It has been 10 years since Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last won an ECAC Hockey tournament series at Houston Field House.
Since then, the Engineers have been the host four times and lost all of those series.
The seventh-seeded Engineers (14-14-6) will try to snap that skid when they host 10th-seeded Dartmouth (7-13-2) in the best-of-three first-round series starting tonight at 7 at the field house.
After RPI swept Princeton in the 2004 playoffs, the skid began in 2006, when the Engineers were swept in the first round by Quinnipiac in 2006. That proved to be Dan Fridgen’s final year as head coach.
Under head coach Seth Appert, the Engineers lost to Brown twice and Colgate once. The losses to Brown came in the first round in 2010 and the quarterfinals last season. Colgate ousted RPI in the first round in 2011. All three series went the distance.
In both series against Brown, RPI lost the first game and had to play catch up. It’s something the Engineers don’t want to do against the Big Green.
“You want to learn your lesson from last year,” Appert said. “Game 1 last year, we weren’t bad. It was a 1-1 game against a very good Brown team late, but we just didn’t have an edge or bite to us. We let that be a series that was going to be up in the air. It didn’t matter how good we played in Games 2 and 3. Game 3, we might have outshot them, 47-15, but you’re playing catch up.
“Obviously, Game 1 is important, and the start of Game 1 is important. Setting a tone of what we want to play like in this series, who we want to be, how hard the series is going to be, how physical it’s going to be and how disciplined it’s going to be. We need to come out in an attacking mindset at 7 o’clock [tonight] and not feel our way through the first period or two.”
The regular season didn’t turn out like the Engineers expected. After finishing second last year, the Engineers were picked by the league’s coaches to finish second this season, while the media had them winning the title.
But RPI lost No. 1 goalie Jason Kasdorf after two games with a dislocated shoulder. Scott Diebold (13-13-6, 2.45 goals-against average) played well, but the offense was inconsistent, averaging 2.59 goals per game in league play, and 2.76 overall. In six games, RPI failed to reach 20 shots on goal.
Now, it’s the second season, and RPI junior forward Ryan Haggerty believes the team is ready.
“We’re in a good situation, team-wise, on how we want to be playing,” said Haggerty, who leads the team with 24 goals and 14 assists. “We’re going to continue to stick to our identity and what we do best. As long we don’t shy away and try to do something different, then we have a pretty good chance of making a run here.”
The Big Green struggled for most of the season. They lost senior forward Eric Robinson, their second-leading scorer last year, for the season after only two games. Junior forward Tyler Sikura, the team’s top scorer last year, missed a month with a leg injury.
But Dartmouth got hot in February, going 5-1-1. Sophomore goalie Charles Grant keyed the resurgence, going 4-0-1 in five starts with a 1.18 GAA, a .964 save percentage and one shutout. He was named ECACH goalie of the month.
“He’s been a huge factor,” Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. “He’s gained some real good experience last year, playing quite a few games for us and playing in the playoffs. He’s a really good guy, in terms of his focus and preparation. He works hard. He’s learning as he goes along. He did a great job for us.”
RPI took the regular-season series by scores of 7-1 in Hanover, N.H., on Nov. 2, and in Troy on Jan. 24.
This is the 13th postseason meeting between the two teams. The last playoff meeting was in Hanover in 2009. RPI swept the first-round series.
Brassard to union
Noble and Greenough senior defenseman JC Brassard has committed to the Union hockey team for the 2015-16 season.
Brassard led all prep school defenseman in scoring with 11 goals and 32 assists in 27 games. The Nobles’ captain was the team’s third-leading scorer.
Brassard is 5-foot-11 and weighs 180 pounds.
Here’s a look at the statistical winners in ECACH play this season.
St. Lawrence senior forward Greg Carey won the scoring title with 35 points. He also led the conference with 27 assists.
Haggerty took the goal-scoring crown with 14, edging Union senior forward Daniel Carr and St. Lawrence freshman forward Matt Carey by one.
St. Lawrence freshman Gavin Bayreuther was the top scoring rookie, as well as the top-scoring defenseman, with five goals and 21 assists.
Quinnipiac sophomore goalie Michael Garteig edged Union junior Colin Stevens for the goals-against average title. Garteig had a 1.87 GAA, while Stevens had a 1.91 GAA.
Harvard goalie Raphael Girard had the top save percentage at .938.
Stevens had the top winning percentage at .833.
Union had the top offense, averaging 3.77 goals per game, and the top defense, allowing 1.91 goals per game.
St. Lawrence had the top power play (27.7 percent), while Quinnipiac was best killing penalties (92.2 percent).
Quinnipiac had to be good at killing penalties. The Bobcats were the most penalized team in league play, averaging 15.4 penalty minutes per game. RPI and Clarkson were tied for second at 15.2.