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Power Play Clicks

Engineers End Woes in Victory

By Bryan Viggiani

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 13, 2006

TROY - Maybe they were thinking about it too much. Maybe they were too unimaginative. Maybe they simply needed to relax.

Whatever it was, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute picked up its sagging power play, scoring all its goals with Merrimack College short-handed in a 4-1 non-conference victory Sunday afternoon in front of 2,757 at Houston Field House.

Oren Eizenman scored twice and added an assist, and Jake Morissette scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season. Jordan Alford made 23 saves for the Engineers (4-1-3), who are ranked 18 th nationally and are unbeaten in its last five games.

Seth Appert expressed concern that he and his staff were overcoaching RPI's power play, which entered the game converting 10.2 percent of its chances, and only two of 35 in its previous four games.

The Engineers fixed that in their first advantage against a team that had killed only 77.2 percent of its penalties, eighth worst in the nation.

"We talked last week about the coaching staff probably over-analyzing our power play and hurting our skilled players," Appert said. "We have some very talented young men that are put out there for a reason, and that's to make plays and be creative."

"I think we kept it simple today," senior right wing Kirk MacDonald said. "Just slow things down a little bit and have a little bit more purpose in what we're doing instead of just passing and passing the puck."

The Engineers came out strongly against a team that won once this season - Merrimack (1-8-1) is in ninth place of the 10 teams in Hockey East and lost its fourth consecutive game.

RPI's penalty killing did its job, too: the Warriors went 0-for-9 in their power plays. The Engineers killed off a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:32 in the third period, part of a five minute major penalty to freshman defenseman Peter Merth. Alford stopped all eight power-play shots he faced from Merrimack.

"We came out ready to play," Appert said. "We were physical tonight. I thought we won a lot of puck battles. Then I thought we out-executed our opponents on special teams - not only on our power play, which was very good tonight, but also on our penalty killing."

RPI opened by scoring twice within 36 seconds. With a 5-on-3 advantage, senior defenseman Jake Luthi blasted it from the blue line. Merrimack goalie Patrick Watson made the initial save, but Eizenman banged in the puck from Watson's left with an assist from Paul Kerins 2:16 into the game.

The Engineers continued its pressure with a one-man edge, with Morissette scoring from inside the blue line, the puck tipping off the stick of a defender at 2:52.

"I wouldn't say we had been struggling on the power play, but we felt like we hadn't been scoring as much as we would have liked to," said Eizenman. "It feels good to get a couple of goals in there. We just kind of got pucks to the net."

Matt Angers-Goulet scored his first of the season from Eizenman and Morissette 11:26 into the second period and 1:28 into the team's sixth power play, stretching RPI's lead to 3-0. That came seven seconds after officials stopped the game to confirm that Engineers winger Andrei Uryadov's blast from the left point rang off the crossbar, waving off a would-be goal.

Jordan Hart's shot from the right point eluded Alford for Merrimack's lone goal of the game, 23 seconds after the goal by Angers-Goulet.

Eizenman scored from nearly the same spot as Hart 4:14 into the third period, off another assist from Luthi at the opposite point. The Engineers were 37 seconds into their ninth power play.

"I think more importantly than anything, we wanted to give our 10, 11, 12 guys that play power play the freedom and the creativity to go out there and make plays, and for us to back off a little bit and allow them to do that," Appert said.