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RPI Falters After Fast Start

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 31, 2013

TROY - BLowing a three-goal lead and settling for a tie isn't a great way for a college hockey team to open its league season.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 3-3 tie with Harvard on Tuesday night, as difficult as it was for Engineers fans to endure, it was just one game - one point in the standings.

As all Engineers backers painfully remember, RPI began ECAC Hockey play last season winless in the first six games (0-5-1) went 12-2-2 after that; and the Engineers won only one of their first 10 league games (1-8-1) two years ago, then went 6-4-2.

Still, though, as hard to accept as the deadlock was, the 10th-ranked Engineers pretty much got what they deserved.

Their goals were built on two outstanding individual plays and a typical Ryan Haggerty one-timer, his ninth goal of the season.

The Engineers were mediocre at best in the first period.

RPI had controlled play for the first four minutes, then the Engineers were sloppy, careless and uninspired the rest of the way.

"We didn't respond," senior captain Matt Tinordi said. "Harvard came out in the second period and pushed back and we didn't respond."

"I don't know what happened internally, but we got casual, we let up a little bit and that's what happens."

"our mindset...," Tinordi added. "We can't allow ourselves to be comfortable with where we're at no matter how big of a lead we have. We need to keep that mindset that the score is 0-0 and every possession matters."

"Obviously the third period was not what we wanted," Haggerty said. "Hockey is a 60-minute game and we didn't play it tonight ... myself and the (18) other guys."

"Disappointing, yes," said RPI goalie Scott Diebold. "One point instead of two. Disappointed the way that we let them crawl back in the game."

"We were up 3-0. That can't happen. We have to learn from our mistakes."

Perhaps the biggest disappointment, among many, was how open Harvard right winger Brian Hart was, 15 feet in front of the net, when he banged in a rebound to tie the game 3-3 with 9:12 remaining in the third.

Add to that, the fact that the freshman-laden Crimson (1-0-1) continued to outplay the Engineers for the remaining 14 minutes.

A full-blown 3-on-2 led to Harvard's second goal (by Greg Gozzo) at 3:08 of the third.

Highly-touted freshman center Alexander Kerfoot had scored Harvard's first goal midway through the second period.

Rensselaer coach Seth Appert said he didn't think "we were great in the first period even though it was 3-0. I don't think we were very good all game."

"I thought our senior forwards - that line (left-to-right, Matt Tinordi, Brock Higgs, Johnny Rogic) was tremendous and I thought we had too many other guys who were just there tonight, eating up space," Appert said.

Rogic and Higgs scored goals in the first-period and Tinordi assisted on Rogic's.

"They played fairly well throughout but RPI's other forward lines did so only at times."

"We had too many passengers tonight," Appert said.

Appert hinted that some players need to step up their efforts in practice.

"It's funny," he said, "but I said to the guys at practice (on Monday) that it's no surprise to see guys like Higgs, and Rogic and Tinordi and (junior defenseman Luke) Curadi play so well because they practice so well. Guys who practice really well and come with purpose every day end up playing well in games; it's amazing the correlation. We have to make sure that we make a (team-wide) concerted effort to keep practicing the right way as we've been doing much of the first two months and not lose track of our habits and things that really, really matter in how you win games."

Rogic made a nice move down left wing after taking a nice pass near the blue line from Chris Bradley, got Crimson goaltender Steve Michalek to the ice and slipped the puck between his legs for a 1-0 lead just 4:38 into the game.

It was noted to Rogic that the Engineers, outshot 16-8 in the third and overtime periods, had just one shot on goal during the third period of their 4-2 victory over New Hampshire in which RPI led 4-0 earlier.

"Yeah, we let them (UNH and Harvard) back in it," Rogic said. "We just can't get complacent when we

get the lead. We've had good starts in every game, then it seems we just don't have that edge."

Will the Engineers get better at closing games?

"If we want to go far, we'd better figure it out," Rogic said.

"It's only October," Appert said, "but we have to get better."