Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can Engineers bounce back -- again?

TROY -- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had been ahead of Princeton in the ECAC Hockey standings for virtually the entire season.
The Engineers, with their backup goalie Bryce Merriam, had handily beaten the Tigers, 5-2, in their own building just three weeks ago.
Friday night at Houston Field House, though, Princeton clearly looked like the better team. And the Tigers' 4-3 victory sent the Engineers into sixth place in ECACH, being transplaced by the Tigers.
Three freshmen scored goals for the Engineers, and that's certainly optimistic for the future, but let's face it, right now, without Chase Polacek, RPI is a mediocre team.
Polacek, who's been ill over the past couple days, tried valiantly to go Friday night but wasn't effective and was held without a point for the third straight game.
He was on the ice for three of Princeton's goals and just looked too tired while penalty killing late in the second period, when the Tigers converted on a 24-second power play after 1:36 of 4-on-4 play.
Senior defensemen John Kennedy and Jeff Foss were each on the ice for two Tigers tallies and coach Seth Appert proclaimed that his seniors weren't good enough in the game.
"We can't have some of our seniors being so 'at home' for all four of their goals. You know, our seniors need to play like leaders this time of year and again ..."
Appert has claimed all season that the Engineers will "win with our seniors" and "we'll go as far as our seniors take us.
Well, the past three Friday nights, the Engineers have lost with their seniors, including games to two teams that are well behind them in the standings -- despite their current losing skein -- Colgate and St. Lawrence.
When the Engineers returned home on after beating Princeton on Feb. 5, they seemed like a confident team running smoothy on all cylinders.
That certainly hasn't been the case lately; the 1-4-0 record, the poor play around the net, the sputtering of the team's power play.
Polacek is not 100 percent. He won't be tonight against Quinnipiac -- a game which the Engineers should flat out win anyway -- and who knows if he will be when the postseason begins, whenever that is?
The other seniors and some underclassmen have to step up in the meantime.
Rensselaer needs a week off and can get with a victory tonight and help from Yale (beating Cornell) and Union (beating Princeton).
If all three decisions go as outlined, RPI will finish in fourth place, with a 12-9-1 record for 25 points.
Win and pray.
Shake your head, scratch your head: In league play, RPI is 2-6-1 on Friday nights since winning its first league game of the season on Fri., Nov. 5 at Dartmouth. The Engineers will take a 7-2-0 league record in Saturdays games into tonight's clash with Quinnipiac.
The team needs to figure out what is behind such a stark difference between their first game of a weekend and their second.
A loss is a loss is a loss: The defeat hurt the Engineers badly. They could have gone ahead of Cornell -- which lost at Brown -- had they won.
"It hurts more because it's this time of year," Appert said. "But at the end of the day, it's no different than the loss (at) Harvard the first weekend of the ECAC season."
Tinordi plays well, scores: Freshman left winger Matt Tinordi had a good game and scored his first collegiate goal.
He outfought two Princeton backcheckers for a puck in front of the net, kept his balance while being checked as he shot the puck and slipped on under Princeton goalie Sean Bonar.
"Bruty was forechecking in the corner and he made a heads up play, kind of spun and put it right on my tape. I pushed it in 5-hole.
"It's nice, relief, because I feel like I've been battling all year, so it's nice to get one but ..."
...Right, a win would have been better.
Tinordi has played well in his recent outings.
First-chance goals hurting: Appert said Andrew Calof's shorthanded, breakaway goal marked the "fourth straight game in which we've given up a goal on basically the first scoring chance of the game, and it's not (the fault of) our goaltending.
"Yeah, we come right back and tie it but we're playing catch-up," Appert said, "but you're giving your opponent momentum early in a game, and belief, and life and offensive confidence and that's not a good thing this time of year.
"We can't give our opponents the opportunity to take the lead on us so early in the game so many nights in a row."


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