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Same Old Story for Engineers

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 5, 2008

TROY - There isn't much to say about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's hockey team. Positive or negative. The positive just isn't there, much, the negative would simply be so much redundancy.

The Engineers keep losing, keep on falling short at home, game after game.

Weekend losses to Quinnipiac (3-2) and Princeton (4-0) ran the Engineers' homeice losing streak to seven games, five in ECAC Hockey action.

The two goals gave the Engineers a total of 11 in their eight ECACH home games (1-5-2).

Long faces were commonplace in the Engineers' lockerroom after they were blanked by Princeton, 4-0.

The players knew they had put forth less than their best effort.

After Dan Bartlett's goal broke a scoreless tie 1:03 into the second period, the Engineers went into a funk.

Beyond the less-than-stellar effort, which has been rare this season, the Engineers may have been pondering just how good they can possibly be, how much they can improve.

Whether or not a self-doubting lack of confidence had returned to the team isn't known.

The two losses gave RPI 12 defeats in their past 13 outings.

With a 4-9-2 league record, only last-place Dartmouth has more ECAC Hockey losses than do the Engineers.

"Our forwards did not play with enough tenacity or edge and our defensemen simply did not move the puck with any efficiency or effectiveness," coach Seth Appert said of Saturday night's effort.

The Princeton game notwithstanding, virtually every game during the losing skein, the Engineers played well enough to win in all areas, except scoring production.

On Friday, they did so but could find the net only once until an extra-attacker goal pulled them within 3-2 with one-half minute remaining.

The players haven't even hinted at the word 'can't'; 'need to,' 'have to,' are the repeated phrases.

To a man, the Engineers keep vowing to keep trying, to get out of the offensive funk that has cost them so many games throughout the season.

"We just have to keep our head up, every guy dig down and come back next week and get better," said captain Jake Morissette.

Second-period problems: The Engineers' third-period problems, throughout the season, have been well-chronicled. Rensselaer has been outscored 41-13 during the final session over the season.

Until recently, the second period had been the Engineers' best.

Over the first 21 games of the season, RPI outscored the opposition 26-9 within the second period. The Engineers were 8-10-3 in those games.

In eight games since then, RPI opponents - Cornell, Colgate, Union (twice), Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac and Princeton - have outscored them 15-3 in the second. The 6-3 triumph at SLU is Rensselaer's only victory among those eight games.

Penalty killing: The Rensselaer power play killed all eight shorthanded situations over the weekend to improve to 86.3 percent efficiency this season (132 of 153).

That's a pretty decent mark for a team with so many young players.

Appert said that while the Engineers killed all six of Quinnipiac's power plays on Friday night, the play of the killers could have been sharper.

"We were OK," Appert said. "I thought we hung on more than we executed on a couple of them. I don't think we cleared (the puck) well when we could have. Their (Q'pac's) still skills controlled a lot of the play. When we were scrambling, we did do a good job of keeping most of their stuff to the perimeter."

Shutouts, near shutouts mounting: The Engineers were shut out for the third time this season and on nine other occasions - NINE - they've scored just one time.

Over the past two seasons, the Engineers have been blanked five times.

Brown sweeps two: Beating Harvard and Dartmouth is no major accomplishment these days but perhaps the Engineers can take some level of confidence and inspiration from Brown's big weekend.

The Bears went into the week on a six-game losing streak, 1-13-2 over their past 13 games and 1-14-4 overall, 1-8-3 in the ECAC.

Yet, they played hard, created some scoring chances, killed eight of nine penalties against Harvard and, coming out of a scoring slump painfully similar to RPI's. The Bears had totaled a meager 14 goals in their previous 10 games.

Streaks over: Not only was RPI's 17-game unbeaten string (12-0-5) on Big Red Freakout! Night ended by Princeton, the Tigers' forwards, who controlled the game throughout, get credit for stopping several Rensselaer scoring streaks.

Offensive skeins worth any note have been rare for the Engineers, especially since ECACH play hit full throttle but:

- Andrew Lord had scored one goal in each of RPI's three previous games prior to Princeton.

- RPI defensemen had scored goals in three straight games, two by freshman Bryan Brutlag.

- Brutlag had scored points (2-1-3) in three straight games.

- Chase Polacek had seven points (1-6-7) in the three previous games.

- Tyler Helfrich had five points (1-4-5) prior to the weekend.

Scoring change: The second assist on Brutlag's extra-attacker goal against Quinnipiac has been changed, awarded to Jonathan Ornelas, instead of Peter Merth. That gave Ornelas two points in the game, as he had the second assist on Lord's first-period goal.