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RPI Needs to Right Ship in a Hurry

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 11, 2006

TROY - These are trying times for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The Engineers are on a seven-game winless streak (0-4-3), are without their two top offensive players indefinitely and were just dominated by a team not as talented as they.

Their goaltending, brilliant at times, has been less than adequate at others, and the netminders and back-checkers alike have not been picking up for mistakes by the team's many freshmen defensemen as effectively as they did earlier.

Further, veterans and newcomers have also been guilty of poor decision-making and while the team's penalty-killing has been outstanding, numerous penalties have severely hampered the team in several games.

Since rallying to beat Princeton in overtime and playing Quinnipiac to a 2-2 tie on the opening weekend of ECAC Hockey League season five weeks ago, RPI's only victory was a non-leaguer over Merrimack, one of the nation's weakest teams.

The Engineers, with a 4-1-3 overall record after that victory, are now 4-5-6. That win over Princeton is RPI's only triumph among six league games (1-2-3).

All in al, the players are wondering just how things have gone so wrong.

In the rematch at Princeton on Saturday night, the Engineers were pushed all over the ice for 60 minutes. The fact that the injured MacDonald and Eizenman had to watch from the stands notwithstanding, RPI should be able to - at worst - be competitive against a Princeton team that was picked 11th and 10th in ECACHL preseason polls and is not considered one of the league's higher-skilled teams.

The Tigers also had a freshman - Zane Kalemba - in net. The Tigers had effectively used a rugged forecheck to outshoot Rensselaer 39-13 in their loss at Houston Field House.

Saturday night was even worse. The Engineers failed miserably to match Princeton's intensity - throughout.

"They beat us to the puck in the corner, they beat us to the puck in the slot and they beat us in general effort," said a disappointed RPI coach Seth Appert. "Our focus wasn't (adequate) and our intensity level didn't match theirs and thus, we were not able to match their execution."

The Engineers were outshot, 46-14; that's right, outshot 85-27 in the two Princeton games.

Even without MacDonald and Eizenman, who have nine goals and 15 assists between them, the game was within RPI's grasp, as Princeton (4-5-1, 5-7-2) is not among the ECACHL's contending teams.

"Princeton came out and played with fire and intensity and our guys did not respond well enough to make plays, physically or mentally," Appert said.

Rensselaer had rallied - without MacDonald and Eizenman - for three goals in the third period Friday night for a 4-4 tie at Quinnipiac.

Emotionally, the combination of that comeback and again not having their two best forwards, may have caused the Engineers to be adversely affected.

"Should they have been, no," Appert said. "Were they - possibly."

"And that's my fault for not having them mentally prepared for not having their top two players," Appert said. "Some guys have to look inside themselves, though."

"Those are just excuses," he said of the mention of Eizenman and MacDonald. "You can't dwell on who you don't have. You've got to consider who you have in the lineup, and tonight, the guys in the lineup just did not come ready to play."

Appert lauded the play of assistant captain Kevin Broad and "the leadership he provided this weekend," and praised the makeshift forward line of Cyr, center Dan Peace and right winger Tommy Green.

"Very pleased," Appert said. "That was by far our best line tonight."

Injuries: MacDonald suffered a head injury late in the Colgate game on Dec. 2 and although he practiced most of the week, Appert didn't want to risk a long-term ailment.

MacDonald may have incurred a concussion, though Appert would not comment. MacDonald may be held out of Saturday's game with UMass-Lowell, a non-leaguer game.

Eizenman suffered some kind of arm or shoulder injury Friday night at Quinnipiac.

He'll be out a while but it's hoped he can play when the Engineers return to ECAC Hockey League action on Jan. 5 against Harvard.