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Improved Engineers Enjoy Weekend Sweep

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 9, 2009

TROY - After 10 games, Seth Appert and his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team is on a pace they envisioned.

The Engineers are scoring more goals, allowing fewer, have lost only three of those 10 games (6-3-1) and have effectively played some physical hockey, the season-opener at UMass notwithstanding.

More importantly, they won their first two league encounters, 5-2 over No. 6 Yale and 3-1 over Brown.

Oh, it's easy to point out the one-goal victories over Sacred Heart and American International College were not impressive and the 2-1 loss to otherwise winless Army is an eye-popping blemish on the ledger.

Overall, though, things are going quite well.

The Engineers won only seven games the entire regular season last year. They're just won victory away from matching that mark.

At home, they've already beaten two ranked teams - New Hampshire as well as Yale.

Appert spoke to the players about both victories and the 2-0-0 start.

"You have to win these games (to move up in the standings)," Appert said. "I said to the guys after, 'last night (beating Yale) was great. It was a big win for our program and we beat a really good hockey team and everything was kind of clicking offensively, it was smooth, the transition was good. It wasn't easy, we earned it but it was on. But more often, over our 22 league games, with how good the ECAC is, more of the games are going to be like this (Brown victory), where it's ugly and hard, and it's hard and you got to block shots and do dirty things to win."

Further, Appert said, the 2-0-0 start "doesn't mean anything if we don't come to work (hard) on Monday."

Bottom line is, good teams find ways to avoid big upset losses and pull out those games. The Engineers failed to do so against Army, they were successful against Brown.

Kerins steps up: Paul Kerins is one of just two senior forwards on the RPI team. Usually, he centers the team's fourth line.

At times, though, the Weston, Ont. native has been put on the No. 1 power-play unit with the Engineers' leading scorers, Chase Polacek, Brandon Pirri, Jerry D'Amigo and Tyler Helfrich.

He took a feed to the goalcrease from D'Amigo early in the second period Saturday night and chipped in what eventually became the game-winning goal against Brown.

His other goal this season came on a power play, on assists from Helfrich and Polacek, to wipe out Sacred Heart's 1-0 lead in a game RPI won 4-3 in overtime.

Kerins has earned his power-play time.

"Very enjoyable," Kerins said. "It was a long summer for me, and staying longer (on campus last spring) helped me, too. Last year, and my sophomore year, I didn't play to my potential and I think it was because I wasn't in shape. So, I decided to turn things around, worked a little harder."

"And my teammates, right now are making me look a lot better," Kerins said.

"The guys I'm playing are unbelievable players and I'm just lucky enough to be hopping the boards with those guys and when I'm not, I'm hopping with Garett (Vassel) and Justin Smith, two very hard-working, physical guys who make the game so much easier for a guy like me."

Prideful weekend: The sweep of the ECACH's eastern-most entries marked the first time RPI began a league season with a 2-0-0 mark.

The players felt a sense of accomplishment.

"Pretty proud, yeah," said captain John Kennedy. "It's tough to get two wins on any weekend in this league. We're going to enjoy it, build on it and get ready for next weekend, going up north (to Clarkson and St. Lawrence)."

Nice weekend for Cullen: Sophomore left winger Patrick Cullen broke out of his slump - scoreless in the first eight games - with a goal and an assist in the big victory over Yale and added an assist on Polacek's game-clincher against Brown, making a pretty 2-on-1 pass to Polacek.

After the game, Cullen was speaking with Brown goalie Mike Clemente, against who he played in Washington-northern Virginia youth hockey. It was suggested that Cullen should have shot, instead of passing on the scoring play.

"Ah, he would have shot it right off my chest," Clemente said.

"Real good weekend," Cullen said. "I'm feeling good."

'Put it on net': Jerry D'Amigo is not the pure goal scorer that Brandon Pirri is but he gets the puck to the net.

The Binghamton native's 50 shots on goal lead the RPI stat sheet by a wide margin. Pirri and Polacek are next with 34 and 32.

While three of D'Amigo's six assists have come on pretty feeds to Polacek and Kerins, two others have come on rebounds.

Kirk MacDonald is the only RPI player to reach the mark in shots on goal since Kevin Croxton did so in 2004-05.

D'Amigo could reach that mark by mid-January.

Superstition: Helfrich, sidelined again this past weekend with an ankle injury, sat with the healthy scratches on Friday night against talent-laden Yale.

After the impressive 5-2 victory, it was suggested to Helfrich that he sit in the same seat Saturday night, as the Engineers had to ward off a natural letdown and to 'help' thwart the Bears' upset bid.

Though he's not overly superstitious, Helfrich took the same seat.

"I had it marked," he said. "It was kind of back-and-forth but I sat there."

"Huge wins," Helfrich said. "Hats off to the boys, they played well."

The 2-0-0 start to league play makes Helfrich (1 goal-5 assists-6 points) even more anxious to return next week in the North Country.

"Absolutely," he said. "It was fun to watch the guys get four points but (generally) it's tough to watch. I just want to get back in the lineup and do what I can to help the team win."