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Tonight on NBCSN: Cornell and RPI slug it out in ECAC’s sneakiest rivalry

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You may not be aware, but the rivalry between Cornell and Rensselaer is one of the more angst-filled match-ups in college hockey. The teams don’t like each other, the coaches aren’t enamored with each other, and the fans get under each other’s skin rather easily.

The two teams also combine to produce some dramatic hockey and when they meet up tonight in Troy (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), you can expect more of the same as both teams are seeing things go differently in the second half of the year. Three of the last four meetings between these two teams at RPI have ended in one-goal games, all Cornell victories.

Cornell comes in ranked 14th in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls and are coming off a weekend that saw them swept by their travel partners from Colgate. After starting off the year on fire, the Big Red has cooled off a bit and has shown a nasty tendency to meltdown in the third period.

In three of Cornell’s last five games, they’ve blown leads in the third period. They’ve been fortunate to earn ties in two of those, but after giving up three third period goals to Princeton to get a 3-3 tie and four to Colgate in a 5-3 loss last Saturday, closing strong has been a problem of late.

source: Getty Images

Cornell coach Mike Schafer won’t stand for that and he’ll ask for more from goalie Andy Iles as well as junior defenseman Nick D’Agostino (Pittsburgh) and senior forward Sean Collins (Columbus). Freshman Brian Ferlin (Boston – pictured) may be the guy to keep the closest eye on as his offensive touch and physical play show why he was a Bruins draft pick in 2011.

For Rensselaer, their second half has been polar opposite of their first. They’re getting great goaltending from junior Bryce Merriam, stellar defensive play from guys like junior Nick Bailen and freshman Curtis Leonard while getting the offensive lift they’ve needed all season long from freshmen forwards Ryan Haggerty, Jacob Laliberte, and Zack Schroeder.

If there’s two guys coach Seth Appert will look to play big for RPI tonight it’ll be defensemen Mike Bergin (Dallas) and Patrick Koudys (Washington – pictured). Being strong defensively against Cornell is a must for the Engineers to have a shot to win.

(Brian Ferlin photo: ECAC Hockey)

Just for Men: Sidney Crosby

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People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

… Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.

Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives,’ says Caps’ Beagle

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Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.

The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.

“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”

If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.

Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.

“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.

PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Shane Doan took a friendly jab at the the movie “Miracle” and the Miracle on Ice. (BarDown)

–The best of the worst Upper Deck hockey cards from 2015-16. (Puck Junk)

–Here’s a list of the top 50 players in WHL history. (WHL)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A sad story about how Chris Phillips feels helpless as his hometown of Fort McMurray burns. (CBC)

–“You want to get back into things right away (but) I think these last four or five months have been good for me.” Former Penguins coach Mike Johnston is ready to coach again. (Local XPress)

–Blues forward Jori Lehtera is in a pretty random commercial:

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.