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Engineers Have to Be Patient Against Stingy Crimson

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 4, 2007

TROY - Ever since he was named Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach in the spring of 2006, Seth Appert has stressed that he wants the Engineers to play an up-tempo offensive game.

Sometimes, though, a coach needs to make adjustments. And with a stingy Harvard team coming to Houston Field House to face the Engineers in an ECAC Hockey contest tonight at 7, Appert and the Engineers will have to be more patient.

You see, the Crimson (5-2-1 ECACH, 6-2-1 overall), who are in second place in the league and ranked 13th in the country, have been tough to score against this season. They have allowed nine goals in ECACH play, and 10 goals overall for an average of 1.11 goals allowed per game. Those numbers are not only the best among the league teams, but they are also tops in the country.

The Crimson have shut out their opponents in half of their victories. The 19th-ranked Engineers (2-2-2, 7-5-3) were one of the victims, dropping a 3-0 decision at Harvard on Nov. 9. Goalie Kyle Richter stopped 28 shots in the game.

"It's not a matter of stopping them, it's a matter of scoring against them," Appert said before practice Monday. "I like the way they play. They're disciplined, they're strong, they're talented enough to score goals and create offense against you, but they don't give up a lot to do that."

The key to tonight is for the Engineers to score the game's first goal and make the Crimson change their style of play.

"They have three guys back most of the night," Appert said. "They play a very defensive-minded style of hockey, and they're not going to give you many odd-man rushes. They're going to block a lot of shots, and they have the best goalie in the league. So, when you combine those things together, it's very difficult to score against them.

"It's really important that we have a good start, and try to get the lead against them to take them out of their comfort zone and, hopefully, to force them to play catch up, which they haven't had to do much this year."

Richter, a sophomore, has been outstanding. His 1.10 goals-against average and .964 save percentage lead the nation. His three shutouts are tied for first in the league, and second in the country, with RPI's Jordan Alford and Clarkson's David Leggio.

Richter is coming off a 27-save performance in a 1-0 win Saturday over Dartmouth.

"He's played really well against us," RPI forward Kurt Colling said. "He shut out Union the same weekend. He's a great goalie. Hopefully, we can beat him a couple of times."

Harvard has dominated RPI over the last couple of years. The Crimson have won the last three meetings, and six of seven. RPI hasn't scored more than a goal against Harvard since pulling out a 3-2 victory Jan. 7, 2006, at Houston Field House.

"In the time I've been here, we're 0-for-3, and we've had trouble creating offense against them," Appert said. "We have to win and play a tight, physical, strong game against them. We're probably not going to score four or five. We need to win this game, 2-1 or 3-2, or even 1-0. We need to be committed to playing that way. Even though we want to be an offensive-minded team, sometimes, you play a team that's going to have three guys back against all you night and has, maybe, the best defensive corps in our league, you can't start getting ahead of yourself and taking too many chances, and leave yourself exposed in the back end. We don't want to get into a situation where we're down by one or two goals against them early in the game."

NOTEBOOK

RPI freshman defenseman John Kennedy will miss his seventh straight game because of a right hand injury. He hurt the hand in the Nov. 3 game against Brown. . . .

Tonight's game begins a stretch of four straight games against nationally ranked opponents. No. 1 Miami will visit RPI for two games Dec. 15-16. RPI will play second-ranked Colorado College on Dec. 29 in the Lightning Classic in Tampa, Fla. The next day, the Engineers will meet either No. 6 Notre Dame or No. 11 Massachusetts.