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Power Play Woes Continue for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 16, 2008

Earlier this season, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute followers complained that the team's abject failure on the power play would begin to cost Engineers games.

Second-year head coach Seth Appert agrees that it has done so.

"If our power play were just at 15, 16 percent, which is just an adequate power play, we'd probably have four more wins," Appert said Tuesday night.

Sadly, the 8-12-3 Engineers' power-play efficiency is a paltry 6.3 percent - just seven goals in 111 chances.

It certainly would be difficult to argue that the power-play futility didn't cost RPI two points in last week's 2-1 loss to Cornell. And though they wound up losing 4-0 to Colgate one night later, early power-play failures hurt the Engineers in that game, too. Rensselaer was 0-of-10 on power plays during the weekend.

The Engineers matched the bigger, more physical Big Red hit-for-hit and they held Cornell to just 13 shots on goal.

On four power play attempts, however, the Engineers didn't produce anything resembling a scoring chance.

Over the first 10-11 minutes of the game, Rensselaer dominated the game, created outstanding scoring chances, none of which was successful.

On a pair of power plays later in the period, though, which totaled nearly four minutes, they didn't come close to scoring.

That hurt them later, to be sure.

The Big Red scored on two of their seven second-period shots, the Engineers could answer only one of them and lost the game despite outshooting Cornell, 30-13.

The next night against Colgate, the RPI power play nearly scored on a couple occasions during its first opportunity midway through the first period.

"And in the second period, we had good looks," Appert said. "Both Jake (Morissette) and Andrei (Uryadov) had wide-open looks and didn't score."

Later in the Colgate game, the Engineers broke out of their zone with a 4-on-2 but couldn't even get off a pass, let alone a shot.

Two of RPI's seven goals came on extended 5-on-3 power plays. When two-man advantages are excluded from the power play stats, RPI is even more woeful - under 4 percent on 5-of-103.

Rensselaer is not a high-scoring team to begin with, isn't blessed with highly-skilled goal-scorers.

"And a lot of it is inexperience," Appert said. "We don't have a lot of guys with much experience being on a power play, let alone running one. And right now, we don't have a true power play quarterback. Bryan (freshman Bryan Brutlag) is going to be ... right now, we don't have that."

The Engineers, perhaps more than any other ECAC Hockey team, need the power play to help out with production.

Rensselaer is allowing just 2.67 goals per ECACH game but has won just three of nine (3-4-2).

They've scored only 21 goals, though - an average of 2.33 - and seven of those came in one game, a 7-4 victory at Dartmouth.

Over the remaining eight league games, RPI scores at just a 1.75 goals-per-game norm. That won’t cut it at any level of hockey.

I know what you're thinking, the question you want to ask.

'What is RPI's power-play efficiency in ECAC games?'

It's 1-for-32. That's 3.1 percent.

Jonathan Ornelas' goal with one second remaining in the second period, a game-winner in a 4-3 victory at Princeton on Nov. 30, came on a power play.

That's it for RPI production in 32 chances among its nine league games.

How different things were for the Engineers back then?

While the power play was struggling at 4-of-66 (6.0 percent), they were scoring enough goals, had lost just two of their previous 11 games (7-2-2), were 2-1-2 in league play and had solid defense and goaltending.

Since then, the Engineers are 1-8-0, have just three more power-play goals in 45 chances, their defensive-zone play has been less consistent and over their past six games, they've totaled just seven goals.

Appert has to be careful with his team's delicate confidence.

"There are times when we probably worked on it too much," he said of the power play. "We can't over-emphasize it, or stress it to the point where they put more burden on themselves than they already have."

Appert was asked how often he tells his power play personnel to 'shoot; just put it toward the net.'

"Often," he said. "All the time. And last week(end), we created some good looks and shot the puck more, we just didn't find the net."

Appert said RPI's solid penalty killing, which has risen to 85.7 percent efficiency by killing 35 of its past 36 shorthanded situations, causes him further frustration because it's almost counteracted by the weak power play.

"Not at all," he said. "You never get frustrated when something is doing that well for you."

Appert is ever the optimist but he really wasn't reaching - the lack of offense notwithstanding - when he said, "I'd say in 70 percent of our games, we've outplayed our opponents in 5-on-5 situations. There's no question (the power play) needs to be better."

Indeed! If RPI's power-play figures don't improve dramatically, soon, the Engineers will almost certainly be on the road for the preliminary round of the playoffs.

No word on Burgdoerfer: Appert said it's possible that sophomore defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer could be suspended by ECAC Hockey for his late-game checking from behind major penalty against Colgate but that RPI has not yet heard from the league.