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RPI in Need of a Win

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 10, 2008

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hasn't won a hockey game in more than five weeks. In fact some of the players had to stop and think Thursday when the last time was, before recalling the 4-2 decision over Harvard on Dec. 4 was the last time the Engineers tasted victory.

The Engineers have been humbled by some of college hockey's best teams among their 10 losses overall and during their current five-game losing streak.

Second-year head coach Seth Appert wanted the brutal non-league schedule to help RPI "be the best team we can be.

With the many blown leads, mounting losses and third-period dominance of the opposition, though, the Engineers' confidence level may be hanging in the balance as they return to ECAC Hockey play tonight against Cornell.

"I don't know," Appert said matter-of-factly in reference to where the Engineers' confidence may be. "We'll find out (tonight)."

The 8-10-3 Engineers, at 3-2-2, share sixth place in the league with the 4-2-0 Big Red, though Cornell's record is the league's second-best (to 6-2-0) Clarkson percentage-wise.

Colgate (1-3-2, 7-8-3) comes to Houston Field House on Saturday night.

Appert commented on the demanding non-league slate.

"We played those teams to expose problem areas on our team," he said. "And I wanted this rough schedule to help us be as good as we can be, to help us for the league schedule but there's the other side of that; what have they (the repeated losses) done to the team's confidence. It's a delicate balance."

By the looks on his face, Rensselaer captain Jake Morissette took some of the losses - the 3-0 blown lead to Notre Dame, the 2-0, third-period blown lead to Colorado College - in almost devastating fashion.

Yet the senior forward said, "I'm really confident in our team. We did play a very difficult non-league schedule and we didn't get the results we were looking for but we did learn a lot from those games."

Assistant captain Andrew Lord says the team's confidence "is fine.

"Obviously," Lord said, "we played a bunch of great teams and didn't win much. We all know you go through tough stretches in any season but I think we have the people to overcome it."

Each team leader was asked if he could be confident, entering the third period of a tie game, that the Engineers - outscored 31-7 during the third period this season, could go out against Cornell, Clarkson, Quinnipiac, and take control of the game.

"Well, we haven't shown yet that we're able to do it," he admitted, "but we have to continue to stay focused and put ourselves in position to win. I'm still confident we can do that."

"We've definitely had some bumps in the road (during) the third," Lord sad. "But we have made strides in that regard. Like against Colorado College, we lost but we stayed aggressive, we just missed on a lot of (scoring) chances."

Appert had questioned the leadership of the team's upperclassmen in last week's dismal 4-2 loss at Maine but said the Engineers "have put that behind us."

Still, it was a raspy-throated Appert who was imploring his players "to be a man" and play with "passion and desire" during Thursday's practice.

"We have to play that way," Appert said. "We have to play our best or near our best to be successful. We're not skilled enough to not play our best and win."

Cornell, a young team with just four seniors, has been inconsistent this season and didn't win a non-conference game until sweeping two from Niagara last week. The Big Red have not finished worse than fourth in the ECAC since 1998-99.

Colgate, at times, has struggled to score goals even more than has RPI.

During one six-game skein in which they went 1-4-1, the Raiders totaled just six goals, being blanked by both RPI (Jordan Alford) in the Governor's Cup championship game and by Princeton. They are 4-2-2 over their past eight games, however.

Six of RPI's next nine games are at home and five of them are against teams behind them in the standings.

"We have an opportunity to make a significant move," Appert said.