RPI-Colgate postgame report (with video)
RPI couldn't have asked for a better first period than the one it played in Game 1 of its ECAC Hockey tournament first-round series against Colgate on Friday at Houston Field House.
The Engineers came out flying from the start of the game. They scored 1:15 into the game, when Marty O'Grady deposited the rebound of a Mike Bergin left-point shot past goalie Eric Mihalik. RPI's power play, which had been in a 3-for-34 slump, scored twice by taking advantage of undisciplined penalties by the Raiders.
When the buzzed sounded to end the first period, RPI had a dominate 3-0 lead. The Engineers outshot the Raiders, 17-7, including getting the first eight shots of the game.
RPI fans must have been wondering where that performance was in February, when the Engineers faded to a 2-4-2 record and costing them a first-round bye.
Engineers coach Seth Appert liked what he saw.
"I loved how we started the game," Appert said. "I thought we set a tone. We were aggressive. We were physical. We put pucks to the net. We got bodies to the front of the net, We won rebound battles. That's our recipe for success."
Getting the power play going was a good boost, too.
"It gave us a little confidence," said RPI forward Chase Polacek, who scored one of the power-play goals. "What was more important was the way we came out in the first period, and how physical we were."
Another reason why RPI won this game was that it was disciplined. It didn't take retaliatory penalties in the first period, which is what Colgate did. That led to RPI's first power-play goal.
Already on a power play with Nick Prockow penalized for boarding at 13:40, it looked like RPI's advantage would end when Jeff Foss was called for elbowing Brian Day at 14:22. But Day, Colgate's captain, retaliated by cross-checking Foss. Then, Chris Wagner punched Foss, and got a roughing call. RPI got a five-on-three.
"[That's] from a couple of guys that should know better," Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. "It's very disappointing, especially in the playoffs. You can't take those penalties,"
The Engineers took advantage of Colgate's undisciplined play. Higgs ripped a shot from the right circle past goalie Eric Mihalik with five minutes left in the first.
"That's the success we've been looking for," Higgs said. "We had that earlier [in the season], but we went on a cold streak there. We know we're capable of [success]."
Appert was happy with his team maintaining its discipline.
"I thought we were very physical, and that led to some retaliation," Appert said. "The penalties we took were penalties of aggression. I had no problem with the penalties we took, and most of them were the right calls, but they were aggressive penalties. Anytime you can get a team to take a retaliation penalty, it's a good sign, especially when you don't retaliate back."
Happy with third
Even though the Raiders scored twice in the third period to make things a little interesting, Appert was pleased with how RPI played the final 20 minutes.
He thought the Engineers were back on their heels more in the second period than in the third.
"I thought we were fine," Appert said. "They didn't have that many chances. One guy got beat on a backcheck, but their first goal was a fairly harmless play that one of our players was pretty casual on a backcheck. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been a scoring chance.
"I thought the last 10 minutes of the second period, that's where they started pushing back real well."
To view my postgame video with reaction from the players and coaches, click here.
Here are my three stars of the game:
1) Brock Higgs, RPI — Scored two goals.
2) Chase Polacek, RPI — Had a goal and an assist.
3) Nick Bailen, RPI — Had two assists and made a nice play breaking up a three-on-one in the second period.
That's all from Houston Field House. I will back with you Saturday night.
Good Night! Good Hockey!