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RPI Plays Well in Weekend Split

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 25, 2008

TROY - After the previous week's woeful road trip to Colgate and Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach Seth Appert was just hoping his team would bounce back with positive efforts - and performance - this past weekend.

He may have been pleasantly surprised with how well the Engineers played both nights considering how mightily they has struggled to score goals and to win games for two months, and how defensive breakdowns have mounted up in recent games.

The 1-1-0 weekend - a 4-2 victory over St. Lawrence, a 3-1 loss to league-leading Clarkson - showed some promise that the team will be competitive during an ECAC Hockey preliminary-round playoff series.

One week ago today, such a thought seemed like an unreasonable pipe dream.

The Engineers controlled Friday night's victory throughout and although mistakes hurt them against Clarkson, their intensity and continual-effort levels were as good as they've been since early season, Appert said.

Appert had stated that a number of players, defensemen and forwards alike, had been "sitting around feeling sorry for themselves" and "looking around for other guys to make something "happen" rather than trying to "make something happen themselves."

There was little of either of that over the weekend.

"We've focused on getting our heads wrapped around some of our (above-mentioned) issues," Appert said. "I think we're getting past that. I think this was one of the better weekends of the second half of the season in terms of how physically intense we were, how mentally intense we were. There were very few mental letdowns throughout the weekend. So that was a real positive step."

Ill-timed and unnecessary penalties hampered the Engineers' efforts to upset Clarkson on Saturday night. One - a major and game misconduct - not only led to one Clarkson goal but also took one of RPI's higher scorers - Andrei Uryadov - out for nearly two-thirds of the game. One minor retaliation penalty cut a Rensselaer power play from five minutes to three.

And another, late in the game, when Jordan Alford made a huge save and the Engineers were making a final push with the score still 2-0, put them shorthanded for a crucial two minutes.

Those mistakes have to be eliminated for the Engineers to win a playoff series but the lack of focus, lack of desire, defensive-zone breakdowns, communication breakdowns that plagued the Engineers in several previous losses during the 1-14-1 slide, were not present during the weekend.

The Engineers are not a strong stick-handling team. They generally won't display the passing and puck movement of most other teams. That's one reason why they consistently put fewer than 20 shots on net and don't create a high number of Grade-A scoring chances.

On nights when they move the puck as well as they did on Friday night, though, and limit their mistakes, they can be a formidable foe.

Nice goal for seniors: The Engineers one goal against Clarkson came on a power play, with one second remaining in the game and six RPI seniors on the ice on a nice deflection by Andrew Lord.

Appert was asked if, since the team has had such little success on the power play this season (it's still at just 7.7 percent), the Engineers could take some postive from the score.

"I don't know if you get much out of that (having lost 3-1)," Appert said. "It was nice to get one on Senior Night with six seniors on the ice, but...

"We're happy to break his shutout," Appert said of Clarkson senior goalie David Leggio. "They're a rival, we don't want Leggio to get a shutout against us. We have no interest in having him get a shutout against us, so I was happy that we broke his shutout."

Back to the seniors - Lord, Jake Morissette, Jon Ornelas, Tyler Eaves, Dan Peace and goalies Alford and backup Will Neubert.

"They're a really good group of young men," Appert said of the group, who took more than their share of criticism from fans during RPI's lon losing skein.

"They are good kids, they care a lot about the program and they're giving their all to try to help us have success down the stretch. So, I was happy they got a little bit of a reward at the end."

Birthday present?: Friday was Andrew Lord's 23rd birthday. St. Lawrence freshman Aaron Bogosian, a center playing defense since several Saints blue-liners are sidelined, smacked Lord in the face with a cross-check as the game ended.

Frustrations bumps and half-hearted mini-slashes are evident after many games but it was unusual to see a freshman - even 31 games into the season - take such a cheap shot. Lord was merely skating by.

"Yeah, I don't know what that was about," the good-natured Vancouver native said. "I guess maybe I gave him one before."

"It wasn't really that hard," Lord said of Bogosian's hit. "It probably looked a lot worse than it was."

Teary-eyed: The Clarkson game marked the Engineers' final Houston Field House appearance of the season and several of the seniors had moisture in their eyes.

Ornelas was still in full uniform and pads, ready to hit the ice, 40 minutes. When asked how long he intended to stay there, he said, "until Dana (equipment manager Dana McGuane) kicks me out."

"I don't want to leave," Ornelas said. "I'm going to miss the guys."

"You realize this is the last time you wear this (home-white) sweater," Morissette said. "It's very emotional."

"I just love playing before the best fans in college hockey," said Peace. "I'm very proud to be a part of this program."

Who'll RPI face?: Union, Yale, Quinnipiac, Harvard, Colgate.

One of those teams will almost certainly be the Engineers' first-round playoff opponent.

There's an outside chance it could be Cornell or Harvard.

At 5-12-3 in the ECACH with two games remaining, the Engineers are tied for ninth place in the 12-team circuit with Dartmouth and Brown, the latter of whom they play on Friday. They visit Yale on Saturday.

Appert said there are "teams we match up with better than others" when asked if he had a preference. He wouldn't reveal any of those teams, though it's known that he and other teams would like to avoid Colgate, which posted a pair of dominating, 4-0 decisions over RPI among its recent 7-4-2 ECAC streak that followed a 1-4-2 start to league play.