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RPI's Goalies on Equal Footing

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 2, 2007

Last season, in his first year as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey coach, Seth Appert rotated starts for goalies Jordan Alford and Mathias Lange.

He was hoping that one of them would emerge as the Engineers' No. 1 starter. While both goalies looked good at times, neither was consistent enough to win the job.

Appert is rotating the duo again this season, and this time, Alford and Lange have been outstanding.

But as the ECAC Hockey season begins tonight at 7 when the 17th-ranked Engineers host Yale for the fifth annual Black Friday jersey night at Houston Field House, Appert isn't alternating starts to motivate his goalie tandem.

"So many people have asked that question that you've got to have one," Appert said. "I just don't agree with it. If one emerges, and one becomes the dominate goalie on our team and separates himself from his partner, then he'll play. But I don't subscribe to the theory that you have to have one goalie to win."

At Appert's previous job as a Denver University assistant coach, he witnessed how having two goalies were better than one during the regular season.

"In 2001-02, we rotated [Wade] Dubielewicz and [Adam] Berkhoel right through the regular season, and then we went to Dubielewicz in the playoffs," Appert said. "But the whole regular season, we rotated every other game. We won a WCHA [regular season] championship and a WCHA playoff championship, and went to the regional final that year."

"In 2004-05, we rotated [Glenn] Fisher and [Peter] Mannino every other game all the way through the NCAA regionals. Mannino then played both games in the Frozen Four, only because of who our opponent was [in the semifinal] and his success against Colorado College."

The way Alford and Lange are playing, Appert probably doesn't want to mess with the success they have achieved for the Engineers (5-2), winners of four straight games.

Alford, a senior, has three shutouts, all coming in games played in the Capital Region. He has two shutouts at Houston Field House, and one last Saturday against Colgate in the Governor's Cup fi nal, for which he was named the tournament's most outstanding player. He has a Capital Region shutout streak of 198 minutes, 42 seconds. The last goal he allowed in the area was by Yale's Patrick Brosnihan at 19:56 of the second period Feb. 24 of last season.

For the season, Alford is 3-1 with a sparkling 0.99 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage.

"'Langer' and I push each other in practice," Alford said. "It's a healthy competition."

Lange has a 2-1 record with a 2.34 GAA and a .929 save percentage. In his last start Oct. 19, Lange made 39 saves in a 3-1 win at Army. For that, he earned ECAC goalie of the week.

"If one emerges, we'll go to one," Alford said. "But I don't have any problem having some type of rotation, if they continue performing the way they're performing."

If the rotation stays the same, Lange should start tonight. But as all coaches do, Appert was unwilling to announce his starting goalie.

"I don't necessarily believe [the rotation] has to be Friday-Saturday," Appert said. "It might be one game each week for each goalie, but, to me, I'm not superstitious."

Appert said forward Matt Angers-Goulet, who was a healthy scratch against Colgate, may be watching from the stands again this weekend.

"We're deeper in the lineup than we were last year," Appert said. "We have more depth of talent. We expect our players to perform every day, in practice and in games, to the best of their abilities. We know they're not always going to have great games, but the intensity and the execution should be there. And if it's not, then there's a lot more players on our team this year than last year that can fi ght for that position."

DUTCHMEN HURTING

Four games into the regular season, and injuries are already taking a toll for Union. The Dutchmen (2-2) could be without two key players for their ECACH opener tonight at 7 against Brown at Messa Rink.

Forward Josh Coyle, who suffered a sprained knee in Union's season-opening 2-0 win over Ferris State Oct. 12, remains questionable. Coyle didn't play in last weekend's Governor's Cup.

Defenseman Brendan Milnamow suffered what Union coach Nate Leaman described as a "lower body injury" in last Saturday's 4-0 consolation game loss to St. Lawrence. Leaman said Milnamow is doubtful.

"It gives other guys opportunities," Leaman said. "There are some seasons that are worse than others. We've been kind of hampered early. We're just focusing on trying to get everyone healthy and to play at full strength."

One player who will return to the lineup is defenseman Lane Caffaro. He was a healthy scratch against the Saints. His major penalty for hitting from behind and game misconduct midway through the third period against RPI the previous night led to Leaman sitting him out.

If the Dutchmen want to win this weekend, they must improve on converting on their scoring opportunities. Too many times against RPI and St. Lawrence last weekend, Union either missed the net or shot pucks right into the goalies.

"We've been working on that in practice these past couple of days," team captain Matt Cook said. "We saw on tape that we got a ton of opportunities. We played pretty well over the weekend. This game's all about scoring goals. If you don't finish your chances, it comes back to bite you."