Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

09/18/2013

My 2013 ECAC preseason poll: Trying hard to not be a homer and failing

Filed under: ECAC — Joe Yerdon @ 3:21 PM

ECACHockeyKen Schott of the Schenectady Gazette again asked me to fill out a media ballot for the preseason ECAC rankings as well as my picks for the preseason all-conference team.

With a noted RPI bias like I have here, I’ve always tried to play it cool with expectations. I don’t know that I can do that this year.

  1. RPI
  2. Yale
  3. Dartmouth
  4. Quinnipiac
  5. Union
  6. Cornell
  7. St. Lawrence
  8. Brown
  9. Colgate
  10. Harvard
  11. Princeton
  12. Clarkson
Preseason All-Conference Team
Goalie: Jason Kasdorf – RPI
Defensemen:  Shayne Gostisbehere – Union — Tommy Fallen – Yale
Forwards:  Greg Carey – St. Lawrence — Kenny Agostino – Yale — Matt Lorito – Brown
As usual with this conference, you can take the top four, five, or six teams and arrange them however you want at the top and then draw names out of a hat for the bottom.
I’m sure you’re wondering why/how I put Rensselaer ahead of both of last year’s national finalists.
Quinnipiac was easy enough because they graduated essentially half of last year’s team. That’s hard to overcome but coach Rand Pecknold gets a ton of credit for what he’s done with this team already and what guys are returning can score.
Yale will be very good again this year. I know they’ve got questions in goal thanks to Jeff Malcolm graduating, but when haven’t the Bulldogs had questions there? I’m sure there will be some brand of let down and everyone will question if they can do it again. I think they’ll be fine.
As for RPI though, there’s a couple reasons for going with them at No. 1:
1. Goaltending
Jason Kasdorf would’ve been the ECAC’s top goalie had it not been for QU’s Eric Hartzell and his out-of-this-world season. Kasdorf is just heading into his sophomore year and provided there’s no namely letdown this year (and no injuries) he should be at the top of the league again.
2.  Lack of roster turnover
Know how many seniors the Engineers had last season? Five. One of them was their top scorer in defenseman Nick Bailen. Losing his production on the power play could be a big issue for RPI, but they’ve got other guys ready to jump into his shoes.
The other four players weren’t burning the house down in production last year. Captain C.J. Lee was 11th on the team in points while Greg Burgdoerfer was a grinder and Marty O’Grady had injury problems. Goalie Bryce Merriam was, for all intents and purposes, the team’s third goalie by the end of the year.
Who’s back? Everyone that made RPI one of the hottest teams at the end of last season. Juniors Matt Neal, Jacob Laliberte, and Ryan Haggerty lead the forwards while sophomore forwards Mike Zalewski and Milos Bubela provide the second wave with senior Brock Higgs, junior Mark McGowan, and sophomore Mark Miller.
RPI will score plenty and they’ve got perhaps the best goalie in the conference. The only question comes on defense, but even there things are looking good with guys like Curtis Leonard, Guy Leboeuf, and Chris Bradley providing stability. Freshman Parker Reno will jump into the defensive fire and help toughen things up as well.
Speaking of their freshmen, there’s not many coming in (just five) and three are forwards with high offensive upside. Like Yale, RPI could  prove to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the ECAC.
As for explaining the rest of the rankings, let’s do that quickly:
I know I’ll catch hell for putting my faith in Dartmouth again, but at some point they’re going to get over the hump in conference, right? They have to.
Quinnipiac will still be good. Go ahead and think they won’t be and then they’ll wind up surprising you in the face.
Union’s been bitten by the departure bug, but like the New Jersey Devils in the NHL, counting them out is foolhardy. Rick Bennett will find a way to make it work. They’re virtually a system team at this point, just not head-bangingly boring the way…
Cornell still is. At least now with a lack of scoring the Big Red are (somewhat) justified in playing the most awful brand of hockey going. If you can’t score, at least make sure no one else can have fun at your expense, right? Ugh.
Some of you might be surprised not to see Brown at the very bottom. Forward Matt Lorito makes that possible. He’ll be hotly pursued as a free agent when he’s done with the Bears in 2015.
St. Lawrence could be a surprise if Greg Carey keeps doing what he’s been doing and filling the net at will. He’s worth seeing on his own

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.

12/11/2009

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

09/28/2009

ECAC Polls Released – RPI Sits Under The Radar

Filed under: ECAC,RPI hockey — Joe Yerdon @ 9:25 PM

I’ve made it known here that one of the few things I will be a fanboy about are my college hockey allegiances, and in Division I it’s all about the RPI Engineers from the ECAC.  So if you’re expecting level-headed stuff here, well, just forget it while I let my hair down.

Today the ECAC released the conference coaches poll and the media poll.  Full disclosure here, I was, indeed, one of the voters in the media poll and something I’m quite flattered to be asked to take part in.  Thanks to Ken Schott at The Daily Gazette for giving a little bit of love to this Internet-only media freak.

Ironically enough, I did take off my homer hat for my rankings in the poll.  At least I thought I did.

My list went this way:

  1. Yale
  2. Princeton
  3. Cornell
  4. Harvard
  5. St. Lawrence
  6. Dartmouth
  7. RPI
  8. Clarkson
  9. Union
  10. Quinnipiac
  11. Colgate
  12. Brown

Compared to what the ECAC Pre-Season Media Poll turned out to be, I’m apparently the outlier they’re looking for.  The final Media Poll results:

  1. Yale   (15) 278
  2. Cornell   (7)  272
  3. Princeton  (2)  253
  4. Harvard  (1)  224
  5. Dartmouth  183
  6. Union  143
  7. St. Lawrence  134
  8. Clarkson  125
  9. Colgate  106
  10. RPI  102
  11. Quinnipiac  90
  12. Brown  35

The numbers in parentheses are first-place votes and the larger number is total points in the poll.  As expected, the top four teams were pretty universally chosen by all the voters and even yours truly managed to stay on point with everyone that way.

What I didn’t quite expect was how, seemingly, the rest of the pollsters stayed in line with each other in regard to how wide open everything in the conference is below the top four.  From how it shakes out, the only thing most everyone had in agreement was that Brown was going to finish last – something which all the coaches agreed with – ouch.  Everything between fifth and tenth though?  Crap shoot.

I won’t lie, I was toying with the idea of pulling names from a hat for those spots but instead tried to do the right thing and look at things logically.  Apparently my logic is a bit off from the herd.  I won’t break down why I picked the teams in the top four because that’s the consensus and you can juggle and mix and match all you want there.

The amount of love Harvard got in the poll, including a first place vote, is something to take note of.  Harvard will get goaltender Kyle Richter back this year (after missing last season for “personal reasons”) and they’re bringing in a solid freshman class lead by Montreal Canadiens 2009 first round pick Louis Leblanc.  Harvard does manage to do very well and they’ve got a solid defensive team as it is, but clearly Harvard’s stunning lack of offense in last year’s playoffs which saw them get shutout by last place Brown in back to back games didn’t cause voters to hold off on the Crimson appreciation.

For me, it was more about Richter being back in goal (because he is a very good goaltender) and providing the stability back there.  I’m not much of a fan of coach Ted Donato’s system so if the team struggles to score goals this year I’ll happily start pointing the finger there but I do believe that they will be better and embarrassments like the one against Brown in the playoffs last year won’t happen again.

I mention Harvard in particular because what is rightfully being lauded about them is their incoming freshman class.  Leblanc I’ve mentioned but there’s a few other names here that help the Crimson instantly with Minnesota Wild fourth round pick Alex Fallstrom and Marshall Everson from Edina High School in Minnesota.  These guys will all be solid producers for the Crimson this season and they’re guys that folks know about pretty well at this point in the ECAC.

Which leads me to wonder why, exactly, RPI sits under the radar.  Oh I know, they were bad last year.  Really bad.  Before the playoffs came around, RPI was 11th in the conference and was one of the lowest scoring teams in the NCAA all while winning seven games in the regular season.  If the season ends at that point ranking out the Engineers low is just about the only thing you can do.

Thank goodness for the playoffs.  RPI swept Dartmouth in the first round riding goaltender and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Allen York to victory in Hanover, New Hampshire.  RPI would lose their quarterfinal series to Cornell two games to one, with York shutting out the Big Red in game one.   Something RPI did in Game One scared Cornell so much that coach Mike Schafer decided to blame the officials for why his team couldn’t score and earning him a suspension for Game Two while ECAC officials made a mockery of the rule book after being scared by Big Mike.  Cute.

Shouldering the scoring “load” for the Engineers in the playoffs were members of the youth movement.  Conference All-Rookie team member Patrick Cullen along with other freshmen Christian Morrissette and Jordan Watts notching goals and instilling pride in the program once again.  Losing a hard-fought Game Three at Lynah Rink is a pretty decent moral victory but one that leaves the guys returning this year with a bad taste in their mouth because they know they could’ve had that series and made their first ECAC Championships appearance in Albany.

Having younger guys like Cullen, Morrissette, Watts and Alex Angers-Goulet show up and score in the playoffs helps plant a seed, at least in my mind, that the new guys on the scene this year with Blackhawks second round pick Brandon Pirri and Maple Leafs sixth round choice Jerry D’Amigo as well as USHL product C.J. Lee and Pirri’s Hockey Canada teammate Marty O’Grady there’s a lot of good reasons to think that RPI can break out and “show up out of nowhere” this year.  Being ranked low by the media might serve to be a good motivator for this group, we know that coach Seth Appert certainly will put it to use.

pirri-damigoBrandon Pirri and Jerry D’Amigo (Photo: Tom Killups – Troy Record)

So if there’s this huge influx of talent… What gives media folks?  My thoughts on why I slotted RPI seventh include these points:

Everyone between fifth place and tenth place in the ECAC are all just about equally on par with each other.  That means these teams will all be knocking the crap out of each other and splitting season series with each other are possible.  Some teams are going to take chunks out of the top four on occasion (even RPI managed to manhandle Princeton once last year) and get a point or two on occasion.  The point differential between teams five through ten is going to be minuscule and the race for home ice in the first round (teams in fifth through eighth all get it) is going to be rough and for three of those four teams, it will mean a tough match-up right off the bat.

All of these teams have huge questions, all of these teams (even Brown) have done something in the off-season to try and make improvements.  The case with RPI that I’m willing to stick my neck out for is that while placing them seventh isn’t really a huge mind-blowing decree, it does mark a stark improvement for the program and one that coach Seth Appert will need to have show on the ice in order to keep the “Defenders of ’85” off of his back.

The “Defenders of ’85” are the folks in the RPI fan base who have been wildly unhappy with everything that has gone down in Troy since Adam Oates, Daren Puppa, John Carter, George Servinis and coach Mike Addessa brought RPI their last National Championship in 1985.  These fans can generally be found on the side of Houston Field House across from the student side and are questionably and amazingly mute during games.  This is an especially fascinating phenomenon when you consider that college games should be loud, raucous affairs.

I digress.  For Appert’s sake, the solid recruiting classes have to start paying off this year.  Last year’s surprising success in the playoffs helped whet the appetite for a lot of fans but another single-digit win season will not suffice.  Fortunately, the building blocks are set and this year brings the offensive weaponry.  Appert started by building from the back on out, starting with York who carried the team at the end of last season to show that he was, indeed, ready to be the top man in goal for the Engineers.

ibelieveinsethappert

From there, it’s up to the defensemen and new captain, junior John Kennedy, strikes some as a surprising choice.  He’s not a guy that shows up on the scoreboard with goals or assists but what he does is exemplify playing hard in your own zone.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times where another defenseman would end up out of position and Kennedy was always the “1” when the opposing team would have a 2-0n-1 opportunity going the other way.   For Kennedy, it’s not about putting up the huge numbers, it’s about doing his job the best way he can to help the team win.  Now it’s up to his other blueline mates Bryan Brutlag, Peter Merth, Jeff Foss, Mark Zarbo, and Christian Jensen to follow his example rather than feel pressured into doing too much.

RPI also expects to get a lift to their defensive corps with the return of sophomore (and Dallas Stars draftee) Mike Bergin.  Bergin was injured six games into last season and was granted an injury redshirt by the NCAA.  Bergin came in last year as a highly touted and highly talented defenseman, but a shoulder injury short-circuited his year.  His do-over year should be a huge boost to the Engineers.

What would also be a huge boost would be for Erik Burgdoerfer to stay off the ECAC officials Most Wanted to Throw In The Box List.  Burgdoerfer accumulated 106 penalty minutes last year in just 34 infractions.  That’s a lot of major penalty action for the senior and much of that helped RPI opponents gain a five-minute power play and cause RPI to be down a man for parts of the game.  While officiating can sometimes be suspect in the ECAC, you have to go out of your way to earn a reputation like that and with the number of defensemen back in the fold for RPI, Burgdoerfer will find himself wearing a suit instead of a uniform should he fall back on old habits.

Up front, youth dominates the forward corps for the Engineers.  The “old stalwarts” amongst the scoring forwards for RPI now are juniors Chase Polacek and Tyler Helfrich.  Polacek was RPIs leading scorer last season with 11 goals and 21 assists.  Helfrich was third on the team with 5 goals and 18 assists.  Like I said, RPI had some issues scoring last season.

Seniors Garret Vassel and Paul Kerins should expect to get “grind line” type duties this season although the competition for playing time amongst the forwards should be epic.  RPI lost four forwards to graduation, three of whom saw steady play and now see four very talented forwards join the team this year as freshmen.   Provided the defense can do their job and be responsible and the forwards can do their job and attack and everyone does their job and stays out of the box – this RPI team could turn the tide in the ECAC right away.  The additions of Pirri and D’Amigo alone are huge for the program as Pirri is a born and bred offensive maven and D’Amigo is seemingly made for the college game.

There’s reasons to stay hopeful in Troy and if Allen York can pick up where he left off at the end of last year and provide the stability in goal to cap off all of those other things… Hockey in Troy is going to be a lot more enjoyable really soon.

unclesamwantsrpiPay attention when a legend speaks.

03/23/2009

ECAC Weekend With A Twist

Normally I’d make this my recap post from a great weekend in which there were three fantastic hockey games played. Yale’s 5-0 whitewashing of Cornell doesn’t exactly qualify as a great game, but hey, two one-goal games on Friday night including a double-overtime thriller in which both games winners had to come back from a deficit late in the game to win it is pretty awesome.

Something came to light yesterday thanks to a couple of folks dropping me an e-mail to let me know that there were a couple big time hockey luminaries in attendance in Albany.

One of them is TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Now I had assumed that Bob would be in Albany since, you know, his son Mike plays for St. Lawrence. Bob has made a couple of posts on USCHO’s message board to say that he was indeed in town and that he tries to be there for all of Mike’s games.

Pretty cool dad, wouldn’t you say?

Bob was on NHL Live this afternoon discussing his trip into Albany where he let it be known that it was indeed true he wasn’t the only familiar NHL face there that weekend. The other guy that was here?


Some might say he’s got a complex.

That’s right – Gary Bettman.

I’m sure you’re wondering what in the world would Gary Bettman be doing at the very poorly attended ECAC Championships in Albany. Perhaps he was learning a few more tricks on how to think a half-empty arena is acceptable for attendance.

Maybe…


Gary might’ve thought he was in Atlanta, not Albany.

Turns out he was there to support his alma mater.

You see, Gary is a Cornell University graduate, something which Cornell is proud of. I’d like to think that Cornell might want to, you know, keep that one a little more under wraps considering he’s not exactly a glowing example of academia.

Oh sure, the title is great, he runs a major professional sports league – a fantastic level of achievement and distinction. Then again, he’s helped make the sport into a joke and has mismanaged it into a consistent punchline of how not to do things.

Wonderful.

Now here’s where I’ll out myself a little bit as I was a faceless, anonymous Internet blogger and make it seem as if I knew he was going to be in the house to throw things in his face. I came dressed for insult for Gary.

Any of you who were in attendance at the ECAC Championships may have spotted one suave individual wearing the finest of old school throwback NHL jerseys and it turns out you can really stick out like a sore thumb when sitting in amongst the red and white clad Cornell folks when you’re wearing these fine relics of past NHL greatness:


Hockey Joe on a Friday night.


Hockey Joe on a Saturday night.

No, I wasn’t decked out in a Red Wings jersey meant to fit in with the Cornell folks. I wasn’t wearing a new, snazzy, overpriced Reebok Edge jersey to show how much more money I was willing to fork over to Gary’s Empire of Bad Ideas.

Old school, baby.

Old school squads that Gary’s Raw Deal helped run out of existence.

I’d love to say I knew that he would be there and I did it on purpose to shove it all in his face and have it be my way of providing him with the middle finger that only Ken Holland can give him best.


You still can’t hear me Gary? Allow me to turn it up.

I’d love to say that.

But I can’t.

It’s pure coincidence that it worked out that way and while that sucks for me that I didn’t scheme up this MENSA brainchild of a reminder to Gary that the way things used to be are more beloved and more cherished than anything he’s schemed up since taking charge of the league.

I will pat myself on the back for pulling it off anyhow.

I’m just a little disappointed that either I didn’t spot Gary myself or he didn’t spot me and then commend/berate me on my choice of fashion. I think it would’ve gone down similar to an infamous movie encounter…


Dream Sequence: Hockey Joe (left) runs into Gary Bettman (right) at the ECAC Championships.

OK so that’s a bit overplayed, but that’s how it plays out in my head.

Bite me.

Gary, next time you’re in Albany I’d love to chat. I’ll be easy to find as I’ll have another relic from the past to help me stand out, just don’t think I’ll go changing up my site after we get to talk though. I know you pulled some fun on Wyshynski over at Yahoo because after you talked to him, his link for “Gary Bettman – Commissioner For Life” topics seems to disappear from the right side of his page (although it still can be found at the bottom of entries).

The invitation is always open, just drop me a line next time.

Kisses!

03/21/2009

Unreal Weekend

Filed under: Back To School,ECAC,Hobart College — Joe Yerdon @ 2:49 PM

This will be a quick post here to say that yesterday’s ECAC Championship games were freaking outstanding.

Yale coming back with two goals in 22 seconds late in the third period to defeat St. Lawrence followed up by Cornell scoring two goals in the final two and a half minutes to force overtime with Princeton and then putting home the game winner in double-overtime makes for a full day of hockey.

Not to mention gathering with some of the hockey compadres after the second game was finally over with at about 11:30 pm. Seven hours of hockey awesomeness makes for a full day.

Adding to the awesome? USCHO has finally posted my story based around Hobart College’s hockey program that I had mentioned briefly a day or two ago. I think USCHO was hoping to use it as a feature should Hobart make the Finals and/or win it all.

Alas, Neumann College decided to pee on the parade and win 2-0 in the National Semifinals.

It’s not the sarcastic wit-fest you’ll find around here normally, this is spruced up a bit. You know, semi-professional and it’s a great story nonetheless. Check it out and enjoy.

I’ll be back down in Albany this afternoon and tonight for the consolation game between St. Lawrence and Princeton that likely means a spot in the NCAA Tournament is on the line as well as the Championship Game between Yale and Cornell.

I will be posting scoring updates to Twitter, so if you can’t find the games on TV or can’t make it to the arena or anything else… I got your hook-up.

There’ll be crappy amateur photos galore coming soon for this so be ready.

03/20/2009

Back To School: ECAC Championships

I’ll be there in downtown Albany, New York this afternoon and evening for the ECAC Championships.

You can bet your sweet ass I’ll be posting scoring updates to Twitter as well.

It’s going to be an Ivy League three-way dance with Yale, Cornell and Princeton taking part with the outliers from St. Lawrence joining the fray. Yale and SLU drop the puck at 4 p.m. while Cornell and Princeton are scheduled to let it drop at 7 p.m.

There is an added fun bonus to being in Albany this weekend. Should the games get done on time this evening, events at the Times Union Center will be wrapping up right before Siena College and Ohio State tip off in the NCAA basketball tournament first round game, set to begin at around 9:40 p.m.

Siena College, of course, is based out of Loudonville, NY – a suburb of Albany.

March Madness, indeed.

VS.

VS.

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.

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