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Appert Rates Harvard Victory As His Biggest As Engineer Coach

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 7, 2007

TROY - After a day of reflection on Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over Harvard, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach Seth Appert still believes that triumph "is the biggest one of our year and a half here."

Bigger even than the 2-1 victory over Denver University in a homecoming game for Appert, a longtime Denver assistant coach?

"Oh yeah," Appert said Wednesday. "It was nice to win at Denver, sure. But that was more personal, for me. This (Harvard) was bigger for the guys."

And Appert pointed out that while the Denver victory, as satisfying as it was, it was still "a non-conference game."

"(Harvard) was a league game against a team that had beaten us up the last three times we played them. And it was against one of the best defensive teams in the country. We could have won just about all of the (five) games we've lost and some of those losses could have been demoralizing to a team that is still struggling to learn how to win."

"In that regard, I think it's the biggest," he added. Also, Appert affirmed that this was the best game the Engineers have played this season.

"I do," he said. "There were times where we played as hard, but not as smart, or played as hard but our skilled execution wasn't as good. So, with all three of those factors, I think this was our best effort."

Jake Morissette and Jonathan Ornelas each had one goal and one assist for the Engineers, Christian Jensen scored his first goal of the season and freshman Chase Polacek notched his fourth.

Appert said watching the tape of the game on Wednesday was fun.

"It was," he said. "We did a lot of things well. You know, you're never really as good as you look and you're never as bad as you look. Sometimes, the (tape) can be as humbling as it can be refreshing."

Playing the rugged non-league schedule the Engineers have - it gets even tougher next week - has begun to pay off, Appert says.

"You become better (having been) challenged by those types of teams (Minnesota, Boston College, Notre Dame) in these types of situations in big games. You start to realize that if you can handle those types of teams, you can handle a lot of things. We're getting better at being mature and playing aggressive in those tough situations."

New breed: The Engineers certainly needed mental toughness after dominating the first period but failing to score for over 18 minutes, despite repeated excellent chances.

Then Harvard score's on a power-play, goalmouth tip-in rebound by freshman Mike Biega with 1:59 remaining in the period.

Even though they get the equalizer on Jensen's long shot that Harvard goalie Kyle Richter never saw, the Engineers still felt frustrated to leave the ice without the lead.

The best scoring chance among the many the Engineers' half-dozen golden opportunities actually went in, according to many fans near the Harvard goal.

With seven minutes remaining in the first period, Matt Angers-Goulet moved around a defender and down the right slot, moved in front and fired one that may have gone in and quickly back out.

Referee Dan Murphy, behind the play, immediately blew the whistle and conferred with the goal judge. Second later, he signaled no goal.

"I'm pretty sure it went in," said Paul Kerins, Angers-Goulet's linemate. "I was in pretty good position to see it."

Television slow-motion replays indicated the puck did cross the goal line.

The Engineers had buzzed the Harvard net repeatedly earlier in the period.

With 13:48 remaining in the period, Kerins, with time, sized up Richter from the left corner and banged a wrist shot off the left elbow of the goalpost.

One half-minute later, Kerins skated in from the right side and as he attempted to chip one over the nation's leading goaltender, Richter deflected the puck off Kerins' stick.

One minute later, Polacek stole the puck along the right wall, came in alone on Richter and chipped one high off his pads.

Tyler Helfrich weaved his way through several Crimson players with 8:42 remaining and wristed one that was headed in, top shelf, but Richter, reached high to stick it aside.

Previous RPI teams would have been in big trouble, psychologically, leaving the ice without the lead after having so many chances.

The Engineers merely came out and took it to the Crimson in the second period.

How did they prevent frustration from overcoming them, Kerins was asked.

"We weren't worried, we were excited about the chances we were getting and anxious to get more," Kerins said. "When we got the one, we were confident and it felt good to get a couple in the second period but the first period was the beginning of what was coming."

"We just stayed focused; nobody panicked," said RPI captain Jake Morissette.

Kennedy update: Rensselaer fans are getting impatient for the return of freshman defenseman John Kennedy, who's nursing a wrist injury and who's one of the team's more physical players. Those fans will have to either wait 3-4 weeks longer, travel 1400 miles to see Kennedy's return, or a combination thereof.

The impressive freshman will likely miss the big games against No. 1-ranked Miami University Dec. 15-16.

Appert has said for weeks that if it were the playoffs, or "the last couple weeks of the season, he could play."

"But we need to get him healthy," Appert said. "He could play but it he does, then he'd get further behind in the healing process and he wouldn't get healthy."

Kennedy has said he has such trouble gripping his stick that he might not be comfortable on the ice.

At practice, he's been doing only skating and conditioning drills, no skilled drills as well as no conduct. He's worn a cast on the injured wrist.

"It hasn't improved," Appert said, adding that "we're hopeful for Tampa Bay."

The Engineers play 2nd-ranked Colorado College, then either No. 6 Notre Dame or No. 11 UMass in the Lightning Classic at St. Petersburg, Dec. 29-30.

NOTES: Angers-Goulet's brother Alexandre, who'll join the program next season, was a guest of the Engineers on Tuesday night. ... Andrei Uryadov's two assists extended his scoring streak to six games.