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Engineers Are Movin' On Up

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 14, 2006

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 4-1 victory over Merrimack on Sunday moved the Engineers up two spots to No. 16 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll which was announced Monday.

The Engineers, now 4-1-3 on the season, totaled 162 points in the balloting of 40 pollsters done on a 20-19-18-17-16-15-etc. basis.

The ranking marks the first time since Jan. 15, 2001 RPI was nationally ranked in consecutive weeks.

Despite the fact that Harvard dropped out of the rankings this week, there are still four ECAC Hockey League teams rated.

Cornell (5-1-0) is No. 12 with 371 points, followed by Dartmouth (4-2-0) with 233, and Clarkson (6-3-1) is 18th with 147 points despite dropping both its games, to Quinnipiac and Princeton, over the weekend. The Golden Knights were No. 12.

Despite its 8-2 drubbing at the hands of New Hampshire on Saturday, Maine remained the No. 1 team with 772 points, claiming 22 of the first-place votes. The 8-1-1 Black Bears had been the nation's last remaining unbeated team.

New Hampshire (5-2-1) used the victory to climb from 13th to 10th with 445 points.

Minnesota (8-1-2) claimed 17 first-place votes and holds down the No. 2 slot with 764 points.

North Dakota (6-3-1) is No. 3 with 653 points, while Michigan State (5-2-1) is 4th, followed by Notre Dame (8-1-1), Miami (8-4-0), Boston College (6-3-0), Michigan (7-3-0) and Boston University (2-1-4).

Denver (6-4-0), against whom RPI split two games, is ranked No. 11, while 4-6-0 Wisconsin is 14th, and 6-4-2 Northern Michigan is No. 15.

Rounding out the Top 20 are No. 17 St. Cloud State (2-3-3), No. 19 University of Alaska (5-2-3) and UMass (5-1-1).

The Engineers are 1-1-1 against currently-ranked teams.

Huge game: A Sunday matinee against a less than average Merrimack team could have been a problem for RPI in recent seasons.

"In the past, we might have lost this game," assistant captain Kevin Broad said.

Indeed, last season the Engineers lost 5-3 to Merrimack, which has won just four of 39 games (4-29-6) since that game.

"This was a big game for us," Broad said. "It's tough to get up for Sunday matinee games, and non-conference games (and opponents with 1-7-1 records). But I thought the intensity was great. In the past, we may have dropped these games but it's a new season and we're rolling right now."

Head coach Seth Appert agreed.

"The crowd was not what it would normally be," first-year head coach Seth Appert said.

"These are games that you're always concerned of as a staff for a letdown. We talked about that, we prepared for that but it comes down to those 26 guys in the lockerroom and the leaders getting them ready to go."

Also, while the players don't speak much about the polls on the record, they knew they'd stay ranked if they won, likely be dropped out of the Top 20 if they lost. That can be a motivator.

Alford stands tall: Leading 4-1 midway through the third period on Sunday, RPI freshman defenseman Peter Merth was whistled for a checking from behind penalty that was quite strangely ruled a major by a linesman.

That put the Engineers two men down for 1:32.

Jordan Alford made some big saves during that 3-on-5 and later during the major.

"I thought he did really good throughout the game," Appert said of Alford. "You look at the shots on goal ... how many times Jordan was hit in the chest area and he held onto the puck. That's not always easy to do."

"Same thing last week for Mathias Lange against Quinnipiac," Appert added. "Because of their rebound control ... (Alford) and Mathias are doing a real good job of managing their game and making things a little easier on themselves and on our defensemen."

New-rule goal: Matt Angers-Goulet's goal Sunday actually went in off his skate, but legally under a rule that was new a couple years back. He cut down the slot and Oren Eizenman's pass hit the toe of his skate and shot past Merrimack goalie Patrick Watson.

"I just crashed the net and made a big target for Oren," he said. "The puck hit my skate on the pass and went in. There was no kick motion or anything ... so we took advantage of the new rule, I guess."

'No idea when': Sometime before he graduates, Jonathan Ornelas will end his goal-less string, which has reached 21 games.

"God only knows," he bellowed when asked. "Hopefully, a little closer. But I'm getting the chances and we're winning, so you really can't ask for more than that."

Ornelas tallied 13 goals and 9 assists last season, the vast majority of that production coming in among the first 19 games. He has five assists this season.

Down I-95: The Boston Bruins have returned defenseman and East Greenbush native Matt Lashoff to Providence of the American Hockey League. His time away from Boston should be brief.

Lashoff, who was recalled by the Bruins on October 25, played in seven games in his stint with Boston, recording one assist, two shots on goal and a minu-3 rating.

The 20-year-old defender has also played five games with the Providence Bruins this season, totaling one goal and one assist.

The 6-foot-2, 205 lb. Lashoff was selected by the Bruins in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.