Preview: RPI at St. Lawrence
The Engineers start their North Country trip Friday night against the Saints
The daunting North Country trip where RPI has historically not done well is upon us this weekend. First up is St. Lawrence on Friday night where RPI will look to get back on track after Saturday’s loss to Union.
St. Lawrence Team Outlook
The Saints have started the year 3-4 against a pretty solid schedule, so they are certainly no pushover. Things were looking actually pretty good for them until last weekend against Michigan Tech. They were shutout in both games and outscored 9-0 in total.
Scoring has been the team’s biggest problem with only 1.86 goals per game. Similar to last year’s team though, the Saints appear to be generating chances just fine but are struggling to finish. Their shooting percentage this year is only 7.2% so far, and it was around the same last year. I still feel like I felt back then, which is that SLU’s talent level isn’t as bad as the shooting percentage indicates. It ended up staying that way the rest of last year though, and with the start to this year, maybe I’m just wrong about that.
The defense has looked pretty good on the other hand. The team defense is only allowing 27.6 shots per game and 2.86 goals per game. The goals per game number is only average, but it has been inflated by empty net goals. Similar to Union, I would expect the Saints to try to play a low-scoring, low-event game to give themselves the best chance to win.
Overall, the team looks eerily similar to their team last year. They have solid underlying metrics (49.3% corsi) and can control play fairly well. It doesn’t get shown on the scoreboard due to the struggles to finish chances and mediocre goaltending, but if they got hot, watch out.
It all starts in net with Emil Zetterquist (#1, G). Zetterquist was one of the best goalies in the country during the COVID year when he had a 0.926 SV%. Last year, he struggled though with a 0.904 SV% on the year. Going into the year, everyone (including me) thought that he would have a bounce back year, but it has been more of the same so far with a 0.903 SV%. With his history, you have to think he’ll play better at some point, but the longer he continues at this level, the more it looks like the COVID year was a fluke.
Luc Salem (#7, D) had good freshman and sophomore years, and he has looked solid to start this season as well. He’s one of their best defensemen due to his offensive ability and puck-moving skill, so he’s someone they will need to play well to start generating more offense. Philippe Chapleau (#9, D) is a defenseman in a similar mold, and he had a great freshman season last year.
Justin Paul (#14, W) was SLU’s top returning scorer, and he has 2 goals in 7 games currently. He’s a key part of their offensive attack, and the Saints need him to start producing more to get their offense going.
RPI Keys to the Game
Regain flow in the transition game
As Brendan discussed in his 5 things recap, the Engineers struggled in transition against Union, and they deserve credit for how they game-planned against RPI’s transition and rush offense and executed that game plan. There’s no doubt St. Lawrence saw all the video of what Union did and will try to employ similar tactics. I expect it to be a slight blip for RPI, but it’s important for them to get back to their explosive transition game due to how many dangerous chances they get from it.
Keep St. Lawrence out of the slot
With the finishing issues of SLU, RPI should be able to have success defensively if they can keep them to the perimeter. The best way for them to score will be trying to get shots from the slot and around the crease as much as possible. If RPI can keep the shots to the outside, it’s unlikely that SLU will be able to finish those based on their numbers dating back to last season.
Penalties really changed the game last weekend against Union, and while you can argue against some of the calls, the reality is that RPI needs to be better at staying out of the box overall. They’re averaging 9.6 penalty minutes per game, and that number needs to be lower. You can’t expect to win the special teams game if you have to keep killing penalties.
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