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Engineers Embark on North Country Trek

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 25, 2008

TROY - After a 0-4-0 homestand during which each game was winnable, perhaps it's a good idea to hit the road.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will do just that, traveling to Clarkson and St. Lawrence tonight and Saturday night.

Those two sites, in the past three decades, have been ECAC Hockey's toughest places for visiting teams to win.

Having said that, the Engineers came within four seconds and a controversial penalty of beating the rival Clarkson Golden Knights on their own ice one year ago.

It's unlikely that fact will be of any benefit to the slump-ridden Engineers tonight. They just want to score a few goals, tighten up their defensive-zone play and take their chances against the high-scoring Golden Knights.

At St. Lawrence last season, the Engineers and Saints were locked in a 3-3 tie with seven minutes to play. Then St. Lawerence scored three goals for a 6-3 victory.

Rensselaer, 3-6-2 in ECAC Hockey action, has scored just nine goals in its past eight games and seven of the 23 goals the Engineers have in ECACH games came against Dartmouth. In their other 10 league games, the Engineers average just 1.6 goals per game.

"You can't win with that kind of offensive production," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "Obviously, the offense has to improve."

The team is saying it's not looking back to the many gut-wrenching losses during the streak, or to past success.

However, in their three games before the losing streak, the Engineers scored 10 goals - all against ECACH teams. So, there's hope - if the Engineers can restore their confidence to a working level.

"We just have to keep plugging away and try to stay positive. That's all we can do," said senior left winger Jonathan Ornelas, who leads the team in goals with seven.

Jake Morissette, Andrei Uryadov and Matt Angers-Goulet each has six.

Uryadov had a six-game scoring streak prior to the team scoring slump - which, of course, coincided with the losing streak. With 16 points (6-10-16), he was leading the team at the time.

He was asked if he felt more pressure to notch some points as virtually the entire team struggles.

"I haven't thought of it like that," he said. "We're all affected, we're all trying to get out of it. It's something we have to work out together."

"We don't have that one guy who can take the team on his shoulders and get us a few goals himself," Appert reiterated.

"We just have to score a few goals and we can win some games," Morissette stated matter-of-factly.

Clarkson coach George Roll acknowledges RPI's "little bit of a struggle right now" but adds that, "we know they are a quality team."

"It's just a matter of time before they turn it around," Roll said of the Engineers. "They have historically, in my time (at Clarkson), anyway, played us tough."

During the Golden Knights' recent 2-4-1, the suffered a puzzling 3-1 loss to 11th-place Dartmouth, the one team against whom RPI's offense had a big outing this season, producing a 7-4 victory.

Senior center Steve Zalewski leads a talented group of Clarkson forward with 20 points and leads ECACH in goals with 14.

Before being outscored by a combined 7-2 in losses at Cornell and Colgate last week, St. Lawrence had won four of five, including road wins at Dartmouth and Harvard. That streak followed a 3-8-3 skein.

The 9-11-3 Saints have scored 27 goals over their past seven games, however, and stand in eighth place in ECAC Hockey with a 4-6-2 record.

Junior center Brock McBride is sixth in the league in scoring with 22 points (9-13-22).