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Engineers Hope to Become a Contender

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 3, 2007

TROY - Seth Appert says his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team is "getting close to being a very good team."

The Engineers split a pair of one-goal decisions over the weekend, which is a pretty normal venture for decent ECAC Hockey teams. A decent team is what the Engineers are these days.

Appert hopes, and maybe even expects, that as the many sophomores and freshmen on the team gain more experience as the season wears on, the Engineers can graduate from a decent team to an ECACH title contender.

Rensselaer twice trailed by two goals on Friday night but rallied back to post a 4-3 victory over Princeton, only their second win in seven games (2-2-3).

In that game, it's safe to say they played just poorly enough to lose but nonetheless prevailed. On Saturday night, stating Rensselaer played just well enough to win would be accurate but they left Quinnipiac with a frustrating, 3-2 defeat.

A shorthanded goal by Seth Klerer near the end of the second tied the game 2-2 and gave the Engineers momentum into the final stanza.

"Third period tied, on the road, is where you want to be," Appert said. "We had chances. They made a play on the power play (55 seconds into the third period). We made a lot of plays, they just didn't end up in the back of the net."

That Quinnipiac power play resulted from a faceoff interference penalty charged to Rensselaer's center Andrew Lord with 23 seconds remaining in the second perid.

That call caught Appert's ire.

"I thought there was a lot of faceoff interference tonight, and I wondered why he called that particular one." Appert said of referee Eric Ernst. Just 55 seconds into the final period, Quinnipiac defenseman Zach Hansen rifled one in from the point, a go-ahead goal on which RPI goaltender Jordan Alford was partially screened.

Even though the gutty Engineers totally controlled the next 19 minutes without being able to notch an equalizing goal, Appert said the call "had no bearing on the outcome of the game."

"The refs have a tough job and they're out there calling the game as they see it," Appert said. "I thought he (Ernst) did a fine job tonight."

"They threw one to the net and it found its way home," Appert said of Hansen's game-winner. "We had a lot of good looks and we couldn't finish, or you have to give credit to their goaltender (Peter Vetri)."

The Engineers outshot the Bobcats 16-2 after Hansen's goal but Kurt Colling and Jonathan Ornelas saw Vetri get a pad on their short-range bids and Tyler Helfrich shot wide while Vetri was still moving.

"Credit to their goaltender and their team for holding on for the win," Appert said. "It's frustrating, but we're getting closer to being a real good team and we have to continue to inch closer every game."

Strong finishes: Third periods have been a dread for Rensselaer this season. The Engineers have been outscored 15-5 during third periods.

They were dominated over the final 20 minutes by Boston College, Harvard, Brown and Notre Dame.

The Engineers had a chance to win in the losses to BC and Harvard, should have beaten Brown, flatly, in a 2-2 tie and certainly could have beaten ND.

"Our guys played aggressive and they played to win in that third period, that's what I like to see," Appert said. "It's easier to do that when you're down. It's easier to play for broke when you're behind. But I like what I saw in the third from our team but at the same time, we need to learn to play like that when it's tied, we need to learn to play like that when we have a one- or two-goal lead, so we can have a chance to put teams away."

Slow starts: The Engineers have had many of late. Against Princeton, they were mistake-prone early.

Then on Saturday night, they looked as if they'd bused from Chicago to the New Haven area, rather than from Princeton, N.J.

Except for the Notre Dame game (RPI led 3-0 in a 4-3 lead), assistant captain Ornelas says the Engineers "aren't coming out with much fire. We're getting close to (playing) for 60 minutes but we have to get that taken care of."

Some power plays wasted: With the well-chronicled lack of success Rensselaer has endured on the power play this season, it's easy to say it's not much of a factor but the Engineers have given away a lot of power play time lately. They do so by taking foolish penalties while on the power play. Lord took a tripping penalty three seconds into a power play late in the first period Saturday night.

Kurt Colling was called for a slash 27 seconds into another RPI power play at a crucial time - 14:19 - of the third period.

Against Notre Dame, Matt Angers-Goulet took a holding penalty with the Engineers in possession of the puck in the offensive zone just eight seconds into an ND penalty.

Later, the Fighting Irish's Brett Blatchford took an interference penalty with 17 seconds remaining in the first period but nine seconds into the second stanza that power play was cancelled when RPI's Bryan Brutlag was whistled for interference.

Kennedy still ailing: A confusing situation involving injured freshman defenseman John Kennedy developed Thursday afternoon.

Kennedy was seen heading toward the team bus and several other players told different media outlets that it was hoped Kennedy, who's one of RPI's more effective body-checkers, could return to the lineup.

In reality, Kennedy was merely seeing his teammates off and did not make the road trip.

He's now missed six games with a lingering wrist injury and is, at this point, still doubtful for tomorrow night's game with Harvard.

"It's still hard for me to grip the stick," Kennedy said last week.

Malchuk out: Freshman center Joel Malchuk suffered a knee injury on Friday night at Princeton and was on crutches at Quinnipiac.

It's likely he'll be out at least until after the holidays, perhaps longer.