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Skidding RPI Hockey Team Looks for Scoring

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 18, 2008

These should be desperate times for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team.

The Engineers, who were nationally ranked for two months, have lost seven straight games. They outshot Cornell and Colgate by a combined 58-40 last weekend, but scored only one goal. Their power play is last in the country, converting just 6.3 percent (7-for-111) of their opportunities. Even worse, opposing teams have scored more on RPI's power play, netting eight short-handed goals. In three games, including last Saturday's 4-0 loss to Colgate, RPI has allowed two short-handed goals.

But if there is an sense of desperation and urgency as the Engineers head into their ECAC Hockey showdown with Capital Region rival Union this weekend, RPI coach Seth Appert isn't showing it.

"You feel desperate if you really didn't like the way your team was playing," said Appert, whose team visits the Dutchmen tonight at 7 at Messa Rink before hosting Saturday's rematch at 7 p.m. at Houston Field House. "The [locker] room would feel desperate if there is no answers. Desperate times are because you don't have answers to the problems you have. The solutions are there. The play, for the large part, with some corrections, is there. We have a lot of excitement and energy heading into the weekend."

Union defenseman Lane Caffaro isn't buying into Appert's calmness.

"I expect them to be [desperate]," said Caffaro, who was promoted from alternate captain to co-captain this week by coach Nate Leaman. "If they're not, they might be in trouble because we're desperate for a win."

RPI captain Jake Morissette believes the team is desperate for a victory. The Engineers' last win was a 4-2 decision over Harvard on Dec. 4.

"There's no panic, that's for sure," Morissette said. "We still believe ourselves in [the locker room]. We want to get a win here, and we're looking forward to [tonight]."

Burgdoerfer suspended

The Engineers (3-4-2 ECACH, 8-12-3 overall) won't have sophomore defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer for the game. He was suspended for one game by the league on Thursday for his hitting-from-behind incident late in last Friday's 2-1 loss to Cornell at Houston Field House.

He was given a five-minute major and game disqualification for checking Cornell's Joe Scali from behind with two minutes left in the game. The game DQ automatically suspended Burgdoerfer from the next night's game against Colgate. But commissioner Steve Hagwell handed down an additional game suspension, in accordance with ECAC Hockey Policies and Procedures, and Rule 4, Section 10 of the NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules.

"We did appeal, and lost the appeal," Appert said. "I respect Steve Hagwell, and [officials supervisor] Paul Stewart and the ECAC executive committee. I thought they handled this process with a lot of class and very quickly, to allow us proper notification."

"I do not condone the hit that Erik had. It was the right call by [referee] Chip McDonald. We talked to Erik about that. At the same time, I thought he was given his suspension under NCAA rules through the disqualification. Being that it was his first offense, it was my belief that no other additional penalties were merited."

Hagwell declined to comment.

RPI's first four losses in the streak were against nationally ranked teams - Miami (twice), Colorado College and Notre Dame. After a 4-2 loss at Maine Jan. 6, a game which Appert described as the worst the team played this season, RPI dominated the first period against Cornell and Colgate. But the Engineers couldn't score.

"I know we're confident, as a team, in our play," Appert said. "Our confidence with the puck and offensively is down, right now."

Leaman understands the Engineers' plight. The Dutchmen (3-3-2, 8-8-3) were going through similar problems in the first half of the year.

But since going 2-1 in their Canadian exhibition games the last week of December, the Dutchmen have won four straight. They are coming off last weekend's sweep of Colgate and Cornell.

"From watching them on tape, I think they are playing well," Leaman said. "They actually remind me of how we were playing earlier in the year. They have good puck possession, they're making a lot of plays and the puck isn't going in for them, right now. I know they're going to come out on fire. They are a well-coached team. But I also know we're going to come out on fire. These are going to be two great hockey games."

Winning at least one game this weekend could help settle RPI down. If the Engineers get swept, however, more troubled times could be ahead. RPI visits Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend, and Quinnipiac and Princeton, the league's top two teams, come to Troy the following weekend. But Appert isn't worried about that.

"The most important game on your schedule is the next one, and it's always that way," Appert said.

Watching recent Union games on tape, Appert hasn't seen any difference in the Dutchmen, except that they are converting on their chances.

"I liked the way they were playing in October," Appert said. "I have a lot of respect for their program, for Nate and what he's building there. I like the team, the passion and the intensity they play with. I like the skill they play with. They can make plays, as evidenced by them scoring five on [Colgate goalie Mark] Dekanich, which not many teams in the country can do. I think they're playing with a good bit of confidence right now."

"Sometimes, it's amazing what one or two wins will do for you."

NOTEBOOK

The Capital Skates trophy will be presented to the winner this weekend's games. If the teams split, RPI will get the trophy based on its 3-2 win over Union in the Governor's Cup Oct. 26. ...

Dutchmen forward Torren Delforte is doubtful for the weekend with an undisclosed injury. He was originally hurt against St. Thomas Dec. 29, and got hurt again last Friday against Colgate.