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5 Things: A return to form for RPI against the Ivies
The Engineers take 4 of 6 points on the weekend and look good in the process
1. Why RPI match up well against Harvard
Just about a third of the way through the regular season, and it has become clear what style of play the Engineers have the most success against and what they struggle with. RPI generate the most offense when they are able to take full advantage of their high team speed. Where they run into issues is when facing teams that sit back more, clog the neutral zone, and prevent as many of those key controlled exits and entries as possible.
Harvard is a team that falls into the first bucket. They have skilled players who often go for the high-risk, high-reward option. A lot of times it results in a great scoring chance, but other times it will lead to a dangerous turnover. RPI were able to take advantage of those turnovers early in the game, creating numerous odd-man rushes, and ultimately scoring on a couple of them.
On the other hand, there are teams like Union and Clarkson that play a slightly more defensive game and really strive to control the neutral zone and prevent clean entries and exits. RPI have really struggled to create many chances against those kinds of teams.
It explains some of the success RPI has had while shorthanded recently as well as their inability to create real danger while on the man advantage. When able to play a more counter-attacking style of play (such as on the penalty kill) they are having a lot of success, but when they have to actually break down a defense (such as on the powerplay), they aren’t.
This is where a guy like Jack Brackett is really missed – before he got injured, he was excelling at using his speed in the offensive zone to disorganize the defense and create space for Muzzatti and Evans to work in.
2. Ciccarello looked good by the eye-test and the numbers
One player who stepped up big time this weekend and filled a similar role to what Brackett did was Danny Ciccarello. He was extremely noticeable: flying around the ice all weekend and looking very reminiscent of Brackett from just a month ago. He spent significant time on the penalty kill, and even took the final faceoff with only moments left in the Dartmouth game.
Not only did he just pass the eye test, but he also graded out really well by the numbers across the weekend:
Herrman-Ciccarello-Gagnon has the potential to be a really effective fourth line with some scoring upside if they can continue their level of play from this weekend.
3. Freshmen making big impacts
It’s always exciting to see some of the younger players on the team have success so early in their college career because it naturally begs the question: “how good will they be in a couple years?”
For Johnny, Sutter, and Max, the ceiling looks to be pretty high. They are among the best on the team at creating scoring chances and are driving play well, especially Max on the blueline (where Corsi numbers are even meaningful than they are for forwards):
Evans and Muzzatti haven’t necessarily capitalized on all their scoring chances, but these underlying numbers suggest that the points will start to come eventually.
4. Team defense showing consistent improvement
RPI had real problems getting the puck out of their own zone in the Union series, but since then they have really limited defensive zone turnovers. Better and faster decision-making in the defensive zone after winning puck battles has led to much cleaner zone exits and more generally, less time spent defending.
The penalty kill has also become a real strength for the team, and it’s not like they haven’t been tested. Killing off a 5-on-3 opportunity for Dartmouth in the third period with the game tied at 1-1 was momentum-changing, and not letting Harvard score with 6 minutes of powerplay time is seriously impressive.
If you’re going to have struggles on the powerplay, it’s crucial to at least have a strong penalty-kill yourself!
5. Big goal from Beaton after a strong weekend
The line that Beaton centered with Heidemann on his off-wing and Evans on the right was the most prolific chance-creating line of the weekend. Across the two games, the line created 5 medium-danger scoring chances and a whopping 8 high-danger ones. That made up nearly half of the team’s scoring chances (27) at even-strength.
And to cap it all off, Beaton scores the goal with 30 seconds left to win the game, to end the losing streak, and to build some great momentum heading into the Alaska series.
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