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Engineers Get an Ivy League Education

Princeton Gives RPI a Lesson in How to Play Game During Big Red Freakout!

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 3, 2008

TROY - Anyone watching Saturday night's Princeton-Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey game would have a hard time believing the Engineers had rallied back from two goals behind to beat the Tigers in an earlier meeting.

The Engineers did a woeful job of handling Princeton's strong forecheck, gave the puck away, didn't get the puck to the net and were dominated in a second period that lacked energy, focus and desire.

The combination of those ingredients created a 4-0 defeat before a sellout crowd of 5,146 on Big Red Freakout Night! It was RPI's 12th setback in its past 13 outings that left the Engineers with a 4-9-2 ECAC Hockey record and in 11th place in the 12-team league. Rensselaer is 1-5-2 in eight home league games, having scored just 11 goals in those outings.

The Engineers' 17-game winning streak on Big Red Freakout! Night (12-0-5) came to a crashing halt and it appeared that fact didn't mean a whole lot to the Engineers during that second period.

Princeton made a bid to blow the Engineers right out of Houston Field House and only some sparkling saves by Jordan Alford (37 saves overall) prevented such an occurrence. Make no mistake, though, the combination of the Tigers' more polished forwards and the Engineers' lack of urgency led to sheer domination.

The shutout victory was Princeton's first over RPI since Jan. 3 of 1997 and only its second since the 1960s.

"They were outstanding," RPI coach Seth Appert said of the Tigers. "They gave us a lesson in how hard you need to play to have success and try to push into the upper echelon of the ECAC."

Dan Bartlett scored the first goal and assisted on the second for No. 19 Princeton, as the 12-9-0 Tigers moved into a tie for third place in the ECAC at 9-5-0. They haven't finished higher than sixth since the 1998-99 season.

"They're faster than us, they're stronger than us, they played with more desire, more tenacity and they consistently do that to opponents," Appert said.

Appert took the blame because he "did not have our players mentally (prepared)," for Princeton's rugged, relentless, in-your-face, forechecking style.

"How hard Princeton plays, how tenacious they are on the puck and our young men got taken to school by a team that simply wanted it more," he said.

Appert said Alford's goaltending was the only positive to take from the one-sided defeat.

"I thought Jordan Alford was very good," he said. "He was outstanding in the first and allowed us to escape the first period and that should have been enough with this crowd, and the great fans we have, to get us going in the second period."

"As a goalie you just try to keep your teammates in the game," Alford said. "It's unfortunate that we didn't do as well as we could. But give full credit to Princeton. They're a hard-working, tough team to play against and they smothered us tonight."

Princeton goalie Zane Kalemba only had to make one big save among RPI's 16 shots on goal (Princeton had 41), robbing Erik Burgdoerfer with 6:42 remaining in the second period. Andrei Uryadov, RPI's leading scorer most of the season, returned to the lineup after being benched for two games. He made the setup pass to Burgdoerfer.

Uryadov had taken the puck near his own blue line with four and one-half minutes remaining in the first period, skated around a pair of Princeton players and rifled a blast off the crossbar.

"I just came down the wing and tried to put it up high because he's a pretty short (5-foot-9 1/2) goalie," Uryadov said of Kalemba. "I just hit the crossbar."

Midway through the final period, Andrew Lord set up Uryadov in front with a behind-the-net pass but the big Russian didn't get good wood on the one-timer as Kalemba stood nearly helpless.

All the domination notwithstanding, if those two shots had gone into the net, it's a whole different game.

"Yeah, it is," Uryadov said. "But they didn't go in. That's what you have to deal with. You have two chances, you have to create more and we didn't get that done."

Bartlett came down the right wing unchecked and beat Alford high, just under the crossbar just 1:03 into the second period.

He set up Landis Stankevich for a chip shot in front five minutes later and at 11:11, Mark Magnowski deflected one, nearly halfway up the stick shaft, between Alford and the goalpost.

Keith Shattenkirk added a late empty-net goal.

"They outplayed us pretty good for 60 minutes," RPI captain Jake Morissette said of the Tigers. They really outworked us for pretty much the whole game."

"We had too many guys looking around hoping for something good to happen to get some momentum going," Appert said, "instead of going to make something happen through their hard work."