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RPI Fortunate to Come Out of Weekend with Three Points

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 6, 2006

TROY - A most interesting weekend, to be sure. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute came within an inch and one-half of being 2-0-0 in its opening week of ECAC Hockey League play.

The Engineers came within 50-some minutes of poor or mediocre hockey of being 0-2-0. The Engineers followed up Friday night's lethargic, 4-3 overtime victory over winless Princeton - during which they were outshot 39-13 - with a 2-2 tie against Quinnipiac. Had Peter Merth's slapshot off the crossbar with 7:37 remaining been less than two inches lower, the Engineers would have marched off the ice with another victory.

However, just a quick glance at the shot chart shows quite clearly that the Bobcats created far more scoring chances.

The Engineers were outshot, 66-31 for the weekend against teams that are not among the ECACHL's top defensive units.

The Engineers were still on an emotional high from their championship in the Governor's Cup tournament.

Physically, their play was sporadic at best.

First-year coach Seth Appert gave Princeton loads of credit for developing a fine game plan, and sticking to it throughout the game.

"They took away our time and space tremendously," he said. "They were in our face, they were physical and their stick pressure was outstanding. And instead of taking what they gave us, which was putting pucks behind them ... if they're going to be overaggressive and send their third and fourth guys in," Appert added, "let's put pucks in space, use our speed, put them in foot races and try to spring 2-on-1s."

The Engineers did that early, while building a 3-1 lead, then, Appert said, "we stopped doing that. We started stick-handling and throwing pucks to the center of the ice and then they just started counter-attacking and counter-attacking and putting us on our heels."

Princeton eventually tied the score with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, then dominated the first four minutes-plus of overtime before Seth Klerer's scramble goal won it for RPI with 13 seconds remaining in OT.

As for the shots-on-goal disparities - the Engineers were outshot by a combined 21-5 during the two third periods - Appert says his players need to be a little more selfish and shoot the puck more.

"We do have some players on our team ... some of our better players who are pass-first-oriented players; guys like Oren (Eizenman), Seth Klerer, Jake Morissette, Paul Kerins; a lot of those guys do have a pass-first mentality and that's what makes them very good players."

"We're not going to change them," Appert continued. "We'll try to get them a little more assertive but we probably are a little too picky right now with our shot selection."

And a bit of selfishness may help?

"Oh yeah," Appert said. "All good goal-scorers have a little selfishness and that's OK."

So, RPI (3-1-3 overall) and Quinnipiac share fourth place in the ECACHL in the early going at 1-0-1. Cornell, Clarkson and surprising St. Lawrence are all 2-0-0.

"All in all," said senior center Oren Eizenman with the Engineers' spotty play in mind, "the three points are OK."

Both goalies sharp: The Engineers have just one game in each of the next two weekends, so Appert won't be able to just rotate goalies. He'll have to pick either Jordan Alford or Mathias Lange against Merrimack on Sunday and against Sacred Heart on Nov. 24.

No matter. Each has been outstanding.

"Very pleased with both guys," Appert said of Alford's 36-save effort vs. Princeton, and Lange's two goals allowed in 65 minutes vs. high-scoring Quinnipiac.

"Both Jordan and Mathias made our opponents earn their goals," Appert continued. "And they're both talented enough that they're going to make the big saves. They're going to make the back-door saves, the breakaway saves because they have the talent."

"The big thing is, they're not giving up the soft ones. In games that are so tightly contested ... and this league is always that way, if you give up a squeaker, that could be the difference between a win and a loss. So, what we like is not only the big saves they're making, but how efficient that they're both playing."

Alford, 2-1-1 thus far, is among the ECACHL leaders in saves percentage at 93.2% and has a 2.21 goals against average.

Lange, 1-1-2, has allowed solid 2.65 GAA and his 88.9% saves percentage will improve as the season progresses.

Morissette leads in goals: Obviously, any RPI fan would have thought that MacDonald or Eizenman would be the first Engineer to reach four goals. Or perhaps Jonathan Ornelas or Kevin Broad.

Jake Morissette's game-tying goal Saturday night was his fourth and no other Engineer has as many as three.

"I've just been fortunate," said the junior from Fruitvale, B.C. "Everybody's been working real hard and I've just been getting to the net and getting some good bounces." The versatile Morissette, a natural right winger, has been playing the left wing for the most part and played much of the Quinnipiac game centering for Kevin Broad and Andrei Uryadov.

In addition to his goal, Morissette assisted on Broad's first goal of the season.