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Engineers' Power Play Up, Discipline Still Down

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 13, 2008

TROY - The clich├ęs flowed freely after Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 5-4 loss to the U.S. Under 18 National Team at Houston Field House on Sunday.

"It's a good thing this game doesn't count," one RPI player said of the exhibition game, noting that the 14 shorthanded situations the Engineers' profound lack of discipline presented to themselves; and to the fact that the talented teenagers pushed the older Engineers around the ice, outskated them, and outplayed them for long periods of time.

On the other hand, another Engineers backer told her group, "too bad they don't count," referring to RPI's three power play goals.

During Rensselaer's 20 games within the Capital District last season, Engineers fans saw the team convert on just five power play goals in 91 chances.

So, when the Engineers poured in three on Sunday - by Bryan Brutlag, Chase Polacek and freshman Josh Rabbani - fans were hoping that was a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been the Engineers' futile power play.

Yeah, the power-play tallies won't be included in the official stats. Yes, the trio of goals came against a bunch of teenagers - as talented as they may be - but those goals were nice to see just the same.

Rabbani plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame and is as strong as a bear. He can be a force in front of the net on the power play, an asset RPI hasn't consistently enjoyed for years.

"I hope so," Rabbani said. "In the past, it's usually the power play where I'm at, screening goalies, causing traffic. So I hope so, yeah."

He set up in front of the USA-18 net early in the third period on Sunday, took a pass from Polacek and slipped it under goaltender Brandon Maxwell.

"No one's going to be moving him and he's got good skill, too," Polacek said, "so he can drop off and I'll give him the puck and he'll make something happen."

He did.

"I was just plugging away at the net," Rabbani said. "It was a little rebound in front, I just hit him with a backhand."

'Where's the discipline': Late arrival home from Quebec City on Saturday night or not, RPI's lack of discipline Sunday was profound.

They were slow for long stretches, lazy at times when they didn't need to be. You would have thought they bused in from Minneapolis, not Quebec, and arrived at 2 p.m. for Sunday's 5 p.m. game.

The tired legs were compounded by the speed and skating ability of the USA-18 Team members, to be sure, as well as their blatant cockiness. Hey, they're among the top few dozen 17-year-olds in the nation and they know it.

So, the Engineers were whistled repeatedly.

Some of Sunday's nine interference calls were quite iffy but RPI was guilty of a number of simply B-A-D infractions.

"Mentally lazy and physically lazy I combine together as undisciplined," coach Seth Appert said. "And I'd say probably five or six of (USA-18's) 14 power plays were that way."

"There are certain things you can't control," Appert continued. "The referees decided they wanted to call a lot of penalties tonight, and that's their prerogative. That's fine. But you go from seven, eight or nine (shorthanded situations) to 14 when you add undisciplined penalties on top of that and that's what you can't have."

Rensselaer captain Matt Angers-Goulet commented on the many penalties.

"I don't think coming in late was the matter, really," he said. "We're used to it and we need to get used to it when, on a rare occasion, it's as late as (2 a.m.)."

"Obviously, discipline was an issue (Sunday) and it was against Vermont, as well."

When asked if he felt the discipline problems put an added burden on his shoulders, Angers-Goulet said, "it's going to be addressed and guys have to help within themselves and play for one another."

Players be warned: Appert has suspended RPI's most talented forward (Andrei Uryadov) for a series of discipline lapses, so other players should be warned: Unnecessary and/or lazy penalties won't be tolerated by him.

"Penalties - way too many, have to be eliminated from our game," Appert said. "We have the numbers (depth-wise) in our lineup, so the guys who take those penalties, won't be in the (following game's) lineup."

And things need to improve from strictly a defensive standpoint, too.

"From a defensive perspective, we're giving up too many (scoring) chances," Appert said. "Our 'D' needs to be our strength and they haven't been in the first two games."

Polacek, Helfrich divided: Center Polacek and winger Tyler Helfrich played on the same line for the vast majority of last season and in preseason practices this year.

Many were surprised when Appert separated the talented pair of sophomores for Saturday night's Vermont game. Helfrich skated with the Angers-Goulet brothers, while Polacek centered for freshman Patrick Cullen (who scored RPI's only goal) and sophomore Scott Halpern.

It wasn't a gimmick, Appert said.

"We did," Appert said. "They're our go-to guys. They know that, we know that. Everybody knows that. But they need to understand that it's not just a right for them to play together. They've got to earn the right to play together, just like other players in our lineup earn the right to be on their line(s). When Chase and Tyler play with the speed and with the tenacity that they played with (Sunday), they are really fun to watch play hockey. That's what we need out of them on a night-to-night basis."

Appert spoke of the talented Cullen's first weekend as an Engineer.

"I thought he had a pretty good start to his college career," Appert said. "He scored a nice goal by going hard to the net (against Vermont). He's got some habits that he needs to correct. He needs to engage on loose pucks a little bit more, finish more checks, but he does some things offensively that are really, really good for a freshman. He makes our power play (better). He has great poise on the power play, so there are a lot of positives out of Patrick."

Appert was pleased with Rabbani's play as well Sunday, and a couple other freshmen.

"I thought Alex Angers-Goulet had a very good game," Appert said. "He was a buzzsaw. I thought Jordan Watts was a buzzsaw."

The Engineers need Watts, Christian Morissette (who sat on Sunday), Rabbani, Justin Smith to push the upperclassmen forwards who are also battling for ice time.

They did so on Sunday.

And sophomore winger Kevin Beauregard, who never got into a game last season, showed some skill Sunday.

"I thought Kevin coming in his first game of his career provided some size (he's 6-foot-4, 215) and some puck possession time down low."