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Yale Ends RPI's Season

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 9, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - It was a fitting but no less bitterly disappointing end to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's hockey season, Saturday night's 3-2 overtime loss to Yale.

Sean Backman's rebound goal at 5:11 of the extra session capped the Bulldogs' three-goal comeback, helped them advance to the ECAC Hockey playoffs quarterfinals and put an end the offensively-challenged Engineers' season. It was their 23rd loss (11-23-4) and it was a typical one.

Rensselaer had taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Tyler Helfrich and Jon Ornelas within the final 1:43 of the first period, played an even better second period but could not hold the lead.

Glaring mistakes on Yale's goal early in the second priod and its tying goal with 5:21 remaining in regulation play did in Rensselaer. The Engineers had the Ingalls Rink crowd of about 2,000 and the media planning for a deciding Game 3 tonight, but for the fourth time this season, RPI failed to win a game it had led after two periods (0-3-1) and for the sixth time, the Enginees failed to a game in which they led by two or three goals (0-5-1). Appropriateness and irony aside, RPI coach Seth Appert did say, "I think it's an example of where our deficiences are.

"As much as we try to address them," Appert said, "it's not conditioning, it's not effort, it's not how much heart they have because we have kids who play with a tremendous amount of heart. It's a little lack of maturity and composure, a little bit of lack of hockey sense, hockey IQ, and we panic in some situations when we don't need to because we're not quite sure what to do with the puck."

Yale's first two goals bore out Appert's words.

Early in the second period, RPI broke out its own zone with a 4-on-3 but turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Rensselaer defenseman Garret Vassel was caught too far up ice, allowing Broc Little to skate in on goal along the right side. Vassel came back and drew a delayed hooking call but compounded the problem by crashing into Lange as Little's rebound was deflected to defenseman Ryan Donald. Lange didn't have much chance on Donald's blast from the near the left point and Yale was within 2-1 at just 1:47 of the period.

"It was very unfortunate for us," said Lange, who had 53 saves during RPI's 3-2, triple-overtime loss in Game 1 on Friday night. "He (Vassel) catches an edge and slides right into me and as this is happening, their guy takes a shot from near the blue line, I'm on my belly and it goes high into the net."

The Engineers outplayed the Bulldogs the rest of the period but had nothing to show for it, then weathered Yale's all-out, frontal, forechecking attack that was constant over the first 12 minutes of the third period. Then, the misfortune of Yale's first goal was then magnified many times over.

Rensselaer freshman defenseman Jeff Foss, who was solid all weekend, had the puck under him midway into the defensive zone. A trio of teammates could have taken control of the puck but none did.

Yale's Denny Kearney came along to nudge the puck from under Foss and threw it toward the net. After a caromed around, Little fired it past Lange.

"That's (a lack of) composure, maturity," Appert said. Other players should have been talking to him on the ice, should have been covering the net front." Worse yet, Appert said, "I'm not sure Mathias Lange wasn't pushed into the net; actually, I'm sure that he was."

"Yes, I was," Lange said. "That's why I went to talk to referee Alex Dell (at the end of regulation) but he didn't want to hear it. "I tried to get back over to my left but I couldn't because their guy was on top me. I don't know if he was pushed in there (by an RPI player), or ... I don't know."

"Their only two goals in regulation," Appert said, "we just handed them by just very poor mental mistakes. Other than that, we probably win 2-0 and we're marching on to (Game 3)."

On Backman's OT goal, Lange said after a scrum in the corner (to Lange's left), "their D-man (Donald) stepped in and shot it, I saved it with my right pad, toward the corner, but (Backman) was flashing to that direction and he shot it past me. With 1:43 remaining in the first period, Helfrich took the puck behind the net, came around on the right side and whipped a forehand past goalie Alec Richards.

"I was blocking (the defenseman) off with one hand and got just enough on it to get it in," Helfrich said. Fifty seconds later, Ornelas took Erik Burgoerfer's pass near the blue line, deked around Yale defenseman Jimmy Martin nicely and fired a wrist shot over goalie Alec Richards and into the far top corner.

"He was giving me the whole blocker side and I just took," a distraught Ornelas said. "I'd have rather not scored a goal and had us win."

"We played well enough to win both games," Lange said. "In overtime, it can come down to one bounce and they got two of them."

"We needed a big goal, both nights, and we didn't get it," senior Andrew Lord. "We played hard both nights but sometimes it just doesn't work out," said RPI captain Jake Morissette.