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RPI Still Searching for Offensive Punch

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 20, 2009

TROY - After a trip home of over 16 hours on Sunday, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey coach Seth Appert got some sleep (so did his players).

On Monday, Appert had time to review his team's 1-1 tie with the University of Alaska late Saturday night in which the Engineers surrendered the lead with 1:36 remaining in regulation play.

(Alaska won an unofficial Shootout, 1-0, relegating RPI to fourth place in the Alaska Goal Rush Tournament.)

Losing the lead against a nationally-ranked team was disappointing but not the end of the world.

Appert has to be more concerned with the fact that the Engineers scored just one goal in the two games, having been blanked 3-0 by Alaska-Anchorage in the first game.

Somewhat, anyway.

"Well, I don't look at it like that," he said. "We played two very, very good defensive teams. And on the (larger) Olympic-sized ice. It's actually easier to defend on the Olympic ice, if you play a tough, defense-oriented style, because the extra ice is all on the outer one-third of the rink."

Much-heralded freshman Brandon Pirri scored his first collegiate goal midway through the second period and the Engineers nearly made it stand up.

But a 4-on-3 power play goal by Alaska defenseman Joe Sova tied the game with 1:36 remaining.

The goal minimized a superlative effort by RPI goalie Allen York, who made several brilliant saves during the third, when the Engineers were outshot, 18-2.

Rensselaer could easily have had more than a one-goal lead at that time.

"For 40 minutes, we created some very, very good scoring opportunities," Appert said. "We had seven or eight high-quality chances. Either their goalie (Scott Greenham) made a big save, or we just missed."

Included were a couple missed open nets.

"There were at least two that certainly could have been goals," Appert said, "that we misfired on. We could have had a second and third goal (both before and after Pirri's tally.)"

In the third period, the Engineers were dominated.

"That was a combination of a little fatigue on our part and their turning it up a notch on their home rink," Appert said. "They're a very good team."

York made a sprawling, diving save, made two sliding kick saves and a sweeping stick save, as well as diving on several loose pucks in the crease.

It could have been good enough for a big victory had the Engineers put in one more.

Further, the RPI attack is getting little support from the second, third and fourth lines. Remember, third- or fourth-liner Josh Rabbani's goal against New Hampshire came on a line change as he put in the rebound of a shot by top-liner Chase Polacek. On defenseman Mike Bergin's goal later in that game, fourth-line center Joel Malchuk was on the ice with 'A' liners Tyler Helfrich and Jerry D'Amigo.

Patrick Cullen and Alex Angers-Goulet, who combined for 17 goals, 22 assists as freshmen last season, have yet to hit the points column this year.

Will the low output improve soon?

Appert is keeping the low goals output in perspective.

"We'll see," he said. "It'll play out. I don't look at two or four games as a pattern. I view 10 or 12 games as a pattern."

The Rensselaer defense was outstanding in Alaska and has been in all four games.

The Engineers have allowed just five equal-strength goals in the four games and 10 overall.

Appert is pleased, to a point.

"It's getting there," he said of the defense. "I want it (goals against) to be less than 2.5 (per game). We need it to be in the low 2s."

"Except for the 5-on-3s (UMass had two 5-on-3 goals), our penalty killing has been pretty good," Appert said. "Our 5-on-4 PK has been very good."

Indeed. Overall, RPI has killed 24 of 30 shorthanded situations, just a mediocre 80 percent, but have surrendered two 4-on-3 goals as well as the two 5-on-3. So, their conventional (5-on-4) penalty killing is a fine 91.3 percent on 21 of 23.

Appert stopped short of saying that he'd have expected two victories in Alaska if he'd known the Engineers would surrender just four goals.

Overall, he said, "we're still a work in progress."

The Engineers host Atlantic Hockey entrants Sacred Heart and American International on Friday and Saturday, respectively.