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SLU Win Gives RPI Jolt of Confidence

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 30, 2008

TROY - One game doesn't end a losing streak; or a scoring slump. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 6-3 victory at St. Lawrence on Saturday night, however, certainly gave the Engineers a much-needed jolt of confidence, as well as snapped a 10-game losing streak.

Throughout the offensive drought and pile of 'L's, Rensselaer head coach Seth Appert pointed out that the Engineers had lost confidence with the puck. He could see that level of confidence rise throughout Saturday night's victory as the Engineers continued to score.

"No question," he said. "The guys played hard in the (offensive) zone all weekend (including Friday's 5-2 loss at Clarkson) and to see them be rewarded for the efforts was great."

Captain Jake Morissette agreed.

"Saturday night was a big lift," he said. "We made some good plays and the guys got more comfortable, it seems, a little composed. Getting a couple (first-period) goals helped."

"Definitely," replied assistant captain Jon Ornelas. "Every shift kept getting better. We were playing it shift-by-shift and we knew it (offensive production) would come."

Assistant captain Andrew Lord, whose goal increased the Engineers' lead to two goals after SLU pulled within 4-3, said getting some goals "was a lot of fun."

"It was just a lot of fun being out there with the guys, making some plays and seeing some pucks go in," Lord said.

Lord also scored in Friday night's Clarkson game and was quite pleased to be one of the guys to spark the RPI offense, which entered the weekend having scored a total of just nine goals over its previous eight games.

"Both games were great. It was definitely an added bonus to put a couple in the net personally."

As mentioned, one game doesn't turn a season around and at 4-7-2 in ECAC Hockey, the ninth-place Engineers need to put some victories together over the nine-game span to conclude the regular season.

"Right," Morissette said. "It was nice to get a win and Saturday night felt real good, but now it's a new week."

The Engineers host high-scoring Quinnipiac and Princeton this weekend.

Penalty killers come up big: One major turning point of the game came at 2:27 of the second period, when RPI defenseman Peter Merth came out of the penalty box.

Five seconds earlier, freshman winger Ben Contini had returned from the box. That's right. Taking a 2-0 lead into the second period, the Engineers had to kill a 5-on-3 power play for 1:55.

Had St. Lawrence scored during that time, the outcome of the game could have been different.

"Those were two critical factors in our success," Appert said referring to those penalty kills and a 4-on-3 just prior to Lord's goal, which made the count 5-3 with 3:06 remaining.

Just five seconds after Contini's cross-checking penalty, Merth was charged with slashing when his stick was lifted up and caught a St. Lawrence player squarely in the chin; totally inadvertent but a call a referee has to make, even with the offending team already shorthanded.

Appert said he wasn't worried the penalties would turn the game around and was confident his team could survive without being scored upon.

"Play like vets," he told his penalty killers.

They did.

Appert said he could see the psychological lift on his players' faces when Contini, then Merth, left the box. He singled out Mathieu Angers-Goulet and Morissette for sparking penalty-killing on both situations.

"There were some other guys," Appert said, "But ... Mathieu and Jake did a yeoman's amount of work."

"We did a good job handling adversity all weekend," Appert said.

Frosh lead the way: Freshmen Tyler Helfrich and Chase Polacek are raised to the top of the RPI scoring sheet.

And they've taken over the team's top forward line, Polacek at center with the right-handed Helfrich at left wing and Scott Halpern on the right wing.

Polacek had scored one goal and assisted on three others against St. Lawrence after charting an assist on Friday night. Helfrich assisted on both RPI goals Friday night and then scored one and assisted twice on Saturday night.

Polacek said it was a "nice feeling to spark our team a little bit. Maybe from the (upperclassmen) standpoint, when you see young guys coming out and playing like that. We just wanted to bring enough energy to hopefully spark the team. We got a couple of good bounces and they went in."

"I love our line," Helfrich said. "It's a lot of fun to play with Polacek and Halpern. They bring a lot of speed. For some reason, I seem to always find Polie's stick ... they make it very easy for me and they're a lot of fun to play with."

Polacek never dreamed that he'd be centering the top line this season.

"Helf and I have been playing together for the past couple months (with other centers)," Polacek said. "We've got some good chemistry going and we seem to find each other on the ice. Scotty's found a good spot playing with us and we're really connecting well and being productive."

With 22 points (4 goals-18 assists-22), Helfrich leads the Engineers in scoring, followed by Polacek (6-13-19).

"They played very well all weekend," Appert said. "They brought an extra level of energy, outstanding quickness and produced outstanding (scoring) chances in both games."

"It's always fun being the go-to guys," Helfrich said. "But whatever they need us to do, we'll do."