'Amigo,RPI,RPI hockey,World Junior Championships — Joe Yerdon @ 12:04 AM

Congratulations to RPI’s Jerry D’Amigo and the rest of the Team USA World Junior Championship team for winning the gold medal over Canada in an overtime thriller 6-5.  Without Jerry D’Amigo, Team USA ends up as cannon fodder for Canada and Sweden.  D’Amigo scored two goals against Sweden in the semi-finals and added another goal and an assist against Canada in the finals.

Despite D’Amigo being one of the top performers in the tournament and, dare I say it, clutch as hell, he was not named to the All Tournament Team.  Somehow just as many Americans were named to the All Tournament Team as there were fourth place Swiss (two).  I wonder what the third place Swedes think of this development.

When Jerry returns to Houston Field House in Troy, you’d better believe the USA chant is going to be loud and fantastic.  Hopefully the Canadians on the team don’t have too much of a problem with this.

For what it’s worth, D’Amigo (and Wisconsin’s Derek Stepan as well as Caps prospect and game-winning goal scorer John Carlson) were jobbed out of the MVP award by Canada’s Jordan Eberle.  At least he can take solace in a nice individual effort.

The win marks the United States first win in the World Junior Championships since 2004.  Canada had won five straight gold medals in the tournament going into tonight.  And for all of you looking for a sweet boost of American pride… Look no further than this video taken from the American locker room after the victory.  Watch this and then tell me you wouldn’t go sprinting into battle.  I dare you.

12/28/2009

GMH On The Road: The Rust Belt Awaits

This week I go on one of the more awesome, and slightly random, hockey-themed road trips I’ve ever done.  This has become a bit of a thing for me, going back to April 2007 when I made it to Denver for the Frozen Four.  That trip was so incredible and life-fulfilling that it’s inspired me to do other trips both great and small.  Whether it meant going to last year’s Frozen Four in, now hockey-mad, Washington D.C., taking a short drive over the Berkshires to take in a Division III NCAA Tournament game or going to Montreal for the NHL Draft it didn’t matter – hockey was the reason and everything about each of those trips made it 100% worthwhile.

The great secret I’ve discovered is the road trip itself and when the college schedule was completed and it was announced that RPI would be heading to Detroit for the Great Lakes Invitational I circled the date and started to ask around to some of the other RPI-mad fans I know to see if this might be something we could do and sure enough… Everyone else was more than fair game and driving (yes, driving) from here around Albany to Detroit seemed to be the way to go about it.  More folks were contacted and more people were interested.  Hey, more the merrier, right?

For two days, this annual Michigan-centric tournament takes over Joe Louis Arena and University of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech have a battle to see who can be the GLI champion and get a banner hung inside the Joe to state as much.  Every year a fourth team is invited and RPI got the call this time around.  North Dakota was there last year, so it’s not as if a patsy is invited to secure an easy win for someone, although some Michigan fans seem to find RPI to be the weakest team to be invited in a long time.  We’ll see how that goes as Michigan is having a bit of an off year.

Fun thing about getting this many heads together for a plan is other ideas pop up.  The NHL schedule was released and sure enough, the “traditional” New Year’s Eve game at Joe Louis Arena was back on, after being called off for preparation for the Winter Classic last year.  Detroit against Colorado is the game and so another call was made to secure tickets for the gang.  Three nights in a row our band of RPI fanatics (now tentatively bearing the moniker of Collar City Madmen) would be holed up at Joe Louis Arena for a total of at least three games, probably four or five depending on how ambitious we are to see the other games of the GLI.

For myself, getting to see a Red Wings game at the Joe is the icing on the cake.  Look at it this way, about 25 years ago my hockey fandom was kicked into high gear thanks to the local team from RPI winning the National Championship against Providence College… At Joe Louis Arena.  It was that same local team that provided another local team, the Adirondack Red Wings, with a soon-to-be Hall of Fame player in Adam Oates (who was later unceremoniously traded by the Red Wings in one of the worst trades of all time) but helped make that connection to the NHL team I now follow.  Fast forward to now and here I’ll be in the same arena getting to see BOTH of these teams.

This is about as close to a religious experience as this lapsed Catholic will ever get.  I’ll be at the Joe where Oates, Puppa, Carter and Servinis helped lead RPI to their last National Championship and I’ll be getting my photo taken at Gordie Howe’s statue and finding ways to get as many pictures of Steve Yzerman’s banner as one person can get.

It’s my moment damn it, keep your remarks to yourself.

As Ron Popeil might say, “But wait, there’s more.”

This schedule for the trip means that New Year’s Eve will be spent hoping the Red Wings didn’t lose anymore players to injury and maybe pull out a victory and then finding a bar to hole up with the gang, usher in 2010 and then get right the hell to sleep because a road trip to Buffalo is in order for the day of January 1st.  Sure, most everyone will be going bonkers over the Winter Classic in Boston but we’ll be getting geared up for Thrashers v. Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo because, really, you can’t have enough hockey.

Oddly enough, for the limited number of NHL games I get to see live this will be the second time I’ve seen Atlanta play in the last three or four years.  The last time I saw them was down at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers when the Thrashers won in overtime and Ilya Kovalchuk proved to me what a madman on the ice he can be.  Just an unreal, sick talent.  More fun than that, this helps make packing for a trip easy.

RPI jersey?  Check.  Red Wings jersey?  Check.  Old school Buffalo Sabres jersey?  Check.

Good to go!

I know it sounds insane to be fired up for a trip to two cities in the Rust Belt of the USA but here I am writing this up in the wee hours of the morning before hitting the road to get to Buffalo and stay the night there before trekking to Michigan.  What makes going to places like this in the dead of winter when the climate is at its bleakest and these cities are seemingly even less “fun” to visit?  It’s hockey, stupid.  Simple as that.  It’s cities like these where hockey lives and breathes the hardest even when things financially aren’t at their best.  The fans love their teams and when it comes to college hockey at Joe Louis Arena… Well, that’s a big deal there too because state bragging rights are more-or-less on the line and the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is vicious.  Even going as an “objective” hockey fan for an event like this I would be fired up so you can imagine what the adrenaline rate is now having horses in most of  the races involved here.

The NCAA has made it a point to have better “destination” cities for some of their bigger events (namely the Frozen Four) but it’s places like Detroit and Buffalo (and Minneapolis/St. Paul) where hockey encompasses the lives of the folks there.  Sure some folks can get up in arms over selecting Ford Field as a Frozen Four venue (rightfully so) but their line of thought was right.  For every Tampa Bay the NCAA picks out, they make sure to take care of St. Paul, Minnesota and the Denver too.

As for updates while I’m gone for the week… Don’t expect too much unless I witness something completely insane or I’m duly inspired and want to (potentially) drunkenly ramble when I return back to the hotel room.  If you’re wanting in on crazy stories from the road or photos as they happen, I strongly suggest following me on Twitter @HockeyJoeGM.

If you’re looking for the straight stuff about RPI hockey, you need to be reading Without A Peer and following along with Tom and Gary at their site and with them on Twitter as well @without_a_peer.  I’m sure there will be plenty of stuff to hear from us about while this newest chapter of hockey road trip madness unfolds.

12/11/2009

Programming Note: Listen Live BU vs. RPI

Filed under: Boston University,college hockey,RPI — Joe Yerdon @ 6:00 PM

Here’s your reminder to tune into WRPI as I’ll be doing color commentary for the RPI Engineers broadcast at 7:00 pm as the Engineers are in Boston to take on the defending National Champions from Boston University.

The link to access the radio station online is www.wrpi.org

Your listenership shall be rewarded… Somehow.

Boston U. vs. RPI: Emo Hockey Showdown

Filed under: Boston University,college hockey,ECAC,Hockey East,NCAA,RPI — Joe Yerdon @ 4:55 AM

I don’t often do game previews for the college hockey weekends, but in this case I’ve got special motivation.  The last time I watched Boston University play live and in person, they were busy doing this:

Not bad right?

This season’s Boston University Terriers are having a bit of a championship hangover.  Gone to the NHL are Colin Wilson (Nashville) and Matt Gilroy (recently demoted by the Rangers to Hartford) and with that a lot of the glue that helped last year’s team run roughshod over the rest of the NCAA en route to the National Championship.  Last year’s Terriers finished the year 35-6-4.  This year’s team sits at a miserable 4-8-3 and just 2-7-2 in Hockey East competition.

Suffice to say, Terriers supporters aren’t feeling so hot about their team and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at the statistics.  No one is scoring (Zac Cohen and Chris Connolly are leading the team with five goals) and only three players are in double figures in points (Kevin Shattenkirk with 2-10-12, Connolly 5-6-11 and Vinny Saponari with 3-7-10).  To make matters worse, sophomore goaltender Kieran Millan has been lackluster between the pipes putting up stunningly bad numbers through 11 games played (3.47 GAA, .865 save %).  No goals and no goaltending in a ruthlessly difficult conference will make things like that happen.  BU rolls into Friday night’s game winless in their last three (0-1-2) and winning only once in their last six games (1-2-3).   They’re not exactly a team on fire but thankfully for them, RPI is rolling into town feeling just as emo and downtrodden.

RPI just on Wednesday night was busy playing the role of the Miami Redhawks as Union College played the part of Boston University in a eerily similar reenactment of the National Championship game as RPI gave up two goals in the final minute of play to lose to Union College 5-4 in regulation.  RPI has dropped four in a row and six of their last seven.  After jumping out to a hot start, a myriad of issues have deflated the Engineers be it injuries, bad penalties, sloppy defensive play or just running into a damn good team.  These things happen but when the opponents are named “Niagara” instead of “Boston College” the perspective is tough to gain.

That’s not to say that RPI is lacking bright spots.  Junior forward Chase Polacek is the leading scorer in the ECAC (12-13-25) and RPIs offense is bolstered by freshmen phenoms Brandon Pirri (7-10-17) and Jerry D’Amigo (5-9-14).  The offense is sort of getting its bearings with junior Tyler Helfrich getting back into the swing of things after missing seven games with an ankle injury but will be without senior forward Paul Kerins for the game against BU thanks to picking up a reckless and needless game disqualification against Union.  Kerins who wasn’t counted on to be much of a scorer this year is fourth on the team in points (5-8-13).

The issues with RPI of late come down to defense and its effect on goaltender Allen York.  RPI defensemen Bryan Brutlag and Erik Burgdoerfer have come under the discerning eye of the fans for their sometime recemoroomskless play both in their own end of the ice and in the offensive zone.  Brutlag is notorious for jumping into the offensive flow of the game, sometimes pinching at inopportune moments and leaving his defense partner out on an island.  Burgdoerfer has had bouts with turnovers this year and some of those mistakes have found their way into the net.

Ill-timed penalties (then again, what penalties are taken at a good time in the first place?) have also hurt the Engineers as the team’s penalty kill percentage sits at a meager .765 (75/98).  While RPIs power play last year was a crucial thorn in its side, the penalty kill has become even more of a roadblock for the team, especially when down two men where opponents have scored on RPI seemingly at will.

What you can chalk up both RPIs and BUs problems up to is youth.  These two teams are pretty damn young and while RPIs overall talent isn’t quite up to snuff with BUs, the gap isn’t as far off as it was last year when these two teams faced off in the Denver Cup, a game which BU won 6-2.  RPI has added offense while BU has lost theirs.  Kieran Millan is seemingly suffering through a sophomore slump while Allen York is getting his first season as the starter for RPI.  BUs offense is going through the motions while RPIs is having a breakout year.

What does this mean for this non-conference game?  Two teams trying to figure things out and snap out of a funk.  While BUs problems can be chalked up to not exerting top effort consistently from game to game, RPI is looking to put in a complete 60 minute game and not end up unrewarded, like what happened in their 2-1 loss to Cornell last week.

You would have to expect that BU is going to snap out of it at some point and start winning games regularly and not be so inconsistent but RPI is going to have to maximize their opportunities to delay BU the chance to do that starting tonight.  Of course if BU’s band starts playing songs by The Cure and folks come dressed up in their best ugly sweaters and dye their hair black… Maybe it’ll just be one of those nights where the game ends in a tie and everyone goes home happy to have not lost.

Boston University vs. RPI: 7:00 pm start from Agganis ArenaBoston, MA – Listen live at www.WRPI.org

10/30/2009

RPI Hockey Weekend: Rivals, Black Knights and Masked Men

Filed under: college hockey,RPI,RPI hockey,Union College — Joe Yerdon @ 4:18 PM

This weekend the RPI Engineers play one of a potential four games against local semi-rival Union College.  I call them a semi-rival because I’ve noticed through how the teams play these games that there’s a pecking order for motivation in games that are listed off as “rivalry” games where sometimes one of the opponents treats it like a blood feud and the other treats it like they’re play some other team.

That’s exactly what RPI-Union has been over the years.  Union is the kid brother of the pair, always looking to stick it to their big brother RPI and prove to them that they should be taken seriously at all costs.  Of course, RPI plays the part of the big brother rather well.  They’re the longer established hockey program, they have two National Championships and they have other schools that rank higher on the supposed pecking order as far as rivals go (Clarkson, Cornell).  At least those are the teams that RPI seems to get up for like they’re going to war.

The RPI-Union rivalry, for all intents and purposes, is similar to the baseball “rivalry” that the New York Mets and New York Yankees have and the similarities in comparing the two are striking.  Yes, they’re separated by just a few miles in locaation, that much is obvious.  In this case RPI plays the role of the Yankees while Union stands out the way the Mets do… Except that Union has a reason to have hope and they don’t have terrible management.

In baseball, the Mets go balls out to try and take down the Yankees, meanwhile the Yankees are caught up in worrying about what the Boston Red Sox are up to and being more concerned with taking them down in their divisional battles.  Of course, that’s where the one key difference between these rivalries exist, Union and RPI are both after the same ECAC crown meanwhile the Mets have the Phillies and Braves to contend with directly and the Yankees have the Red Sox and Rays.  So why is it that sometimes these travel partners can’t seem to mutually get up for games against each other?

The Engineers (and the Yankees) have the pressure to try and keep the local “kid brother” down so they (and their fans and the city rag newspapers) stay quiet but it’s often viewed to be more important to take care of business with the other rival(s) that the fans care more about.  In this situation, The Daily Gazette and Troy Record aren’t fighting each other for readers but the Union fans are just as vocal about giving grief to RPI as anyone. Call it an inferiority complex if you will as Union fans certainly get caught up in what happens in Troy whereas RPI fans could care less… Until recently.

During last Saturday’s game in Troy between RPI and AIC, out of town scores were being announced during the TV timeouts and when the announcement that Union was down 5-1 to Sacred Heart was made, a larger than normal roar went up from the home fans.  Is it because RPI had just dispatched Sacred Heart the night before and seeing them, at the time, throttling the travel partners from Schenectady was satisfying?  Perhaps, but it’s more than likely a huge case of schadenfreude.  That said though, if the fans are starting to care about what is going on with Union then perhaps this “rivalry” will get to drop the quotation marks and become a legitimate one.

As for the teams, given how well RPI has done against Union the last few seasons (4-9-3 since the 03-04 season) perhaps taking their “kid brothers” a little more serious might be a good idea.

How To Insult Army Cadets And Get Away With It

RPIs other game this weekend is against the United States Military Academy, you know them better simply as Army.  I don’t have much insight to offer about Army as I see them very rarely and they never quite land on the radar.  That said, the last time Army came to RPI, RPI drubbed the Black Knights 4-0.  The hilarious and insulting moment of the game came in the third period as the Engineers were strolling away with the victory and a sousaphonist from the RPI band made his way around Houston Field House until he was just behind the Army bench playing a tune:

Yup, the fight song of the United States Naval Academy. Nothing like rubbing a little salt in the wound especially to guys in the military. Hockey, the only sport that allows the nerds to beat up on the future officers of the military.

God bless America indeed.

Goalie Art Via Shoddy Photographs

A couple weeks ago I showed off goaltender Allen York’s mask and how I want to steal credit for the inspiration of him having Troy native Uncle Sam painted on the mask, and hey, it was cool enough to get noticed by Brian Sullivan at USCHO too.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t help this process along but also wanted to make sure I could get some photos of the other side of the mask as well and to get some photos of backup goaltender Bryce Merriam’s sweet helmet.  Besides, it’s Halloween weekend so what better to do than take a look at masks.

So without further ado, here we go.

RPIGoalies 004aThe other side of Allen York’s mask: Lady Liberty

RPIGoalies 005aBryce Merriam sports the RPI crest and Puckman on the front/side.

RPIGoalies 007aCan’t quite make out what that says?  Fear not…

RPIGoalies 001aThis reeks of confidence for the future.  I dig it.

RPIGoalies 002aThird-stringer Joe Harkenrider in an artsy-looking motion shot.

10/19/2009

RPI Hockey – We’ve Gone Full-Blown Viral

Filed under: college hockey,RPI,RPI hockey — Joe Yerdon @ 7:01 PM

While I’d like to say I was able to make the trip to Alaska to watch RPI go 0-1-1 (3-0 loss to Anchorage, 1-1 tie against Fairbanks) against the native denizen teams of the 49th state… I can’t.  Instead, I shall point out a couple of things that I find to be completely awesome and demonstrate the wonders and the power of the Internet.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I took a look at the ECAC ahead of time and talked about RPI and why they’ll be better than some might think?  Oh come on, it wasn’t that long ago.  Anyhow, recall this little piece of artwork I posted courtesy of yours truly.

unclesamwantsrpi

Now keep that in mind while I show you this picture I took of RPI goaltender Allen York in Amherst, Massachusetts where RPI lost 5-2.

RPI-UMASS 004

Say… Who is that on the side of the helmet?  That’s right – it’s Uncle Sam telling you to support RPI hockey.

All right, so he’s not saying that directly there, but I don’t care I’m stealing credit nonetheless.  Suffice to say, I’m pretty psyched to see Allen York adopting Troy, NY folk lore to adorn his mask.  That is clutch.

What else is clutch?  Getting visual reports of my artwork being seen around the RPI campus.

Who knows where else things like this might turn up around Troy but if there’s anything that can get people talking it’s more things like this.  The team playing well and winning games will only help add fuel to the viral fire for sure and with Sacred Heart and American International College coming to Troy this weekend… Well, a couple of wins shouldn’t be asking for too much.  Here’s to hoping the Alaska trip didn’t take too much out of them.

03/01/2009

Back To School: SLU 2 – RPI 0

Filed under: Back To School,ECAC,NCAA Rules,refs,RPI,St. Lawrence University — Joe Yerdon @ 8:38 PM

Second verse, same as the first for RPI this weekend in dealing with St. Lawrence. With RPI playing mostly 50 minutes of lifeless hockey and coming alive for the final ten against Clarkson, it was a bit surprising to see a similar situation crop up the next night.

It’s also surprising given that this was senior night for RPI. On this night, Arnold Schwarzenegger shed a tear because somewhere else in America, the Austrian national anthem was played, this time in honor the evening’s senior starting goaltender, Mathias Lange.


It’s like hockey gone emo but the sweaters aren’t ugly.

RPI started off well for the first few minutes but after a St. Lawrence power play goal in the first period from Shawn Fensel, the Engineers were frozen in time for the better part of the game through the rest of the first, all of the second and the first half of the third period.

In that time, TSN Hockey God Bob McKenzie‘s son Mike scored another power play goal for the Saints in the second period to put the lead out of reach for the night. Oddly enough, this was one of those games where there wasn’t a lack of shots, there were plenty of those (SLU 31, RPI 29) and St. Lawrence certainly had more than a few great opportunities to score. For the home-standing Engineers, however, it wasn’t quite the same until late into the third period.


This ice carving of RPI mascot Puckman sums up their offense this year.

Right about at the ten minute mark of the third, RPI managed to swing momentum on their side simply by having their top line with senior captain Matt Angers-Goulet and sophomores Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich cycling well, doing dirty work and getting a few shots on goal. I mention this line by name because it was this same group the night before that woke them up and it carried through to the other lines from that point on.

The issue for RPI on this night would be that they both seemingly waited too late into the game to get it going and allowed some truly crummy officiating get in their way. During a shift featuring the Joel Malchuk line, Malchuk was mixed up with a SLU defender trying to free the puck up on the end boards. Another SLU defenseman skated in planting a check into the back of Malchuk putting him down on the ice leading to an eventual stop in play and players mixing it up a bit.

Malchuk was slow to get up but eventually did and headed to the bench. The problem here is that no call was made on the play. Checking from behind has been a pet issue of the NCAA and all of its conferences for a couple seasons now, allowing officials the discretion to hand out a five-minute major and a game misconduct to players found guilty of this.

Folks at the NCAA go as far as to chart the progress of these calls and revisit the issue to see if anything needs to be altered. At least they’re trying to make sure they’re doing some things correctly.

The NCAA has adopted some of their rulings from the NHL (for example: no line changes for teams offending on icing, face offs after penalties go to the offending team’s defensive end of the ice) however the NCAA’s stand on dangerous hits from behind is something they should be commended for. The NHL has been gutless when it comes to protecting their players and only this week started dealing out actual punishment for players delivering dirty hits (See: Brendan Witt and Derek Boogaard).

As for Joel Malchuk, while folks can argue one way or the other whether or not the hit was a minor or major infraction (hits like that have been called either way in games I’ve watched) the fact that officials Mike Baker and Joe Carusone called nothing on the play is embarrassing.

RPI head coach Seth Appert made sure to voice his displeasure with the officials about this (as well as a potential tripping call on the following shift). Appert was given a bench minor for his efforts.

At least they made one call in the final few minutes. I guess.

Malchuk may feel like the most snakebitten guy in the league given this no-call against St. Lawrence and the embellishment penalty he received in a road game against Union College this year where he was tripped and tossed to the ice by a Union defenseman on a short-handed break.

Black clouds find a way to follow some people around. Malchuk has also missed parts of this season and most of last season due to a myriad of injuries.

As for referee Mike Baker, he heard it loudly and by name from the RPI students. I can’t say I recall a game where the referee has been chanted at by name and told how poorly he’s doing his job, but this is what makes the RPI fans a fascinating set of creatures with memories as sharp as an elephant.

Flashing back to last season, Mike Baker was one of the two referees on the ice for a home game against, oddly enough, Union College. The NCAA didn’t go full-on with the two referee system until this season, but this tilt between travel partners was chosen to be a test run to see how well it would work. If you ask Union fans, it worked out great as the Dutchmen pounded RPI. If you ask RPI fans, they’ll start muttering about Mike Baker’s work in that game, one part in particular from the first period:

REN-5 Dan Peace (5-Fighting) UNI 1×5 17:56

REN-6 Dan Peace (10-Game Disqualification) (Served by Scott Halpern) 17:56

The problem they have with these penalties is that no Union player was also tagged for fighting, no one dropped their gloves, and it occurred in a harmless post-whistle scrum near the goal.

Could Mike Baker just been interpreting the NCAA Rule Book literally? Sure, absolutely he could have – to quote Section 17a.:

A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface. A punch thrown may be considered fighting.

OK, I can see how a post-whistle scrum could be interpreted that way and be taken very literal by someone hellbent on impressing the boss. Oh, by the way, the boss of officials in the ECAC is former NHL referee Paul Stewart. Stewart knows how things go so cross that one off the list.

That said, if you’re going to be a stickler for that rule… why not be a stickler for all of them? I digress. Officiating isn’t the reason RPI lost the game, St. Lawrence is playing very good hockey right now and it may have been RPI that woke them up by beating them 7-6 in overtime in January.

St. Lawrence has been on fire since that game, only dropping one contest to travel partner Clarkson since that game with RPI on January 23rd. Come March 20-21st when we’ll be visiting the Times Union Center in Albany for the ECAC Semis and Finals I would be surprised if St. Lawrence was not there competing for the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The post game brought about one of my favorite things: The ceremony to thank the seniors and pay homage to them for their hard work and dedication to the program. For RPI, this meant a parting farewell for Mathias Lange, Kurt Colling, Seth Klerer, Andrei Uryadov and captain Matt Angers-Goulet.


Losing on Senior Night is a huge bummer.

It also doubles as a function as a reminder to those who are moving up a class next season that their roles are more important and that their leadership will be demanded of them and for a few players, a big step up in their game and a whole boatload of new responsibilities.


Part of the future of RPI Engineers hockey.

RPI and St. Lawrence now move on to the Conference Playoffs. RPI finished the season with the #11 spot in the ECAC and will visit Dartmouth College in their playoff series next weekend while St. Lawrence’s win over RPI gives them a first round bye and the #4 seed in the ECAC.

The other first round pairings are:

Clarkson @ Union
Brown @ Harvard
Colgate @ Quinnipiac

Yale, Cornell and Princeton also have first round byes with St. Lawrence and those four will wait to see who is left standing after this weekend.

02/28/2009

Back To School: Clarkson 4 – RPI 2

Filed under: Back To School,Clarkson,Ivan Drago,Nikolai Volkoff,RPI — Joe Yerdon @ 4:19 PM

If you were following along last night either at Gross Misconduct Twitter or thanks to the guys at WRPI you know that Clarkson College took out RPI 4-2.

What folks might not know is that for the fans of RPI, Clarkson is the big rivalry. For Clarkson… not quite so much. Clarkson fans view their travel partners St. Lawrence as well as Cornell to be bigger rivals than RPI.

Having been to a few Clarkson-RPI throwdowns in the past, I can say that I’ve seen RPI’s Houston Field House packed to the rafters loaded with loud and often obnoxious fans.

Not so much on this night. RPI is in the midst of a very down season and Clarkson is in a bit of a rebuilding year. Suffice to say, the crowd was a little bit lighter than usual but with both bands in the house and two fan bases that can be loud when there’s reason to be.

Adding to the craziness was it was RPI’s night to do their duty for Coaches Vs. Cancer, something taken up by the ECAC on the whole. Very classy, yet confusing since the ECAC has their own style of jersey that the host teams wear on the nights they opt to do their part.

The other fun part of this is that the schools will put the game-used jerseys up for auction as well as the coaches ties as part of the means to raise money for cancer programs. You can find a list of the items currently up for auction on Ebay here, and it won’t just be items from RPI but all the teams in the ECAC and if you’re a jersey collecting freak like yours truly, the bidding for game worn jerseys starts at $150. Not bad at all.


Let’s Go…Black? Pink? Ah screw it…

With the home team in black and pink and the visitors wearing gold, let’s just say it made it look like a bit of a technicolor nightmare on the ice. See for yourself:

That’s a bit much, but at least they didn’t do things over the top the way folks in the AHL are wont to do. Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at this Iowa Chops promotion.

Don’t get me wrong, this is all done for a fantastic reason it’s just that, well, pink ice? Really?

Oh yeah – really.


There are no words for this.

Since it’s the final home weekend for RPI, that means they pay tribute to the seniors and before the playing of the national anthems it was announced that instead of playing “Oh, Canada” the Russian national anthem would be played in honor of RPI senior forward Andrei Uryadov.

No, it was not sung by Nikolai Volkoff nor Ivan Drago.


Not singing anything nor breaking anyone last night.

As for the game itself, Clarkson getting a pair of power play goals in the first period really sucked what little life there was in the field house right out of it – it was so down that even the Clarkson fans weren’t being their usual boisterous selves.

Down years are a major drag.

RPI freshman goaltender, and Blue Jackets prospect, Allen York made a major blunder in the second period playing a puck and trying to send it behind his net and around the boards to his defensemen but ended up bouncing it off the side of the goal where the oncoming Clarkson forechecker tapped it in for a gimmie goal.

Yeah, it was that sort of night. York later on in the second had a Brandon Defazio wrist shot get ripped by him and the rout was seemingly on with the Golden Knights being up 4-0.

Play plodded along in the third period until about the 12 minute mark. I’m not kidding when I say the game plodded along, there was nothing to write home about or excitement – nothing.

RPI was able to control the puck a bit more, keep it in the zone consistently and then with about nine minutes to play, Chase Polacek rips a wrist shot by freshman goaltender Paul Karpowich and there was much rejoicing as the Engineers wouldn’t be shut out.

Two minutes and change later, Tyler Helfrich puts home a backhand rebound in front of the net and now Clarkson is back on their heels and RPI is taking play to them.

Wha…what happened? RPI was lifeless and mostly shotless in this game. After two periods, Clarkson was outshooting them 19-7 and now Clarkson can’t even get the puck out of their own end.

With about 2:30 to play, Clarkson picks up a very poor tripping penalty, possibly in honor of the Russian national anthem since Jake Morley appeared to give the RPI player he was chasing after the puck with a Russian leg sweep.


Volkoff approves – Clarkson head coach George Roll does not.

Whether they’ll admit it or not, many Clarkson fans might recall being RPI’s opponent at the Big Red Freakout in 2002, RPIs big annual tradition, and being up 3-0 heading into the third period only to see RPI storm back to tie the game with under a minute left and then win the game in overtime (check the box score here). Now RPI is going on the power play with all the momentum on their side and a goal away from making things very uncomfortable.

Of course, this is not RPIs year and they may have spent a lot of their magic earlier this season in their incredible 7-6 win in Appleton, NY beating St. Lawrence. Clarkson was able to withstand the pressure, Alex Angers-Goulet flattens Karpowich drawing an interference call with 30 seconds to play and then that’s your game. 4-2 Clarkson hangs on.

The atmosphere for this game was a serious letdown as this is the big rival RPI waits for every year and the fans just didn’t have it in them until the game got back to within two goals. The Clarkson fans weren’t pushing the issue that they were shutting down RPI to the point of boredom and kicking their tails on the scoreboard. Everything about the whole night was just off.

Tonight’s game against St. Lawrence is the last home game of the year for RPI and the seniors will all be honored this evening and there’s word that many of the big time recruits on the horizon for RPI will be in attendance.

I’d also have to guess we’ll hear the Austrian national anthem being played for goaltender Mathias Lange – expect to see lots of this guy in tomorrow’s wrap-up.


He’s the only other guy in America that knows what the Austrian national anthem sounds like.

Hopefully things for RPI will be more like The Terminator than they will be The Last Action Hero.

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