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Union Hands Engineers Eighth Straight Loss

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 19, 2008

SCHENECTADY - The struggle continues for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as the losing streak reached eight games on Friday night with a 2-1 setback to rival Union.

Freshman winger Scott Halpern scored his first collegiate goal in the second period on a pretty breakaway back-hander, set up by freshman defenseman Bryan Brutlag.

That was it for the goal-slumping Engineers, though, who've scored eight goals over their past nine games. With eight seconds remaining, a rebound of Scott Halpern's shot jumped right over the stick of RPI captain Jake Morissette, who had clear visions of putting the game-tying goal into the half-open net.

"I did," Morissette said. "Scotty Halpern got off a good shot there and I think (the rebound) just bounced over my stick.

"I'm not going to dwell on one play in the whole game," Morissette said. "We have a lot of things we have to learn from (Friday's game) and get ready to focus on (tonight)." The teams meet again tonight at 7:05 at Houston Field House.

For much of the game, the Engineers were outhustled, outskated and outhit by the streaking Dutchmen, who tallied power-play goals from freshmen Stephane Boileau and Adam Presizniuk moments after Halpern's goal and ran their winning streak to five games.

Union, 9-8-3 overall, improved to 4-3-2 in ECAC Hockey action and jumped up to seventh place. Rensselaer, 3-5-2, 8-13-3, remained in ninth place.

The Dutchmen came out flying but, with Jordan Alford's stellar goaltending, the Engineers held them off -- literally until after Halpern's goal.

"We started out with a good road game," said RPI coach Seth Appert. "Low-scoring, defending pretty well, got some great goal-scoring. We knew they'd have a jump on home ice. That's what you need (on the road)."

Just 27 seconds after Halpern's goal, the Engineers let Boileau stand alone in front, to the left of the crease, where he took a pass from Jason Walters and flipped one past Alford, who had no chance.

Presizniuk banged in his own rebound while two RPI players stood by.

"A forward and a defenseman," Appert said. "A forward who knows he's supposed to cover (Presizniuk). "I want to say that their players made to very good plays on the power play," Appert continued. "But at the same time, they were plays that we talked about (after viewing Union tapes) and we can't have those mistakes. Obviously, we didn't teach it properly, or it didn't sink in properly, but the players who are in those (penalty-killing) situations need to execute. If they can't, then we'll have to put new players in those situations."

What made the power-play goals so frustrating was the fact that the Engineers had killed 39 of their previous 40 shorthanded situations.

"The penalty killing had been very good," Appert said. "Tonight, it wasn't. We were tentative. Sometimes when you're having trouble scoring goals, it puts a lot more pressure on your defensemen, goaltender and penalty killers and the (PK) guys get a little tentative instead of executing.

"But that's no excuse for those mistakes," Appert added. Those who thought RPI's incredibly unproductive power play couldn't get any worse were wrong, as the unit came up with just a couple mild chances and fell to an even 6.0 percent for the season on 7-of-116.

Rensselaer had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:23 late in the first period and managed just three shots on goal during that time, only one of which tested Union's freshman goalie Corey Milan.

Andrei Uryadov hit the left goalpost on the subsequent 5-on-4 power play. Another 5-on-3, for 41 seconds late in the game, did not produce a shot on goal.

"We have players in those (PP) situations to help our team win," Appert said, "And they did not. They're out there to produce offense - that's why those five, 10 players are on the ice (during power plays) and we need them to produce. We've worked on it a lot, we've practiced it a lot, talked about it a lot, and this time of the season, on the power play. you need your go-to guys to step up."

The Engineers were outshot, 43-22.

"Their better players were better than ours, simple as that," Appert said. "Outside of Jordan Alford, their top guys were better. Their go-to guys outplayed our go-to and I thought their stick intensity on lose pucks was stronger than our intensity."

Appert said the Engineers, despite the frustration, losing streak and lack of offense, will be up for tonight's rematch. "There's a lot of pride in that (locker)room," he said. "They'll be energized. There's no question they'll come out with a strong effort."