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Houston, Scoring Goals There Is a Problem

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 1, 2008

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has had much trouble scoring goals this season. Anyone who casually follows the Engineers is well aware of that fact.

Many RPI fans may not be aware, however, just how severe the Engineers' troubles have been at home while playing at Houston Field House.

Consider that 13 of the Engineers goals in ECAC Hockey League games came in two games - against Dartmouth and St. Lawrence.

In their six ECACH home games, the Engineers have scored nine goals, compiling a 1-3-2 record. In seven league road games, RPI has totaled 22 goals and posted a 3-4-0 mark.

Overall, the Engineers have scored 22 goals in 12 home games (3-6-3), while finding the net 39 times in 15 games away from home, neutral-site games included.

Having ended their school-record 10-game losing streak on the road - and netting a few goals - in a 6-3 victory at St. Lawrence, the Engineers return home this weekend to face ECAC Hockey's two top-scoring teams.

They meet third-place Quinnipiac (6-3-3, 14-7-3) tonight at 7, then face second-place Princeton (8-4-0, 11-8-0) on Big Red Freakout! Night Saturday at 7.

Is there any visible reason why the Engineers score so much more away from Houston Field House?

"That's a good question," head coach Seth Appert said. "No reason (apparent)."

After scoring just one against both Sacred Heart and American International College, did the Engineers become tighter at home?

"It's possible … sometimes there is more pressure at home," Appert said, "especially for a young team. You're supposed to win (more often) at home, you're playing in front of the big crowds and there's also potentially more distractions at home, as well; family, friends, girlfriends and things of that nature."

Appert says the team won't "dwell on what's happened in the past."

Freshman winger and RPI's leading scorer Tyler Helfrich also said "that's a good question.

"Our fans are awesome and obviously, it's always fun playing at home," Helfrich said, "but when you're on the road you have a more of a grind-it-out mindset, to just grind out a win."

And perhaps the Engineers try a bit too hard at home.

"I think so," Helfrich said. "We try to get a little too cute, in front of (home) fans, trying to do too much. We go on the road and try to grind it out."

Of the 17 goals in three road wins (Dartmouth, Princeton, SLU), assistant captain Jon Ornelas said, "that's impressive.

"I have no idea why, though," Ornelas added as to why goals are so much tougher at home.

Junior Kurt Colling has only one goal in 27 games but may have a better perspective than other forwards who are supposed to score.

"Maybe we're a younger team, we're feeling the pressure at home," Colling said. It seems on the road, though, we play a more of a throw-the-puck-at-the-net, go-to-the-net style, where at home maybe we're trying to make plays too fine."

Quinnipiac had gone 9-0-1 in 10 games prior to dropping two non-leaguers at home to Niagara last week.

The star-studded Bobcats have three solid scoring lines with stars such as Brandon Wong, Bryan Leitch, Ben Nelson, Jamie Bates, Jean-Marc Beaudoin, David Marshall, Dan Travis and Eric Lampe.

"They have probably the best group of forwards in the league ... very offensively gifted," Appert said of the Bobcats.

The difference in Q-pac's earlier 3-2 victory over RPI was Zach Hansen's faceoff goal with broke a 2-2 tie 55 seconds into the third period.

"We have to make them earn their offense," Appert said. "That's important. They got two power-play goals and a faceoff goal and not that they didn't earn (them), but you want to keep them off the board on the power play by limiting their opportunities and killing well."

The Engineers, focusing only on tonight's game, would not comment on their 17-game (13-0-4) unbeaten string on Freakout Night.

"We don't even talk about it," Appert said.

"We'll look to Freakout on Saturday," said Ornelas.

"Just looking forward to Friday, trying to get better every day," said senior forward Tyler Eaves.

Freshmen certainly had nothing to say, never having played on Freakout Night.

"I'm not commenting on the Freakout," Helfrich said. "I've heard a lot about it but right now, we're just focused on Quinnipiac."

As for Princeton, Appert notes that the Tigers are a "very good, forechecking team" and have averaged 40 shots on goal in three games vs. RPI since last season.

"They put a ton of shots on a lot of people's nets," Appert said. "Speed, intensity, forechecking pressure and in your face every moment.

"You combat that with intelligence," Appert said. "Taking care of the puck and not turning it over. And when they pressure one way, something else is open and it's critical to take advantage of that. And you must match their intensity."

The Engineers have lost many 2- and 3-goal leads this season, as RPI fans know too well.

At Princeton, though, they twice trailed by two goals before rallying back for a 4-3 triumph.

"It gives you confidence when you come back on a team," freshman Chase Polacek said. "It's hard to do (when) teams tend to stand back and a third guy high (defensively) and it's tougher to score goals but it gives you confidence the next time."