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Engineers Claim the Cup

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 28, 2007

ALBANY - The 2006 Governor's Cup looked so good in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's trophy case, the Engineers decided to keep it there.

It wasn't easy Saturday night, but the Engineers got first-period goals from Peter Merth and Andrei Uryadov and rode solid defensive-zone play and stellar goaltending from Jordan Alford to down Colgate, 2-0.

Merth's goal was his first as a collegian after 12 assists as RPI improved to 5-2-0 overall with its fourth straight victory and will likely be nationally-ranked come Monday.

Alford recorded his third shutout of the young season and dropped his nation-leading goals against average to under one goal per game at 0.99. He's stopped 107 of 111 shots - 96.4 percent.

"It was great team defense," Alford said. "They (teammates) just keep everything to the outside. The forwards came back (into the defensive zone) real hard tonight and the (defensemen) step up at the blue line and it's tough for a team when you meet them at the blue line."

And Engineers defensemen and backcheckers blocked 22 shots.

"That's 22 shots that don't hit the net and 22 shots I don't have to worry about," Alford said. "That just shows how dedicated the team is right now. As a team, we had two great team wins this weekend."

The Engineers beat the Raiders in the title game last year, 2-1, on Dan Peace's goal with 49 seconds remaining and drinking from Cup II is just as sweet, RPI players said.

"It feels good, always feels good to win a tournament championship," said Rensselaer captain Jake Morissette. "The guys worked real hard for this and it feels great."

"Yeah, great to win it again," said assistant captain Andrew Lord. "It was definitely an all-around win. Alf (Alford) played great, he's finally getting some of the credit he deserves and hopefully it's a stepping stone."

"Yeah, I think it definitely is," said junior left winger Kurt Colling. "This year we're going to follow it up with some good play instead of falling off."

Prior to last year's Governor's Cup, Rensselaer had not won a tournament championship since 2001. After last year's Cup title game, the Engineers beat Princeton and Merrimack and tied Quinnipiac, then won just two of their next 16 games (2-10-4).

Second-year RPI coach Seth Appert said he told the players after Saturday night's game, "while this should be celebrated, this cannot be the crowning achievement of our season. This is just a stepping stone for much loftier goals that we've set for ourselves."

"It's important for us to learn from that this year," Morissette said.

Seven minutes-plus into the game, RPI freshman Ben Contini forechecked the puck from a Colgate player, slid it down the left sideboards to Paul Kerins, who saw Merth breaking down the right slot.

The big defenseman skated a couple strides and buried the only goal the Engineers would need.

"We had a good net-drive by the forwards," Merth said. "Paul Kerins hit me late, had good traffic in front and I got a good shot off."

"It was nice to jump out to an early lead," Appert said. "We wanted to jump out and use our speed in the first period, get our forwards behind their defensemen. So, to get our defensemen to move the puck up the ice quickly was the key tonight. We didn't want to let (Colgate) set up any kind of a trap."

"Defensive zone was much better than (Friday) night," Appert said. "We protected our middle extremely well ... and we really made a team commitment, from our older players all the way down (to freshmen) ... to blocking shots and showing the kind of commitment you need to win those types of games."

Appert lauded the play of Alford and fellow goalie Mathias Lange, who beat Union on Friday night.

"Our offense has been sporadic," Appert said. "We had five freshmen forwards (and three freshmen defensemen) in that lineup tonight. We've created offense but we haven't always finished. But the cornerstone and backbone of our team has been those two goaltenders."

Late in the first period, Uryadov nudged the puck across the goal line after Colgate goaltender Mark Dekanich didn't realize it was sitting there.

"I was just driving the net and Chase (Polacek) threw it on net," Uryadov said. "I guess it hit my shin pad and it hit the goalie, I guess."

"It just sat right on the goal line and I looked at it," he said. "Nobody was playing it and I didn't hear the whistle, so I jumped over the goalie and put it in."

It was Uryadov's team-leading fourth goal.

The Engineers open ECAC Hockey play Friday night against Yale.