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Dismal End for RPI

Playoff Defeat Hard to Swallow

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 9, 2010

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute pulled an 11th-seed over 6th-seed upset in the 2009 ECAC Hockey playoffs after winning just seven regular-season games.

When that feat was reversed on them by Brown on Sunday night, the Engineers were crestfallen.

Having won 17 games this season, they expected to march into the quarterfinals and take a shot - against Union or Colgate - at reaching the league championship weekend at the Times Union Center.

The Engineers simply weren't good enough, however, against a team that finished seven points behind them - four fewer victories - in the ECACH standings.

"I feel for our young men because we have good kids in that locker room who care a lot about the program, who played hard this year," Appert said. "They did a lot of good things (to) move our program forward."

"We've got five seniors who are pretty emotional right now who are really quality young men who represented our program well and will continue to do so."

"It doesn't feel like we're through," said Garett Vassel, one of just two senior forwards on the RPI team. "It's almost surreal. We all felt they like we should have done better and we should have. The young guys on the team are going to have to take this lesson and learn from it."

"Hard work will always beat skill, if skill doesn't play well," Vassel said. "That's why I'm here. It's not my toe-drags, or my slapshot."

Senior defenseman Peter Merth, an assistant captain, was perplexed with the defeat, too.

"It seems like we should still be playing," he said. "It came so fast. It doesn't feel like we're done. We're too good."

Well, therein lies one of the problems. The Engineers were good too infrequently.

They swept two-time regular season champion and defending playoff champ and Yale, outscoring the Bulldogs, 9-2.

The Engineers beat 11th-ranked New Hampshire, Boston College and Michigan, too, tied No. 12 Alaska and, played a tie and one-goal loss to 9th-ranked Cornell.

Against teams with 12 or fewer losses, the Engineers were a meager 9-7-1.

"We played well enough to win on Sunday, except we didn't make them work hard for their goals and they made us work very hard for ours," Appert said.

"The only good (scoring chance they had in the first period, they scored on. We probably had six scoring chances in the first."

"And you can't give your opponent, in a series that's this physical and close a 5-on-3 (power play) like that (it produced Brown's second goal.

A goal crease-area giveaway set up the Bears' third score.

"And then we handed them that third goal," Appert said. "So, basically we gave them two goals that they didn't have to work very hard from. That's tough to come back from."

Still, Appert pointed out that after watching the game film on Monday that, "the scoring chances were 22-9 in our favor. Now, when you out-chance your opponent over 2-1, you should win the game."

"The only real scoring chance they had in the third period, they scored on," he said. "We had six good chances and we didn't score."

Nonetheless, Appert reiterated on Monday that in effect, the Engineers, who simply couldn't put consecutive victories together over the final two months of the season, in effect, lost the series by allowing Brown to control most of Game 1.

"what is most disappointing, frustrating and what angers me most," he said, "is the way we played on Friday. Too many of our forwards didn't get the message of what it would take, of how tough a series this would be."

Mental preparation without regard to the level of the opponent, is an issue which Appert and his staff must address for next season. And the Engineers need to find ways to win close games. They were 7-9 in games decided by one goal this season and on three other occasions, including Game 1 on Friday night, they trailed by one in the closing minute when the opposition added an empty-net goal.

Pleny of big scorers: Paul Kerins' three-goal, one-assist weekend pushed the senior forward over the 30-point mark for the season with 15 goals, 16 assists.

For the past three seasons, Chase Polacek had been Rensselaer's only 30-point scorer when he totaled 32 last season.

Well, this year Polacek led the league with 52 points (26-26-52), Brandon Pirri totaled 42 (11-31-42) and led the league in assists, fellow freshman Jerry D'Amigo charted 32 points (10-22-32) and Kerins had 31.

That's great production, even if much of it came on the power play, and yet, the Engineers were basically a .500 team. That merely compounds the disappointment.

Cullen comes on strong: Sophomore left winger Patrick Cullen was second to Polacek on RPI's scoring list one year ago with 24 points (14-10-24).

This year, though, entering Game 2, Cullen had only 11 points (3-8-11) through 34 games.

He played arguably his best hockey of the season over the final two weeks, however and had one goal and two assists over the weekend to finish at 4-10-14.

Cullen is one of several players - along with Tyler Helfrich and Alex Angers-Goulet, who will have to increase offensive production next season.