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Passion, Intensity Not Enough Against Yale

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 16, 2009

TROY - Like so many other games this season, many against quality teams, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute gave 10th ranked Yale a strong upset bid on Saturday night.

The Engineers trailed just 2:25 into the third period when poor backchecking led to a backbreaking goal and thus, they incurred their 21st loss of the season.

On Friday night, a four-goal uprising in the second period led Rensselaer to a 4-3 victory over Brown, just the Engineers' 10th triumph over their past 52 games (10-39-3).

It's been well documented that RPI's 10.6 percent power play has cost the Engineers several games this season, the problem with Yale was the team's lack of poise and maturity, says head coach Seth Appert.

Not being able to make a key play or prevent one by the opposition had cost RPI dearly in losses to Bentley, Princeton, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross, Clarkson and Union, and in a 2-2 tie at Quinnipiac.

Appert praised the Engineers' "passion and intensity" against Yale but said, "our maturity as a program still isn't there. In those big moments, we get a little hyper, a little tense and we hold the stick (too) tight."

"We had opportunities," he said. "A lot of times we shot wide or we held it too long and (Yale) blocked shots. We had the puck between the goalie's legs (in the crease) in the second period. We had our opportunities to get the game tied (2-2) in the second period."

A few minutes prior to Alex Angers-Goulet's goal, fellow freshman Josh Rabbani fanned on a perfect crossice feed from Tyler Helfrich that Appert termed "a backdoor tap-in."

"We need to learn from this," Appert said, "because no matter how big the game is, and we're going to be in big games down the stretch and in the playoffs, you've got to play hard, you've got to physical ... but you still need to balance that with poise and calmness with the puck."

Need season-ending skein: When the new year began, Rensselaer sat in 10th place in the 12-team ECAC Hockey with a 2-5-0 league record.

The Engineers had six games remaining with the teams immediately ahead of them in the standings - Union, Clarkson and St. Lawrence, and three with the two teams right behind them.

It was suggested that if they would win five of those nine games and steal a few points among the other six games, they'd likely earn a homeice advantage in the preliminary round of the ECACH playoffs.

When the Engineers earned three huge points on the road with a 2-2 tie at Quinnipiac and a surprising 5-1 victory at Princeton to pull to 3-5-1, then won the first two games of the crucial nine - overtime wins over Colgate and St. Lawrence - they looked to be in good shape with a 5-6-1 mark, tied for sixth in the league.

Then came what has to be the turning point of the season to date.

Rensselaer was just 4:36 away from a victory at Clarkson which would have pulled the Engineers to the .500 mark at 6-6-1 and dropped Clarkson to 4-7-1.

Then the Golden Knights' Shea Guthrie tied the game and scored again in overtime to make the game a four-point swing in the standings.

Even if the Engineers had been able to hold on for a tie, they would be tied for ninth place with Clarkson right now, instead of two points behind the Knights.

Worse, since that loss, the only victory RPI has posted in five games is a 4-3 decision over Brown, perhaps the nation's worst team (2-19-4). Still worse, the Engineers dropped both games against Union when they needed at least a split and more likely, a third point to have a good shot at overtaking the Dutchmen (8-9-1), whom they now trail by four points.

"We can still get homeice but it's going to be very difficult," Appert noted. "We have to win at least three of the four, and most likely get a seventh point, or even win all."

"And even with all that, we're going to need a lot of help," Appert added, noting that even if the Engineers get to 19,20 points, they're going to need at least three losses each by Clarkson to lose two of its other three remaining games, and have either Union, Harvard or Quinnipiac to lose three times.

"It can be done but it's going to be very difficult," Appert said.

Cornell's 3-0 victory at Houston Field House on Jan. 17 improved the Big Red to 8-0-2 in ECACH games but they are just 2-5-1 since.

No Ring honoree this year: Due mostly to the construction at the west end of Houston Field House, RPI will not add to its Ring of Honor this season. Next season is only a possibility, since the Institute wants the Ring to remain highly exclusive and doesn't necessarily want to add to it every year.

"There are a lot of people we'd want to honor but we do want to keep it exclusive," Appert said. "We've honored our two most recently alumni (Adam Oates and Joe Juneau) and we've honored our tradition and history (Frank Chiarelli, NHL great and legendary coach Ned Harkness), so we decided to step back and take a year off and not have an honoree this year."

"We want to get the West End renovation completed, then decide how we're going to do it (banners, plaques, etc.), then we'll determine whether we'll have one next year," Appert said.

NOTES: When Alex Angers-Goulet scored a goal in both weekend games, it marked just the eighth time this season an RPI player has found the net in consecutive games. He, Chase Polacek and Patrick Cullen have each done so twice, while Bryan Brutlag and Kurt Colling have once each. ... Polacek is two points shy of 30. Rensselaer had no 30-point in any of the three previous seasons. ... The Engineers will have to sweep Clarkson and St. Lawrence on the final weekend or go the entire season without winning consecutive home games.