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RPI's 60-minute Effort Topples Harvard, 4-2

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 5, 2007

TROY - What a way to begin the toughest stretch of the schedule!

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute put together a solid 60-minute effort on Tuesday night, shook off the fact that none of their half-dozen Grade A scoring chances in the first period found the net and posted a 4-2 ECAC Hockey victory over 13th-ranked Harvard.

Chase Polacek, Jake Morissette and Jonathan Ornelas each scored one goal and assisted on another for the 19th-ranked Engineers, while freshman Tyler Helfrich and Andrei Uryadov both assisted twice as RPI enjoyed it best offensive home game of the season.

Uryadov has scored in six straight games.

Rensselaer coach Seth Appert termed the victory "our best effort of the season so far."

"They have a great defensive team and they're extremely well-coached," he said of the Crimson.

The Engineers' next three games are against No. 1-ranked Miami (two) and No. 2 Colorado College.

"It's a great way to go into a very tough stretch of games and for our last league game in over a month," Appert said.

The victory, from the games played standpoint at least, shot the Engineers (8-5-3 overall) from seventh place to fourth in ECAC Hockey with their 3-2-2 record. Princeton and Quinnipiac also have eight points but RPI has one game at hand on both those teams.

Rensselaer does not play another league game until Jan. 11.

The game was moved from Feb. 9 to Tuesday night to prevent Harvard from playing three games in four nights prior to their Beanpot Tournament opener against Northeastern on Feb. 11.

The schedule move is a hassle each season for the Crimson. Rensselaer's third goal by Morissette resulted from a Harvard turnover and the Crimson could have done a better job of tying up RPI sticks in front of the net but Harvard certainly didn't mail this one in by any means.

They played well but simply couldn't match the 60-minute fire the Engineers brought to them.

"We challenged our players to fight for their ice, that's how we phrased it," Appert said. "To fight for every inch out there, to win puck battles by gaining body position, to move their feet and jump cycles defensively so we didn't spend as much time in our defensive zone."

"And most importantly, to fight to get in front of their net, not to pull up on the short (side) post, to fight to get their nose across the front of the net."

Second-place Harvard dropped to 5-3-1, 6-3-1.

With Harvard buzzing for the tying goal midway through the third period, Morissette was rewarded for his tenacious puck-battling behind the Harvard net. The puck popped to him for an instant and he slid it over to Uryadov, also behind the net. The big Russian found Ornelas coming down the slot and put the puck right on his stick.

"Great pass by Russia, great play by Mo behind the net" Ornelas said, who took a shot in the leg a couple shifts earlier and wore an ice bag after the game.

"I'll take a hobbled leg for a goal any time," Ornelas added.

The Engineers had blown a 2-0 third-period lead in a 2-2 tie with Brown and a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 loss to Notre Dame. Appert said Tuesday night was the best they've played with the lead all season, even though Harvard outshot them 14-8 in the third period, and pulled within 3-2 on Dave Watters' goal just 25 seconds into the period.

"They didn't penetrate, though, we protected our middle well and Mathias was outstanding all night long," Appert said. "And I liked how aggressive we stayed, we stayed physical, we tried to make plays still. We wanted to create offense and put the game away, rather than just hang on."

In the first period, Paul Kerins hit the left elbow of the goalpost from the left circle and Harvard goalie Kyle Richter, the nation's leader, deflected the puck off his stick as he skated across the slot.

Polacek and Helfrich saw fine chances go off Richter's pads and stick and many fans thought Matt Angers-Goulet's backhander went in and jumped out but the goal judge didn't agree.

After all the chances, RPI trailed after Mike Biega's power play goal with 1:59 remaining.

Their intensity never wavered.

"That's what I like seeing from our young men lately," Appert said. "We were down two (twice) on the road and Princeton, we came back and won. We were down at Quinnipiac a couple times (three) we came back and should have won (3-2 loss). Tonight we get down (1-0) against a team we've had trouble scoring against. We're showing good resiliency and good belief in how we want to play."

Christian Jensen fired a blast from the point on which a player from both teams screened Richter - who never moved - to tie the game 1-1 at 18:21 of the first.

Polacek scored from close range for a 2-1 lead at 7:56 of the second period and Morissette took Uryadov's feed after a turnover and fired one past Richter at 13:29.