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Engineers Inch Closer to Last Place with Loss to Dartmouth

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 7, 2007

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute awakened from its doldrums Saturday night; sort of.

And to the point the Engineers did so, it was way too late, not until they trailed by four goals and their mild rally meant little in a 6-2 defeat to Dartmouth.

The setback was the slump-ridden Engineers' fourth straight, gave them a 1-8-3 record over their past 12 games and kept them near the basement of the ECAC Hockey League at 1-4-3.

They are the only league team with fewer than two league victories.

David Jones had two goals and an assist and freshman center T.J. Galiardi for Dartmouth, which scored four goals within the game's first 11:40 and ended a six-game winless (0-4-2) streak. The Big Green improved to 5-5-2 in ECAC Hockey League play, 6-7-2 overall.

Rensselaer is now 0-8-0 over the past four seasons against the Big Green and 2-13-2 over the past 17 meetings.

"The first period, that was the game," RPI head coach Seth Appert said matter-of-factly, though he gave his team credit for battling back.

The Engineers have had longer losing streaks in recent seasons - seven games among a 2-16-2 skein in 2002-03, a 2-7-0 stretch last season - but Saturday night's first period was painfully similar to their previous two losses in which they were profoundly uncompetitive against ECAC Hockey League members Union and Harvard.

What's worse, those three teams - Union, Harvard and Dartmouth - had a combined 8-17-2 record.

The Rensselaer offense continued to struggle big time - the only goals RPI could claim, by Jonathan Ornelas and Jake Luthi - came on 5-on-3 power plays - and other phases of the Engineers' game failed to help out much again.

The goaltending was soft, back-checking half-hearted, many of the body checks were of token variety and the hustle, drive, passion and fire the team exhibited early in the season were sorely lacking.

"This is the worst it's been since I've been at RPI," assistant captain Kevin Broad said of the weekend, which also included a 5-1 loss to Harvard on Friday.

"I thought (Friday) night was rock bottom, but tonight was even worse," said Broad, though he may have been thinking of just the first period.

"We're at rock bottom," added team captain Kirk MacDonald, who assisted on both RPI goals. "In the second and third periods we played pretty good but that doesn't really count for anything. Things are very tough right now and guys are not happy about it."

MacDonald commented on the Engineers' backchecking.

"It led to a lot of the goals that were equal-strength," he said. "The first and second goals tonight were key examples of it."

"It hasn't been good enough, simple as that," MacDonald added.

Then there was the Dartmouth power play, which came into the game at under 10 percent efficiency (11-of-112), but the Big Green forwards manipulated RPI penalty killers as a video game whiz does his favorite game, scoring four goals.

Tanner Glass' power play goal early in the third period marked the 11th consecutive period in which RPI opponents have posted at least one goal.

Rensselaer goalie Mathias Lange wasn't sharp on Galiardi's first goal just 57 seconds into the game and the Big Green's puck movement, coupled with RPI's less than effective defensive-zone play, were the story of the first period and, thus, of the game.

"We knew it wasn't going to magically get better after last night," Appert said. "You take baby steps. And we needed for things to go our way early on and they didn't go our way."

Ornelas scoring for the second time in three games after a 29-game goal-scoring drought, rifled one off the undersiding of the crossbar from the mid-left slot 51 seconds into the second period.

With 15 seconds left in the game, Luthi walked down the right slot and sent one through traffic and past Dartmouth goalie Mike Devine for whatever any RPI plyer or fan may deem from the goal.

Luthi, RPI's leading scorer who, ended a five-game scoreless string on Friday night and had three points for the weekend.

"It's tough to get any positives out of this weekend at all," he said.