The Rensselaer hockey team waited too long to make its push last season. The Engineers started with a record of 3-16-0 in their first 19 games before finishing the regular season 6-4-2 in their final 12.
They drew the 10th seed in the ECAC Hockey tournament, and beat No. 9 Clarkson on the road in the opening round. Still, the degree of difficulty of playing eventual conference champion and top-seed Union in the second round – again on the road – proved to be too high for the Engineers, and they were swept.
RPI (8-10-5 overall, 3-6-3 ECAC) hopes to have learned from its mistake. This year, the Engineers again started slow, though they appear to have kicked it into gear much earlier than last season.
After starting the season with a record of 1-6-2 in their first nine games, the Engineers have gone 7-4-3. They haven't beaten up on the bottom-feeders of college hockey either. They are the lone team to take a single point from Quinnipiac (18-3-3 overall, 11-0-1 ECAC) in a league game this season. They also posted victories against ranked foes Yale, Ferris State, St. Cloud State, Colgate and Cornell.
Sophomore Ryan Haggerty of Stamford, Conn., who leads the team with nine goals and 16 points, believes the individual players needed to accept their respective roles after a slow start.
“I don't want to say we weren't ready early on, but I don't think we were together as much as we are now,” Haggerty says. “Now, we know who we are as a team. We're a different team from the start of the year. We've gotten more mature, and we see what we really want to be as a team.”
Since resuming its ECAC schedule Jan. 11, RPI has gone 2-1-1 with wins over Cornell and Colgate and a tie against Quinnipiac. Last weekend's home sweep of Cornell and Colgate gave the Engineers their first four-point weekend of the season.
“The rest of our schedule is against ECAC teams,” Haggerty says. “The way we've been playing here at home this past weekend, if we lay like that, I can't see why we can't take three or four points any weekend against any team in the ECAC. We're rolling, we feel good, and we're practicing great.”
With nine points in league play thus far, RPI sits in seventh in the ECAC standings. If the season were to end today, the Engineers would host their first-round series in the conference tournament.
But the Engineers have bigger goals this season. They hope to earn a top-four seed in the conference tournament, which would give them the highly coveted first-round bye. At the moment, that still appears in reach. They are only four points behind fourth-place Dartmouth
with 10 league games remaining.
Perhaps this year, they've made their move at the right time.
“I don't think last year was something we can totally forget about,” Haggery says. “Every game is important. We've identified what we have as a team, so we know what we have to do. Even before Christmas, we started to feel it. We came back from Christmas and felt it even more. Those points are coming sooner this year rather than later. Heading into March, you always want home ice.”
Game of the week
Yale at Cornell
Friday, Jan. 25 (7:30 p.m.), Lynah Rink
The Big Red returns home after a six-game road trip, in which they went 2-4-0. Five of those six games came against teams ranked in the top 30 of the RPI. Yale comes in as the hot team, with a 5-1-1 record in its last seven games. The Bulldogs have won four straight ECAC contests.
Player of the week
Jeff Malcolm, Yale University
Malcolm stopped 48 of 50 shots and led Yale to its second consecutive weekend sweep with victories over Harvard and Dartmouth. He stopped all 21 of rival Harvard’s shots Friday night to earn a shutout in a 4-0 win. He followed by stopping 27 of 29 of Dartmouth’s shots Saturday evening. In addition, he ran a scoreless streak to 111:39, which ended late in the second period against Dartmouth.
1. Quinnipiac (18-3-3, 11-0-1): Thanks to junior Connor Jones' game-winning goal late in the third period against Connecticut last weekend, the Bobcats boast an NCAA-best 17-game unbeaten streak (15-0-2).
2. Yale (11-4-3, 7-3-1): Yale is averaging 3.33 goals per game (3.86 over the last seven games). Senior Antoine Laganiere (12-11-23) is tied for the team scoring lead with junior forward Kenny Agostino (9-14-23). Five of Laganiere's team-leading six power-play goals have come in league play.
3. Union (12-8-4, 6-4-3): Union posted a 4-1 victory over Harvard at Messa Rink in a rare midweek game Tuesday night. Still, the Dutchmen are just 3-4-0 in 2013.
4. Cornell (8-7-2, 4-4-2): Senior center Greg Miller (7-9–16) has 11 points over his last nine games. Junior goalie Andy Iles (8-7-2, 2.34, .913) is in line to start his 54th consecutive start for the Big Red on Friday.
5. RPI (8-10-5, 3-6-3): Freshman goalie Jason Kasdorf returned to the lineup last weekend after missing six games due to injury. He led the Engineers to a sweep of Colgate, 2-1, and Cornell, 3-2. Two of the three goals he allowed were on the power-play and the other was with an extra attacker.
6. Colgate (11-9-2, 3-6-1): The Raiders dropped a pair of 2-1 games at Union and RPI last week, ending a five-game win streak. Still, they have outscored opponents 74-56 this season.
7. Dartmouth (9-5-2, 5-3-1): The Big Green have lost four of their last six with the lone victories coming against Brown and Harvard. The team's promising start has become a distant memory as Dartmouth is holding onto a top-four seed in the ECAC standings by the skin of its teeth.
8. Princeton (6-8-4, 5-4-3): The Tigers have the best combined special teams in the nation. They have converted 23 percent of their power players (14 of 61) and killed 86 percent of their penalties (74 of 86).
9. Brown (6-8-4, 2-5-4): The Bears have earned splits in each of the last two weekends, with the victories coming against Clarkson and Harvard. The victories were Brown's first in league play this season. Sophomore center Matt Lorito (13-9-22) has accounted for 28.9 percent of the team's overall goals.
10. Clarkson (4-12-6, 3-5-2): Clarkson concluded a disappointing six-game home stand in Potsdam on Saturday with a thrilling rally against its archrival, St. Lawrence. Trailing 3-0 early in the third period, the Knights battled back with three unanswered goals over the final 12 minutes of regulation to gain a 3-3 tie.
11. St. Lawrence (9-10-3, 2-5-3): The Saints are 4 for 42 on the power play in their last six games. During the same stretch, they have allowed eight power play goals in 27 opportunities.
12. Harvard (5-11-1, 3-9-0): The Crimson have gone just 1-8-1 since Nov. 16. They picked up their only win in the last 10 games when they knocked off Boston University at Agganis Arena 6-5 in overtime Jan. 9.