Friday, December 13, 2013

Engineers face tougher test this weekend

   TROY -- Beating Princeton last week was no big accomplishment for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The 5-2 decision over the Tigers was a big victory for the Engineers, nonetheless.
It was one of those games where, if you lose, it could have been devastating.
The previous night, the Engineers let a two-goal lead slip away and had to settle for a 3-3 tie for the third time this season -- all at home. This one was against Quinnipiac, the No. 6 team (No. 5 then) in the country. It would have been a great feather in the Engineers' collective cap.
Didn't happen, though, and if the Engineers had fallen victim to a huge upset, as mentioned, it would have been a big-blot type of loss.
Princeton, a medicore team at full strength, was without its two top scorers, Andrew Calof and Tyler Maugeri and five other injured players. The Tigers were struggling and put just 10 forwards on the ice.
It's a game the Engineers had to win, and they did.
Against 20th-ranked Denver tonight and Saturday night, the test will be much more demanding.
The Pioneers are an outstanding defensive team, have one of the top goaltenders in the nation in Sam Brittain and their special times are upper echelon.
If the Engineers can get at least one victory this weekend, it will serve them well in power rankings and in the confidence area as well.
Monty steps into big shoes: Jim Montgomery was asked what it was like to take over for a legend.
He did so, last June, accepting the head hockey coaching job at the University of Denver, replacing the legendary George Gwozdecky.
In 19 years at Denver, Gwozdecky won 443 games and two national championships.
Much is expected of Montgomery; it would have been no matter who was hired.
"It's been good so far," said Montgomery, who'll lead his Denver Pioneers against RPI  tonight and Saturday night.
He gave Gwozdecky much of the credit for an easy transition.
"The transition was smooth, thankfully, because of the great work Gwoz had done. It's a great culture there and the infrastructure was already set up.
"It wasn't like when Seth (Appert) came here, the amazing job he's done with the rink (seeing to it that) new locker room and the (coaches) offices (were added).That was already in place at Denver (the palatial Magness Arena is one of college hockey's top venues). That's been great.
"Just the change in (style of ) how we want to play has been the difference," Montgomery said.
The Pioneers come in with an 8-6-2 overall record which could have been better had several star players left school early for pro hockey -- center Nick Shore (14 goals-20 assists-34 points), defenseman Scott Mayfield (4-13-17) and standout goaltender Juho Olkinuora (13-6-5, 2.35 goals- against average).
Montgomery, an RPI assistant under Appert for four seasons, will have many RPI fans wishing him well this weekend. The team -- not so much.
"Well, that's great," he said. "I enjoyed my four years here. Seth is a great friend, he's a wonderful person, he's a mentor, and he's done a terrific job here building an elite program. I'm looking forward to this weekend."
You can put the words "beating him" between "to" and "this."
The competitive Montgomery came here to win two games; reminiscing -- no matter how pleasant -- is a sidelight.
A steal?: Rensselaer picking up a commitment from Louie Nanne (Lou Nanne III) may not be a steal but it certainly is a nice pickup.
The grandson of former Minnesota North Starts standout Lou Nanne had planned to follow his grandfather and father Marty and become a Golden Gopher -- the University of Minnesota.
He de-commited to Minnesota and called RPI.
Nanne, an Edina, Minn. native, had played for Appert on the USA Under 18 team two years ago when Appert coached the team. Perhaps the fact that his former Edina High teammates, defenseman Parker Reno, is an RPI freshman, also influenced Nanne.
Nanne's not big -- 5-foot-10, 177 pounds and isn't considered a big goal scorer -- but he is a solid, all-around player. A left-handed stick, the 19-year old Nanne is speedy and goes have good stick skills but won't shy away from joining a crowd headed toward a loose puck in the corner.
He plays left wing and center equally well and since RPI graduates two centers -- Brock Higgs and Johnny Rogic -- Nanne can get some minutes next season.  
Committed recruit Carlos Fornaris is also a center.
With 12 returning forwards and four coming in next season -- Nanne, Fornaris, and left wingers Evan Tironese and Drew Melanson, and with seniors Higgs, Rogic and Matt Tinordi leaving, the Engineers will have 16 forwards next season.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2016 NCAA Regional in Albany

ALBANY -- NCAA Tournament hockey is returning to the Times Union Center. So is NCAA women's basketball.
The NCAA announced today that the 2016 Hockey Tournament's East Regional will be played at the downtown arena.
March 28-31, 2015, the NCAA Women's Basketball East Regional championship will be held at the TU Center, with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Tampa.
It will mark the first time Albany has hosted an NCAA women's event.
"We're excited," said TU Center General Manager Bob Belber. "We're going to put on two excellent events for local fans in men's hockey and women's basketball and for the teams, players and coaches and their fans."
The other regional sites for the 2016 are Providence, Cincinnati and Fargo, with the Frozen Four at TD Bank Boston Garden.
The TU Center has hosted NCAA hockey events seven times in the past, the latest being 2010, and housed the 2001 Frozen Four, in which Boston College beat North Dakota, 3-2, to win the national championship.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

After another lost two-goal lead and tie, Engineers need to be "ornery"

TROY -- Seth Appert was pleased with the play of his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team during Friday night's game. Afterwards, though, he said he hopes his team comes out "ornery and angry" for today's (4 p.m.) ECAC Hockey contest against Princeton.
Friday night's 3-3 tie with Quinnipiac gave RPI a 0-3-4 record in the past seven meetings with the Bobcats and it marked the third time this season -- all at home -- that the Engineers built a 2-0 lead only to finish with a tie. Against Harvard, that lead was 3-0.
Ryan Haggerty scored his 16th and 17th goals for RPI within the first 6:31 of the game but the Engineers could manage just one more over the final 58 and one-half minutes.
It's suggested -- by many -- a disturbing trend has been set by the Engineers.
They've outscored the opposition 24-4 in the first period but have been outscored 18-14 in the second. The Engineers controlled much of the play in the second but put only six shots on the Quinnipiac net and were sloppy in their own end and mistakes led to both Bobcats goals. A number of times this season, RPI has lost control of the game in the second 20 minutes. It was suggested the second stanza was problematic again.
"Completely disagree," Appert said. "I thought the we came out great in the second period. We had about five scoring chances before they even really touched the puck. We had great looks at the front of the net. We were hard, we were aggressive, we created a 2-on-1, their kid (goalie Mike Garteig) made a good save (on Milos Bubela), he made a couple rebound saves. We created a 2-on-0 and the kid made an unbelievable back-door save (on Curtis Leonard). I thought we came out great in the second."
Yet, the aforementioned mistakes were a key to the game's outcome.
Twice the Engineers had a chance but failed to clear the puck before defenseman Zach Tolkinen put the Bobcats on the board with a shot from near the blue line at 2:12 of the period.
Late in the period, a poor pass led to Sam Anas' breakaway goal that tied the game.
"The only thing I'm disappointed in was that we had a few (poor) puck decisions in the second period," Appert said, adding that the Engineers "gave them their first two goals with poor puck decisions that gave them easy opportunities. They (earned) some other ones that Scotty made some good saves on already. But I thought we had two poor puck decisions in the second period that led to their two goals."
So, the second period was problematic in that regard.
"We saw two mistakes that we made cost us," Haggerty said. "That's how easy it is (to lose leads). One mistake, two mistakes and it's in the back of the net. They're (Quinnipiac) a great team and they put pucks in the net."
"I thought the guys were more committed to play physical (Friday night)," said assistant captain Johnny Rogic. "There was definitely more urgency in our game than in the past few weeks but it still wasn't enough. It's going to a real special effort to get us out of the hole we're in. It's not going to be easy, it's not going to be one game, it's going to have to be a couple weeks in a row and we've just got to be totally committed every day."
Thus, the Engineers, at 2-3-3, have won just two of their eight ECACH games -- they won 11 of their final 12 last season -- and that creates a must-win situation today.
Princeton (2-7-0, 3-11-0) has struggled all year and will likely play without two of their top players (they did Friday night at Union) -- center Andrew Calof and right winger Tyler Maugeri, as well as several other injured players.
What does Appert expect of the Engineers today?
"To be ornery," he said. "Ornery and angry. Mean." 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Engineers rebound with big victory

ERIE, Pa. -- Sometimes in college hockey, a victory isn't as big as a loss would have been had the team not won.
Well, being as shorthanded as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was on Saturday night, its 5-2 non-conference victory Mercyhurst was a big one. Oh, if they Engineers would have been swept by the Lakers, it could have been a devastating defeat to be sure. Yet, with the offense struggling, with consistency waning, with several regulars benched and with Matt Neal, who had been on a hot streak, severely weakened by foot poisoning, it was a dig-down-deep triumph for the 14th-ranked Engineers. Having top scorer Ryan Haggerty back in the lineup certainly helped, as he assisted on RPI's first goal and scored the second and third.
Veteran defensemen Guy Leboeuf and Curtis Leonard chipped in with goals and Jacob Laliberte assisted twice, then put the game away with a steal-and-breakaway goal 6:10 remaining.
After Friday night's dismal 5-2 lead in which the Engineers lacked passion and tenacity and were dominated in the third period, Saturday's performance was a nice bounce-back win, RPI's superior talent notwithstanding.
"Yeah, and I thought they did a good a good job in that (locker)room," Rensselaer coach Seth Appert said. "As I said all week, it (better, more consistent play) has to come from that room. I can be hard, and I can be demanding and I can take ice time away if necessary. I don't prefer to do that but if necessary ...
"But at the end of the day, those older guys in that room know what I want and know what we need to be about and I thought our three captains (Matt Tinordi, Brock Higgs and Johnny Rogic), and all of our seniors (defensemen Guy Leboeuf and Bo Dolan) did a good job of taking charge in that room today and on the bench tonight."
Leboeuf and Haggerty scored in the first period -- freshman Jake Wood with a nifty pass to set up Haggerty in front -- for a 2-0 lead and after the Engineers gave up the tying goal -- on a horrible giveaway -- with 17 seconds remaining in the second period, they came out and totally controlled the final stanza.
Leonard scored amidst a goalmouth scrum eight minutes into the third period and Laliberte made his big play less than six minutes later.
Scott Diebold was solid in net with 23 saves and the Engineers showed more hunger and passion than in recent games.
"It still not an acceptable weekend," Appert said, "because it's not acceptable to not play as hard as we needed to (and didn't) last night (Friday.)"
At least the Engineers won't have to go into their next game (Dec. 6) against ECAC Hockey-leading Quinnipiac on a four-game losing streak.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Engineers must find a way

 ERIE, Pa. -- Back-to-back non-league games rarely have an adverse affect on a college hockey team's season.
When a team is in a fragile straits when it comes to belief and confidence as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is, bouncing back from a defeat such as the Engineers' 5-2 setback to Mercyhurst can be critical.
Flatly, the Engineers NEED to win tonight's second meeting with Mercyhurst. A loss would be RPI's fourth straight, the offense is struggling mightily to create chances, and finish on those rare occasions when they do.
Even though Mercyhurst's final two goals came with the RPI net empty on Friday night, the Lakers dominated the Engineers for the final 35 minutes, forechecking them effectively, outhitting them, consistently beating the quicker Engineers to loose and swinning the majority of puck battles.
Further, the Engineers gave up a total breakaway on Chris Bodo's game-tying goal midway through the second play.
Every player in RPI's lineup has to step up tonight for the shorthanded Engineers.
Ryan Haggerty is back but Matt Tinordi is so banged up he's sidelined. Don't know why Zach Schroeder and Mark McGowan are out -- whether they're too banged up or are healthy scratches. tBoth played okay Friday night but like the entire team, lacked tenacity for the second half of the game.
In addition, Matt Neal has been practicing, and played Friday night, through food poisoning suffered last Sunday night. He hasn't eaten a full meal since and was quite weakened by the time tonight's warmups came about.
Coach Appert dressed only 11 forwards -- Tinordi, McGowan, Schroeder, DeVito (injured) and Wood (?) out and an extra defenseman -- Craig Bokenfohr.
It'll be a tall task, but the Engineers must find a way -- score some goals and play well in front of goaltender Scott Diebold. It's almost a must.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A must split (at very least) for RPI.

SCHENECTADY -- Short lead-in to tonight's big, RPI at Union hockey game.
The Engineers MUST get a victory this weekend -- tonight or tomorrow night. Rensselaer players, to a man, say these two games are just like any other ECACH games, that Union is just another opponent.
We've all played sports and we know that line is simply not true.
This streak, eight straight entering tonight's game -- 3-14-1 in the past 18 league games -- will stay in the Engineers head, and affect them, until they end it. Tonight or tomorrow night; one or the other, at least.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Laliberte fine after taking shot in head; Kasie surgery went well

   TROY -- Injuries in practice continue to mount up for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The one that occurred on Wednesday, though, was more of a wound than an injury and isn't considered serious.
Junior left winger/center Jacob Laliberte took a slap shot to the face (the puck got inside his face mask) from Ryan Haggerty and was cut in two places.
Laliberte was helped to his feet by teammates, bleeding profusely, but left the ice on his own ability.
Asked if he'll be on the lineup at Union on Friday night, Laliberte said, "definitely. I'll be fine."
Rensselaer coach Seth Appert affirmed Laliberte's words.
"Hockey players bleed," Appert said. "He'll be fine."
Concussion symptoms will again keep high-energy sophomore Travis Fulton out of the lineup this weekend, though sophomore Milos Bubela, who has 23 points (9-14-23) in 44 games in his career, will likely return from an undisclosed injury that kept him out last weekend.
All-ECAC Hockey goaltender Jason Kasdorf, who had surgery on Wednesday to repair a recurring problem with shoulder dislocations, was injured in practice on Oct. 15. Several players over the past two years were also banged up in practice.
Appert said he spoke to Kasdorf on Wednesday and that the surgery went well and that, "all things considered" Kasdorf was feeling OK.
Fulton was injured in practice on Oct. 16.
Bubela was injured in the 2-0 loss at Harvard on Nov. 1.