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RPI Confident About North Country Trip

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 16, 2007

TROY - When Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute went through a dismal stretch of five straight losses to Vermont, Union, Harvard and Dartmouth, during which the Engineers were outscored 19-5, the team's confidence suffered.

After being totally dominated by Cornell in a 6-1 defeat in their last outing, one night after a huge, comeback victory, could the Engineers' psyche again waver?

"No," said first-year coach Seth Appert. "Confidence is as good as it can be for a team that has been so up-and-down, as good as it can be for a team that has played very well in the last month and still only has a .500 record (during that time, 4-4-1) to show for it. I don't think we're as confident as I'd like us to be, but we're more confident than we have been because our preparation individually and collectively is so much better than it was two months ago."

The Engineers are about to embark on what has been over the course of several decades, from the standpoint of the visiting teams' winning percentage, college hockey's toughest road trip; to St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

When you throw in the fact that the Saints and Golden Knights are running 1-2 in the ECAC Hockey League, and RPI needs some points to secure the final home ice berth in the preliminary round of the league's playoffs, you can see the Engineers face a daunting task tonight at SLU's Appleton Arena and Saturday night (both at 7) at Clarkson's Cheel Arena.

The ninth-place Engineers, 5-9-4 in ECACHL action, trail No. 8 Princeton (7-9-2) and the final home ice berth by two points.

St. Lawrence (17-11-2 overall), the nation's No. 15 team, leads the ECACHL with a 13-4-1 record, followed closely by No. 9 Clarkson (11-4-3, 19-7-4).

Rensselaer senior defenseman Jake Luthi noted that fourth-place Cornell, a young but highly talented team was at its absolute best last Saturday and that the thumping the Big Red laid out shouldn't affect the team's confidence.

"Saturday night, I think was just a bump in the road," Luthi said. "It's something we'll rebound from."

Sophomore left winger Andrei Uryadov said the confidence level "is about the same. It was a tough loss but we're definitely in the right mindset."

Assistant captain Kevin Broad said the fact that the Engineers came within a few minutes of upsetting St.Lawrence in a 3-3 tie at Houston Field House last month will motivate the Engineers further.

And the fact that the 2004-05 Rensselaer team, an 11th-place finisher, swept the SLU-Clarkson trip will help with confidence.

"We (captains) haven't touched on that (trip) yet" Broad said, adding he will mention it to the team.

"Maybe something we can bring up, maybe on the bus," he said. "We have gotten points up there in the (recent) past and it's good to know that. It's not a place where we've gone and come back empty-handed."

Appert was asked if the Engineers' offense, before the season ends, will bust out and score seven-eight goals in a weekend?

"No," he said. "I hope we do but no, I don't think we can. I just don't think we have that ability. That's OK."

The Engineers averaged 3.1 goals per game over their first 14 games but just 1.75 in 16 games since.

"You look at us in the beginning of the year when we were scoring a lot more goals than we are now," Appert said, "our opponents' saves percentage against us was extremely weak, like 85 percent through those first seven-eight games. We had a little more offensive confidence (then), but I think we were also the beneficiary of some inadequate goaltending at our opponents' end."

"So, with how tough it is to create offense at this time of year, in this league," he added, "I don't see us being able to score eight goals in a weekend. I see us having to win 3-2, 2-1 and the occasional 4-3 game. That's the way we're going to have to win."