Friday, February 17, 2017

Scouting the enemy: RPI Engineers

The last road game of the regular season takes the Quinnipiac Bobcats to Troy, New York to face off against the RPI Engineers. It's been far from a glamorous season for the Engineers more like a nightmare. However you have to give RPI credit. They are 3-5 in their last eight games with wins over Harvard and Clarkson to boot and even in the five losses each game was a one goal loss except Dartmouth which scored an empty net goal to win by two. Prior to the win over Harvard it looked as if the team was mailing it in with five blowout losses in a row but since the indefinite suspension to sophomore goaltender Cam Hackett, RPI has played much better. Quinnipiac won the first meeting in Hamden 4-1 back in December. All-time Quinnipiac is 13-5-9 against RPI.

Evan Tironese (photo by Grand Forks Herald)
The Engineers have struggled all season to generate offense as they are averaging 2.16 goals per game which is good for 56th in the country. In the last eight games they are averaging 2.50 goals per game. The leading scorer for the Engineers is sophomore Evan Tironese with 25 points (6 goals and 19 assists). Senior co-captain Riley Bourbonnais leads the team in goals with 13 and has a 24 points in total. Some of the younger forwards have started to contribute like freshman Jacob Hayhurst with 17 points (6 goals and 11 assists), sophomore Brady Wiffen with 11 points (4 goals and 7 assists) and freshman Patrick Polino with 9 points (4 goals and 5 assists). These players give some promise to the future of RPI hockey. Juniors Viktor Liljegren and Lou Nanne have 14 and 10 points respectively. RPI is one of the better teams on the power play as they ranked 12th in the country converting on 20.86% of their opportunities (29-of-139) which is surprising considering the lack of offense they have produced this season. Keeping the Engineers off the power play would give the Bobcats a big leg up in winning this game on the road as they don't want to give RPI extra man opportunities where they can change a game.

While RPI has struggled defensively this season to a tune of 3.65 goals against per game which ranks them 56th in the country, over their last eight games they are giving up only 2.25 goals per game which shows how much they have improved and along with giving a good effort on the blue line. Every single RPI defenseman is a minus player but a lot of that has to do with how poorly they played over the first half of the season. Juniors Jared Wilson (13 points) and Mike Prapavessis (12 points) are the teams 5th and 6th leading scorers respectively. Both are threats to score on the power play as well. Freshman defenseman Will Reilly has also shown some promise from the blue line contributing with 10 points (1 goal and 9 assists). The RPI defense bring very good size and they will need to play physical with the Bobcats smaller forwards yet they need to avoid the penalty box like they did in their previous match-up when they took 14 penalties for 28 minutes. The Bobcats scored three power play goals in the last meeting and RPI doesn't have the best penalty kill either at 79.8% (130-of-163) good for 46th in the country.
Chase Perry (photo by Nicholas R. Markham)
A lot of RPI's better play has been due to the emergence of sophomore Chase Perry who took over full time when Cam Hackett was suspended indefinitely. The Colorado College transfer and draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings has a goals against average of 2.00 over his last eight games with a shutout of Beanpot champion Harvard to boot. On the season he is 4-16-1 with a 3.20 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in 22 games played. He brings NHL size in goal and very good athleticism as well. He will present a challenge for the Bobcats on Saturday night as he has shown he has the ability to win his team a game against better opponents with the Harvard game as the greatest example.

Expect this game to be very competitive between these two teams as the previous meeting was a very physical affair. RPI is playing quality hockey at this point in the season and giving a much better effort than we saw in the first half of the season. Quinnipiac has been inconsistent since returning from Belfast and really hasn't found its groove yet at this point in the season. While this is a very winnable game for Quinnipiac, it would not be shocking at all if RPI came away with a win as they have shown a lot of fight when they could have mailed it in after the new year.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

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