Men’s hockey opens playoffs at RPI
Big Green goaltender Charles Grant ’16 and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forward Ryan Haggerty control their teams’ postseason fates. As the two teams prepare to face off this weekend in the first round of the ECAC men’s hockey tournament, all eyes will be them in one of the key matchups of the series.

“The team’s been playing really well over the last few weeks, so we’re confident that we can pull out a couple wins,” Grant said. As the 10th seed, Dartmouth (8-17-4, 7-13-2 ECAC) will hit the road to square off against seventh-seeded Engineers (14-14-6, 8-9-5 ECAC). The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the quarterfinals to take on one of the top four teams in the league. RPI swept the season series against the Big Green, winning both games, 7-1 in November and 4-2 in January. After a difficult start to the season, Dartmouth has gone 5-2-1 in its last eight games, including statement victories over Clarkson University and Cornell University on the road. “RPI is going to see a different team this weekend than they did earlier in the season,” Tyler Sikura ’15 said. By comparison, RPI has been inconsistent, going 3-3-2 over its last eight, falling flat at inopportune moments. Last weekend, RPI defeated Brown University 3-0 on Friday before being annihilated 5-0 by Yale University, with the sixth seed on the line. This weekend will be the fifth time the teams have played each other in a best-of-three playoff series. The Big Green advanced in 2001 and 2004 while falling in 2000 and 2009. Dartmouth will try to take Haggerty, RPI’s biggest scoring threat, out of the game by keeping him away from the net, Grant said. Haggerty leads RPI in goals, 24, and points, 38, in addition to five game-winners , while in recent weeks Grant has been one of the nation’s strongest goaltenders. Earlier this week, Grant was named ECAC hockey men’s goaltender of the month for February, posting a 4-0-1 record, which included a historic shutout of Cornell, the first by a Dartmouth goaltender in Ithaca in 54 years. This weekend will be the first time Grant will face RPI’s offense this season. For its first line, Dartmouth will likely keep Eric Neiley ’15, Brandon McNally ’15 and Grant Opperman ’17. The three forwards are more productive as a unit than when they are separated. Opperman, a freshman, has complemented the juniors well this season, tallying eight goals and seven assists on the season. Though they scored a combined 26 goals and 55 points on the season, including 10 on the power play, the players’ aggressiveness has limited their effectiveness. McNally leads the team in penalties with 27 in 27 games, while Neiley is third with 11. For Dartmouth to upset RPI, the first line will need to avoid the penalty box but still maintain its aggression. Sikura, who recently returned to the lineup from a knee injury, serves as the nucleus of the second line and delivers a significant change-up. Although he was out for a large chunk of the season, Sikura has rebounded and provided much-needed depth for Dartmouth’s injury-reduced squad. Since returning, Sikura has notched a team-leading two game-winning goals, including a dramatic overtime shot in the win over Brown two weeks ago. The puck will drop Friday and Saturday in Troy, N.Y., at 7 p.m., and if a third game is necessary, Sunday’s winner-take-all showdown will also start at 7 p.m.
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