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Weekend Could Have Been Worse for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 4, 2006

TROY - If someone, anyone around the nation of college hockey, had told Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Seth Appert that on his team's road trip to Cornell and Colgate, the total number of power plays would be 26-12 against him, "I'd have said we wouldn't have a snowball's chance of being competitive."

"And yet, we only got outscored 6-5," Appert said, referring to a 3-3 tie at Cornell and a 3-2 loss at Colgate.

"That says a lot about the character of our team and how hard the played," he said.

Last week during practice, the Engineers talked about improving at playing with the lead.

Matter of fact, assistant coach Jim Montgomery spoke of it on the WRPI-FM pregame show Friday night at Cornell.

Establishing the lead wasn't a problem this past weekend for the Engineers, who bolted to a 3-0 lead after one period at Cornell and led 2-0 early in the second period at Colgate.

A constant parade to the penalty box in the second period both nights eventually did in the Engineers, who are winless in their past five games (0-3-2) and are even for the season at 1-1-2 in the ECAC Hockey League and 4-4-5 overall.

Obviously, staying out of the penalty box is the most vital aspect of playing effectively with a lead.

Other things the Engineers could do, he said, are to show a "little more maturity with puck decisions. Making smarter passes (when) clearing the puck, moving it out of our zone. And that's part of having a young defensive corps."

"We're better when we're an attacking team, being aggressive into the offensive zone and controlling the tempo with our style," Appert said.

Appert didn't complain about referee John Murphy's tightly-called game on Saturday night. It's unusual for power plays to be so uneven in such games, especially since the team with the 13 power plays trailed for the first 29 minutes.

"Considering how even the play between the teams, how evenly competitive the play was," Appert said, "yes, I was quite surprised with the disparity of the power plays."

Over the past eight games, the Engineers have blown three 2-goal leads in an overtime win against Princeton and losses to Sacred Heart and Saturday's defeat at Colgate, lost a 4-1 third-period lead in a 5-5 tie to Ohio State and blew the aforementioned 3-0 lead at Cornell.

They blew a 3-1 lead in a season-opening 4-4 tie with Boston University.

Appert says, "it's a work in progress," he said. "I'm not worried. I'd be worried if we weren't getting leads, but our guys are playing with a lot of heart. They've been coming out and playing with a lot of passion and believing in one another to build leads early in games."

Appert says it's important that the Engineers concentrate on that fact "and grow some confidence" from proving they can go on the road and gain leads against strong teams.

Make no mistake, though, having to share two points at Cornell and losing at Colgate presents psychological barriers for the Engineers.

"We knew we were going to have some ups and downs," assistant captain Kevin Broad said. "As leaders, Mac (captain Kirk MacDonald) and I, and some other upperclassmen, are going to have to settle the guys down. The sun's going to rise tomorrow but at the same time, we have to learn from our mistakes."

"Sure, a couple penalties may have been questionable calls," Broad added, "but we're the ones who are taking those penalties. Blowing leads, so often lately, will test the character of this team, no doubt."

"I like the 26 guys we have in the lockerroom and I'm not too worried about bouncing back," he added.

Broad, Ornelas sidelined: Broad and junior left winger Jonathan Ornelas were injured in Friday night's game at Cornell and did not play at Colgate. Broad had a boot covering his right foot.

At Cornell, he aggravated a foot injury suffered against Ohio State in the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament consolation game.

"I took a shot off (the foot) last weekend," Broad said, "and I probably rushed it back."

Broad is likely to miss this coming weekend's ECACHL games at Quinnipiac and Princeton.

Ornelas, who still has not scored a goal in his past 24 games, incurred a shoulder injury in the game at Cornell. His status for the weekend is uncertain. Ornelas has five assists this season but has managed just 10 shots on goal in 11 games.

Lord plays on: Much has been made about Ornelas' slump but at the same time, junior forward Andrew Lord, who registered 11 goals and 11 assists over his first two college seasons, is scoreless in 11 games this season and 15 going back to the 2005-06 campaign.

The Vancouver native just keeps plugging away.

"You just have to remember it's a team game and the wins are what's important," he said. "We've been doing well, so there's no reason to press."

Lord has more or less become a checking forward.

"Yeah, you could call it that," he said. "I'm just trying to get out there and play physical as a bigger guy, play smart defensively, be good on faceoffs and that stuff."

Notes: Luthi extended his scoring streak to eight games and has assisted on four of RPI's past five goals and five of the past eight. ... Jake Morissette's scoring streak was stopped at seven games by Colgate.

Six of Matt Angers-Goulet's seven points (3-4-7) have come at home and the other against Union on the neutral ice at Pepsi Arena. ... Ties among ECACHL teams range from Harvard's and St. Lawrence's zero to RPI's five. Six teams have one.