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Engineers Hope to Build on Tourney Showing

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 15, 2007

TROY - After three games, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has permitted all of one equal-strength goal.

The bad news?

The Engineers have been dominated on special-teams play.

Rensselaer has led or been tied entering the third period in all three of its games. The bad news?

Twice, against both Minnesota and Boston College, the Engineers paraded to the penalty box during the third period and surrendered three power-play goals in both games - a 4-3 first-round loss to the Golden Gophers, a 4-1 consolation-game defeat to the Eagles.

Though the Engineers aren't happy with their fourth-place finish in the Ice-Breaker Invitational Tournament, the fact that they played well in both games is certainly a plus for a team that won only six of its final 28 games (6-17-5).

Second-year RPI coach Seth Appert reiterated that the close game against Minnesota represented "no moral victory" he said his young team "can learn from the things we did well, and also from the breakdowns in decision-making and mental mistakes. We need to be mentally stronger for the full 60 minutes."

Appert, when asked what he would have thought if he'd known that his team would allow a total of just one equal-strength goal against Minnesota and BC.

"Their power plays," Appert said of both teams' units.

Indeed, the Engineers simply couldn't continue to kill penalties at the rates they needed to prevail in either game. Minnesota's three power-play goals came within 14:17 of one another, BC's within less than eight minutes.

At first glance of summaries of the two games, it seems that RPI's two third periods were quite similar.

The Engineers were whistled for repeated penalties, they surrendered three power-play goals in each, seeing each game turned around. The constant penalties cost them a strong chance at victory against Minnesota and at least a shot at a win vs. BC.

Appert said in reality, though, the two periods were not similar.

"No, not very similar at all," he said. "Friday night we played very well and just physically weren't in position to make the plays we needed to make. (Saturday night), mentally, we made some mistakes that led to some mentally lazy penalties and against a team like Boston College, you can't get away with that."

"We need to be more mentally disciplined," Appert said.

Also, while a couple of Friday night's penalties whistled on the Engineers were more than questionable, Saturday night they could blame only themselves. Several penalties, including one after which the Eagles scored, were well behind the play.

Appert was livid with several calls in Friday night's game but did not translate those feelings in postgame comments.

"We didn't expect to come out here and get any favorable calls from WCHA officials," he said.

Even a number of Minnesota fans expressed surprise that Andrew Lord's checking from behind penalty at 15:31 of the third period - with the score tied 3-3 - was ruled a major.

The Engineers killed the first two minutes of the ensuing power play - the first 3:18 to be exact - before Kyle Okposo's game-winning goal at 18:49.

Did Engineers wear down?: Rensselaer opened its season on Tuesday night, hopped on a plane early Thursday morning, flew 1,500 miles and played Friday night.

The Engineers had no exhibition game scheduled this year and Appert certainly didn't want to go play Minnesota on the road with no prior game and didn't want to play Bentley (or anyone) last weekend with only one coach-conducted practice.

So, the Engineers hosted Bentley on Tuesday night.

Did that tight schedule wear them down in those crucial third periods, Appert was asked.

"I don't think it did (Friday) night," he said. Tuesday night (the 4-0 victory over Bentley) prepared us for Friday and we dominated that game for two periods."

"Tonight (Saturday)," he said after the BC game, "maybe it did, that's possible. But we knew we were going to run into some physical play against some very highly-skilled teams."

Power play will improve: It was expected that the RPI power play would take some time to build some efficiency, especially with two of the first three opponents being Minnesota and BC or Michigan.

The first unit is all brand new, the second unit mostly different, no matter how Appert aligns them, and thus far, no clear No. 1 unit has been set.

However, the RPI power play has produced just one goal in 16 tries.

The puck movement has been all right but the Engineers need to get the puck to the net.

Both goaltenders sharp: Appert was more than pleased with the play of both RPI goaltenders, senior Jordan Alford (vs. Boston College) and junior Mathias Lange (vs. Minnesota). "They were both excellent," Appert said. "Both played well enough to win, both of them gave us a chance to win in the period. Against Minnesota, Mathias was real strong. Jordan at times bordered on spectacular."

"At the same time, I think he (Alford) may want two of them back, when he got caught cheating on the pass a little bit."

As poor as RPI's defense was last season, neither Lange nor Alford had a strong season. Both must improve dramatically for the Engineers to enjoy success this year.

Next week: The Engineers will try to extend their winning streak against Army to 11 games on Friday night at West Point, then Bear Trapp and the Sacred Heart Pioneers visit Houston Field House on Saturday night.