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Struggling Engineers Blanked by Colgate

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 13, 2008

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey fans thought Saturday night's 4-0 loss to Colgate looked familiar.

Little wonder. The defeat was a carbon copy of Friday night's 2-1 setback to Cornell, for much of two periods, anyway. In both games, the Engineers came out fired up, dominated the first period but left the ice with a scoreless tie, then gave up two second-period goals on poor offense-to-defense transition.

In both games, the anemic, slump-ridden offense simply couldn't handle the mountainous, two-goal hill, and the Engineers' losing streak reached seven games. The two losses sent RPI crashing from a tie for fifth place in ECAC Hockey to a tie for seventh, eighth percentage-wise. They are 3-4-2 in league play, 8-12-3 overall and mired in not only their losing streak but an offensive drought, as well.

Rensselaer has scored, excluding a 5-on-3 goal, just seven goals among its past six games.

"It's disappointing," RPI coach Seth Appert. "We came out, played a great first period, continued to dominate the play, much of the first-half of the second period. I think (the game) had the feel that whomever got the first goal was going to get a little confidence boost."

Colgate got the first goal, their first of two shorthanded tallies, and RPI's confidence was sent crashing.

Rensselaer goalie Mathias Lange had stopped a shorthanded breakaway by Tom Riley with five RPI forwards on the ice for a power play.

Then with two defensemen on the ice, the Engineers gave up a 2-on-1 breakout and defenseman Mark Anderson took a pass from Mark Williams and flipped it past Lange at 6:49 of the second.

Appert said the Engineers, pressing as the losses and offensive frustrations mount up, panicked.

"They had turned it over to us and we had a backside one-timer that was open and we panicked and we threw the puck away," he said. "Then we panicked again and rushed to the puck instead of playing the 2-on-1 properly. You can't compound one mistake with a second one. You need to be calm, let Mathias handle the (2-on-1) shot and take care of the back door."

The Engineers were all over the Red Raiders (2-4-2, 8-9-3) in the first period, creating continuous scoring chances and outshooting Colgate, 12-3.

Freshman winger Ben Contini fired one from mid-range on which Colgate goalie Mark Dekanich made a stick save, deflecting it off the left goalpost just 4:20 into the game.

"It was a pretty good chance," Contini said. "I'd have liked for that one to go in. It would have changed the game, I think, if it had gone in."

Tip-in chances went wide, however, another (by Jon Ornelas) lay in the crease for seconds before a Colgate defender was able to clear it, as no Engineer could get there first.

Jake Morissette couldn't lift the puck over a prone Colgate goalie Mark Dekanich, standing four feet in front of him, and Morissette's backhand-to-backhand pass to Matt Angers-Goulet on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break couldn't be handled.

"Yeah, it was bouncing," Angers-Goulet said of the pass. "I saw it at the last second and I tried to kick it to my stick but I couldn't."

And Dekanich had made a nice stick save on a mid-range bid by Ben Contini. The big difference between Saturday night's defeat and the Cornell game, was that the Engineers didn't continue to play well after falling behind as they had done on Friday night.

They were sloppy, tight and mistake-prone, giving the puck away and not handling it well when in control.

Anderson jumped into the play and was left wide open for a one-timer in the mid-slot in the third period and later, Ethan Cox's shorthanded goal came after a giveaway on which Cox wrestled the puck back after being stick-checked and banged it into the net off an RPI stick.

Checking-liner Dustin Gillanders scored the Raiders' other goal, the sixth of his career in 112 games.

"When you're in a funk scoring, you're not putting a lot of pucks in the net, it puts so much pressure on your defensemen. They feel like they can't make a mistake, so they start tightening up. You put pressure on your goaltender, so he can't make a mistake."

"When you're scoring three or four a night," Appert said, "everybody's looser because they don't feel that one play (mistake) can be the difference in the game."

"And when you're struggling to score," Appert added, "your mistakes get compounded."