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Engineers Avoid a Lost Weekend

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 29, 2006

TROY - Paul Kerins' extra-attacker goal with 1:08 remaining in the game Saturday avoided what would have been a devastating weekend for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey.

After a 5-3 loss to Niagara on Friday night, in which the Engineers compounded an off night by goalie Jordan Alford with shoddy defensive-zone play, RPI came back on Saturday and blew a 4-1 third-period lead to Ohio State, again with sporadic play in its own end.

Kerins' tip-in goal and a big save by Mathias Lange on Kenny Bernard's close-range overtime bid allowed the Engineers to put a 5-5 tie in their book, instead of what could have been a psychologically horrendous 5-4 or 6-5 defeat.

After Friday's loss to Niagara, first-year head coach Seth Appert said, "we gave them too many easy opportunities ... too many easy looks ... goals that they didn't have to work that hard for; turnovers, quick transitions, 2-on-1s, power plays, back-door tap-ins. We didn't make them work hard for the goals they got, whereas we were working very hard for our opportunities."

Appert could have, to a lesser degree, repeated that statement after the tie with OSU.

"When you're in a funk, as we talked about, it's not going to come easy," Appert said. "The only thing you can do is try to stay positive and play your way out of it."

Appert lauded the execution on Kerins' goal on which he deflected in Garett Vassel's drive from the mid-slot.

"Any time you have a 6-on-5," Appert said, "you don't want to panic, you don't want to just throw pucks blindly at the slot because that's where everybody is. You take your time, you win a puck battle, you get it behind the net where all the open ice is."

"They executed really well," Appert said. "Garett Vassel did a great job opening up and coming down the slot, finding that passing lane (taking Andrei Uryadov's pass) and getting a quick shot through."

Big lift: Oren Eizenman's two Shootout goals, the second of which was the Shootout winner, not only gave RPI third place in its own Holiday Tournament, it could also provide the Engineers with some confidence going into a rough ECAC Hockey League road trip to Cornell and Colgate this weekend.

Both goals came on the same play, where the left-shooting Eizenman drifts right, glides a bit left and quickly takes a snapshot.

"I really enjoy that move and I've been working on it for a long time," Eizenman said. "It's the same move that (Dallas Stars') Jussi Jolkinen uses; he was the best faceoff winner in the NHL last year, so why not learn from him?"

"It's a low-blocker move," he continued. "You just kind of go out wide and it's a half-fake. Then it's all about the timing of it, when you shoot it. I must have been working on that move for eight years and it's nice to see it pay off."

The Engineers had a Shootout victory over Union to reach the championship round of the Governor's Cup Tournament final last month and went 3-0-1 in their next four games and Appert hopes the Shootout triumph over Ohio State will spark another nice run.

"Just like Union ... we gained momentum from that (Shootout) win," Appert said, "and we're going to try to use this to springboard us a little back into league play."

Team captain Kirk MacDonald agreed.

"We had every reason to fold the tents and go home (when OSU scored four straight goals)," MacDonald said, "and to respond like that shows a lot of character and winning the Shootout is a good feeling. We're going to take a lot of positives out of this."

Seth likes shootouts: Appert was asked by a reporter if he is a fan of Shootouts. "Yes, I am a fan of the Shootout," he said. "I would be a fan of 10-minute overtimes ... in college hockey. I think we should play 10-minute overtimes instead of five. We only play 34 (-36) games a year, so I think a 10-minute overtime would be better."

"But I do like Shootouts," he said. "I think from the fans' reaction (Saturday) and from (the Union-RPI game) at Pepsi Arena, I think they like them as well."

MacDonald not happy: Big Mac admits he's even more frustrated with the Engineers' play of late, given that he's scoring more but the team isn't winning.

After charting just five points (2-3-5) over the first eight games, the big British Columbian has three goals and two assists over the past three games.

Problem is, RPI failed to win any of those games (0-2-1), whereas the Engineers were 4-1-3 in the eight games in which MacDonald's production was less than his career norm.

"We were flying in the first period and were down 3-2," MacDonald said after the NU game. "We've got to focus on the details and when we do, we're going to start winning a lot more hockey games."

Several scoring streaks: Jake Morissette's goal on Saturday extended his scoring streak to six games. He has nine points (5-4-9) over that span.

Senior defenseman Jake Luthi, the Engineers' leading scorer at 2-11-13, also has nine points (1-8-9) over the Engineers' past six games.

Eizenman doesn't have a continuous streak but has nine points (3-6-9) over the past six games.

Kerins, with just two points prior, has four points (1-3-4) over his past four games.