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Inconsistency Continues to Haunt RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 26, 2007

TROY - Inconsistency.

Seth Appert figured it would linger with his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team all season; right through the regular season, in fact.

It was painfully apparent over the final weekend, during a 6-5 victory over Brown and a most frustrating, 4-3 loss to Yale one night later.

The Engineers played with intensity, drive and focus on Friday night and the offense exploded with its biggest output of the season.

Saturday night, another winnable game, with home-ice for the opening round of the playoffs on the line, back came the inconsistency.

The RPI offense was unproductive early-on, especially on the power play.

Twice the Engineers had 5-on-3 power plays of about one minute, but couldn't produce a goal, although it must be added that Yale goalie Matt Modelski made two brilliant saves during one of them.

Rensselaer sophomore goalie Mathias Lange gave up two soft goals, but by the time the Engineers stepped up their play to overcome the deficit, they trailed 3-1, then 4-1. Yale's second and third goals, against Jordan Alford, both came after the Engineers had chances to clear the puck from their own zone.

That inconsistency is partly built in to the fact that the Engineers are not a strong offensive team and partly because the defensive corps is not as experienced as most other ECAC Hockey League teams.

To be sure, while Lange and junior goalie Alford were both brilliant at times this season, they've each been a big part of the team's inconsistency.

So poor has been their play at times, not only have their goals against average and saves percentage numbers been less than mediocre, they've hampered the Engineers' efforts to put wins together.

The Engineers won two consecutive games just twice this season - one of which was the Yale-Brown road weekend.

Appert spoke of the goaltending, which he didn't expect to be so inconsistent this long.

"It's disheartening on the bench," Appert said. "There is nothing wrong with giving up goals, but it's the type of goals that is the difference between how it affects teams."

Alford had been outstanding in the Engineers' 2-1 victory at Yale on Jan. 26. He kept the puck out of the net during a 38-second period when the Bulldogs had a 6-on-3 (extra attacker) power play.

"Yeah, we did," he said. "That had crossed our minds. (But) Mathias had had two good games in a row, had been playing real well of late and he got the win last (Friday) night and so you want to give him the opportunity to see if he can get on a little run."

"Obviously, in hindsight," Appert added, "it didn't work out."

Not overly concerned: Appert was asked if the goaltending situation has him overly worried as the ECACHL playoffs loom. The ninth-seeded Engineers are certainly capable of beating No. 8 Colgate but only if the goaltending is sound.

"No, I'm not," he said. "I have the utmost confidence in Mathias and Jordan. The one thing I really like about both these young men all year is how they've responded to adversity; personally having a poor game, or maybe the team not giving them the (adequate) defense, and how they've responded in that outing, has been impressive by both young men."

"So, I have real strong confidence in both guys that they're going to get the job done next week."

Great series ahead?: It would be hard to argue that RPI's season series with Colgate was not the most tense, exciting series on the schedule.

Sure, the Engineers played two one-goal games with both Yale and Brown, played a pair of ties with Quinnipiac, during one of which Rensselaer rallied with a trio of third-period goals.

Colgate-RPI, though, was special.

Three one-goal games.

One was decided with 43 seconds remaining and earned the Engineers the championship of the first Governor's Cup Tournament.

Another RPI victory came in overtime on Matt Angers-Goulet's thrilling goal which came on an outstanding individual effort.

Colgate's 3-2 victory - as painful as most incurred by the Engineers - came when the Raiders got the game-tying and game-winning goals by Marc Fulton and Jesse Winchester which came during an extended 5-on-3 power play that lasted for over 2:40.

"We've had great matchups with Colgate this year," Appert said late Saturday night. "All three games went right down to the wire. One we won in the last ... minute, one we (won in) overtime, one they won, 3-2. It's just been really good hockey against them, so we're excited to maybe have another series like that."

Indeed. If this playoff series can even come close to matching the regular-season battles, Engineers and Raiders fans should be in for a treat.

No chance: So, the Engineers will again, for a third straight season, not be able to win a postseason series on home ice.

The seventh-seeded Engineers lost two games to none to No. 10 Quinnipiac last season and in 2005, as the 11th seed, opened the playoffs at No. 6 Brown.

Rensselaer senior captains Kirk MacDonald and Kevin Broad both expressed deep disappointment at not being able to give RPI fans something to cheer about in the postseason without travel involved.

"They deserve it," Broad said.

There's always the league semis at Albany; the Engineers will have to get past Colgate, then probably have to upset top seed St. Lawrence, or No. 2 Clarkson, to earn a trip to the semis.

The last time the Engineers won a playoff series was during the 2004 preliminary round, beating Princeton in two games.

Classy: Appert showed some class Saturday night, playing senior winger and frequent healthy scratch Tommy Green, who showed so much promise as a freshman.

Green scored six goals with two assists in 22 games that season but was never able to establish himself as a regular. He totaled just four points (3-1-4) during his entire sophomore and junior seasons combined and prior to Saturday, had just one assist this season.

In what could have been his last college game Saturday, Green scored a goal and assisted on another. Yet, he wore that 'game-we-should-have-won' look of defeat just as visibly as any of the regulars.

Likewise classy.