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Loss to Sacred Heart Tough to Take for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 5, 2005

TROY - The fact that the gap between the Atlantic Hockey conference and the four traditional conferences in college hockey has narrowed significantly over the past 14 months doesn't lessen the sting of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's two recent losses to teams from that league.

The 3-2 setback to Holy Cross on Nov. 25 and Friday's 4-3 overtime shocker to Sacred Heart had RPI fans shaking their heads as they left Houston Field House. The fact that Sacred Heart's winning goal in OT went in off RPI defenseman Alexander Valentin only compounded fans' frustrations.

"I can't believe they lost to two (Atlantic Hockey) teams in a week," one said to another. "How can they do that?"

His friend lamented, "they tie the game late (in the first period), then come out (in the second period) and get dominated."

The second fan also said he wasn't sure, but he didn't think any other ECAC Hockey League team had lost to an Atlantic Hockey (formerly Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) this season.

It's doubtful if knowing he's right will console the frustrated RPI fan any. But right he is.

While the Engineers are now 1-2-0 vs. the Atlantic, the rest of the ECACHL is a combined 8-0-1. Even weak, last-place Yale (2-7-0 overall) has a 6-3 victory over a Mercyhurst team that will likely finish first or second in Atlantic Hockey.

So, the Engineers are 7-6-3 overall, a mark that could easily be 9-4-3.

"They get totally dominated against BU (at Boston University), then come back and win the game," the first fan noted, referring to the Engineers' 2-1 triumph over always-tough BU.

"And they can't get by these (Atlantic Hockey) teams," he said. "They need to be hungrier."

Indeed.

Before heading to Ohio State's tournament and meeting 8th-ranked Miami, the Engineers host Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, a team in its first season of Division I competition.

Rensselaer asserted its clear superiority against both Holy Cross and Sacred Heart after falling behind by two goals (the two losses were similar in several ways), seemed to have the momentum but then allowed the upstart visitors to score the tie-breaking, game-winning tally.

Come Saturday night against RIT, the Engineers need to come out hard, dictate to the Tigers, take control right away and earn themselves a start-to-finish victory.

Ironically, the only such win they've enjoyed this season was a 4-0 decision over Army - of Atlantic Hockey.

Broad perplexed: Talk about frustrated; how about RPI junior winger Kevin Broad.

The Humboldt, Sask., native came on strong at the end of last season, scoring two goals and two assists over the last three games to finish with 15 points (7-8-15).

He was counted on for a large contribution to the offense this year. After a good start, things haven't gone well for him.

An 11-game scoreless streak has Broad stuck on three points (2-1-3). What's worse, over those 11 games he's totaled just 10 shots on goal - 16 for the season.

He'd expected more from himself.

When it was mentioned that during the win over Providence, a good goalcrease area pass to him went for naught because he didn't get his stick down.

"That sounds about right," Broad said, summarizing his plight of late.

"Things just haven't been going well for me," he said. "You just have to stay positive and sooner or later, one will go (in) off my head or something - I hope."

When the subject of Oren Eizenman's scoring streak - now at 14 games - was mentioned - Broad said, "I'm at the other end of the spectrum."

Positive sign?: Looking for positives within a bad defeat, one might note that RPI's two third-period goals that tied the Sacred Heart game both came on the power play.

Prior to the goals by Eizenman and Jonathan Ornelas, each of which came on pretty feeds and each of which followed crisp puck movement, the Engineers' power-play unit had produced just one goal in its previous 33 opportunities.

During much of that time which encompassed five games, puck movement was mediocre or worse. Further, Sacred Heart's second PP unit outplayed RPI's first group over the first two periods.

The two goals improved RPI's PP efficiency rate from an even 13.0 percent (13-of-100) to 14.6 percent. Hopefully, the goals represent a good sign. Most ECACHL teams - certainly all the contenders - will score more equal-strength goals than the Engineers.

To have any shot at a top four finish and first-round playoffs bye, the Engineers are going to have to get the PP% up over 18 percent, perhaps even 20, over the second half of the season.

Notes: The Engineers are now 1-3-1 when trailing after two periods, 5-1-1 when leading after two. ... During his 14-game streak, Eizenman has 20 points (10-10-20). Kevin Croxton has 7-11-18 during the skein, scoring in 10 of the 14 games, while Ornelas is 9-4-13, also scoring in 10 of the games. ... The Engineers, off from league play while most other teams have played over the past two weekends, have slipped to seventh place in the 12-team league with seven points. Percentage-wise, though, their 2-1-3 record is better than sixth place Dartmouth's (4-5-0) and similar to third place Harvard's (6-3-0). ... How many know that thus far, the ECACHL is 10-3-1 vs. Hockey East this season? Rensselaer is 3-2-0. ... The Engineers' first four ECACHL games following semester break are at home - Dartmouth, Harvard, St. Lawrence and Clarkson.