Riding the New Year’s rollercoaster

It has been a wild winter weekend for ECAC Hockey, as we saw a little bit of everything over the past few days. Here’s what went down, and what it might signify.

RIP, Engineers?

I’m the last person who would want to prematurely eulogize a team, but I think I have seen enough to render RPI’s season-to-date a complete catastrophe… and to deem the Engineers’ current hole too deep to surmount.

RPI is 3-15-0, on a five-game slide, and coming off a 3-2 loss to what had been a one-win (1-9-6) Army squad in the consolation game of the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic. The offense is actually improving, scoring 13 goals in its last six games and notching at least two in each of those contests, but the defense/goaltending – which had been the ‘Tute’s only saving grace – is falling apart like an H & M handbag.

RPI allowed 23 goals in its last five outings, 17 of which were even-strength (five PPGs against, one shorthanded, and one empty-net). Goalie Bryce Merriam allowed nine goals on 68 shots in his three most recent starts; Scott Diebold, 10 on 62 in two starts (albeit with seven of those coming against UMass-Lowell in the UConn opener).

There is no denying the challenges that faced the Engineers, coach Seth Appert and his staff, from the early departures last spring right on through the unimaginably tumultuous injuries that have hamstrung the team for months now. These were not simple obstacles, and while there is always hope – everyone starts at 0-0 once the playoffs roll around – this campaign is turning into an unquestionable train wreck, the likes of 2009-10 Princeton or ’09-10 Clarkson. I wish RPI all the best and would gladly be proven the fool come March, but I have to call ’em like I see ’em… and this looks like a dead team walking.

Bears aren’t hibernating this winter

I bet Brown wasn’t on your weekend radar. They didn’t seem to be on New Hampshire’s, either… or Providence’s.

Shame on Nate Leaman. He should’ve known better.

Bruno has finally flexed, stringing together three straight W’s for the first time this season with wins over Yale (before break), UNH and PC. The bruins popped home 19 goals in their last four tilts (3-1-0) following a one-goal, four-game, three-shutout drought (0-3-1) against some pretty soft opponents. The win over the Friars secured Brown’s first Mayor’s Cup since November ’06, powered by three-point nights by rookie wingers Matt Lorito (seven points in five games… recall that name?) and Ryan Jacobson (6-6–12 in 13 games). Home games against Princeton and Quinnipiac should test the Bears’ true mettle and help shed some light on exactly how dangerous they will be in 2012.

Hamilton Hockey humming along

Sick of Colgate yet? If you’re not, you’re either a member of Raiders Nation or your side hasn’t been swept by the ‘Gate yet.

The Raiders are rolling along, buzzing through a 6-0-1 unbeaten streak and enjoying a Hobey-worthy season by senior winger Austin Smith. The Texas Twister (rejected nicknames: Lone Star Legend, Texas Terror, Southern Dandy) has whipped in 19 goals in 18 games and amassed a formidable 31 points. Perhaps I spoke too soon when I anointed Clarkson goalie Paul Karpowich with premature MVP accolades.

Fellow forwards Chris Wagner, Austin Mayer and Robbie Bourdon have each chipped in at least seven goals apiece, and sophomore Wagner actually leads the Raiders in assists with 15. Netminders Alex Evin and Eric Mihalik have combined for a .924 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average, and the power play is producing ample bounty at a nearly 21 percent rate of success.

Road games at Ferris State (a deuce next weekend) followed by tests at Princeton and Quinnipiac lead into the last dozen games of Colgate’s regular season… of which seven are at home. Therefore, this upcoming quartet will likely influence the remainder of the Raiders’ regular season a great deal. Giddyup.