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Home Ice Goal for RPI

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 23, 2007

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Seth Appert won't be concerned about the out-of-town games in the ECACHL this weekend. The only scores that matter to Appert are the ones involving his Engineers against Brown tonight at 7 and Yale at 7 p.m. Saturday at Houston Field House.

With home ice still at stake in the final weekend of the regular season, the ninth-place Engineers (5-10-5 ECACHL, 9-15-8 overall) must take care of their own situation and not get caught up in what is happening with the three teams ahead of them. RPI needs three points this weekend and some help to earn a second straight home-ice berth in the first round of the ECACHL tournament next weekend. Lose once, and RPI will be on the road.

The Engineers are two points behind Colgate for the last homeice berth, and trail Harvard and Princeton, who are tied for sixth, by three points. The highest RPI can finish is sixth.

The schedule does work in RPI's favor. Colgate plays at Harvard tonight and at fifth-place Dartmouth, which is still in the hunt for a firstround bye, on Saturday. Princeton is home, but it hosts second-place Clarkson tonight and league-leading St. Lawrence on Saturday.

Colgate, picked to win the league this season, is 2-5 in its last seven games, and was swept at home last weekend by Quinnipiac and Princeton. Harvard lost at Yale and tied Brown last weekend. Princeton, which lost at Cornell last Saturday, won at Clarkson earlier this season.

RPI swept the Brown-Yale trip last month. The Engineers got a 2-1 win at Yale on Jan. 26, and a 4-3 victory at Brown the next night.

"We're not going to worry about the help, we're going to focus on two points first, and try and get the win [tonight] and then get focused for the next two points on Saturday," Appert said. "If we can put two strong efforts in with two wins, we'll let the chips fall where they may. If the help comes and we get home ice, great. If it doesn't, we've played well on the road this year, and we'll go on the road and try to win a series that way."

When it was suggested to Appert that the first thing he would do after tonight's game is check on the Colgate-Harvard contest, he said that wouldn't be the case.

"We really can't control that," Appert said. "We're not rooting for anybody. We might have matched up better against a particular team in January, but that doesn't mean you're going to match up better against them in March."

The chance at home ice should serve as motivation for RPI's six seniors. Forwards Kevin Broad, Oren Eizenman, Tommy Green and Kirk MacDonald, and defensemen Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson are playing their final regular-season home games.

Playing one more weekend at home would be a capper to their careers.

"We'd like to be home two weekends," said MacDonald, who is one point away from 100 for his career. "We know the job at hand. If we can come out and get two wins, everything else will just take care of itself. We can't worry about what everybody else is doing."

UNION HOSTS YALE

Union seniors Olivier Bouchard and Sean Streich have always been home the first weekend in March for the playoffs in their first three years at the school.

But when the Dutchmen (6-13-1, 13-16-3) host Yale (7-12-1, 10-14-3) tonight at 7 and Brown at 7 p.m. Saturday, the seniors will be playing on the Messa Rink ice surface for the final time in their careers.

The last-place Dutchmen's aspirations of another home-ice appearance ended with last weekend's losses at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Now, the best Union can hope for is a ninth-place finish. It is two points behind RPI and Yale, and one in back of 11th-place Brown.

Since the ECACHL started having all 12 of its teams make the tournament in 2003, the Dutchmen have had home-ice advantage. But they lost all four times, including last year to Yale, which included the NCAA men's record five-overtime game.

Union hasn't been on the road for the playoffs since 2001, when it lost at St. Lawrence.

"It will feel a little different," said Bouchard, who has 85 points in 142 career games. "At the same time, we'll take it. We want it to be different."

Streich, a two-year team captain, has anchored the defense. He has played in 141 career games.

"I guess it will feel weird," Streich said. "Obviously, we wanted home-ice advantage. That's not going to happen. But there's still a lot on the line this weekend. Both these games are huge games because there's still a lot of movement that can happen in the standings."

WOMEN'S PLAYOFFS

The RPI women's team faces Dartmouth in Game 1 of the best-ofthree ECACHL tournament quarterfinals today at 4 p.m. at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H.