Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Appert stays optimistic

TROY – Is it panic time for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s hockey team?
Maybe not just yet, but it’s getting close.
The Engineers have lost seven straight games, totaled just five goals in those games and lately, are just not getting enough shots to the net.
While their play has been quite good in other areas and injuries to key players are a major contributor to the unproductive offense, the Engineers need to put more shots at opposing goalies and put more past them.
In the first two games of the season, Rensselaer put 36 and 38 shots on the Minnesota (Mankato) State goal. In the seven games since, the Engineers’ shots on goal totals have been 17, 26, 17, 25, 21, 21 and 18.
That’s 20.7 per game and over any length of time, that average simply isn’t good enough.
The players are talking about needing “better execution” and admit they’re feeling some “frustration” but that they’re not near the point of panic.
“I don’t think we’re panicking (yet),” said RPI coach Seth Appert, whose real concern shows through his perpetual optimism.
“I believe our guys believe we have good team in there but we’re just not there yet,” Appert said. “I think offensively we’re pressing. That’s the issue. There are other things as well that we’re not doing as well as we need to do.”
Then, ever hopeful that any nosedive in the team’s confidence be avoided, Appert switched to things they Engineers are doing well.
“Realistically … our goals against average is about 2.22, because empty-netters don’t count,” (Appert said. (It’s 2.24 without the seven empty-net goals).
“So, it you’re giving up 2.22 goals a game through nine games and most of (the games) have been against Top 10, Top 15 teams in the country, you’re doing a lot of things well,” Appert said. “Our team defense is pretty good. It needs to get better in a few areas but it’s been pretty good.
“Our goaltending has been very good (Bryce Merriam, 2.32 GAA, 91.9 saves percentage; Scott Diebold, 2.04, 91.3), out penalty kill’s has been very good (88.5 percent).
“Offensively, we’re struggling,” he repeated, “and I think that can start to bleed into other areas and we need to make sure, No. 1, that it doesn’t, and No. 2 we have to make sure we continue to focus on things we can control. We cannot control if we miss back-door tap-ins right now. Those things are going to happen.”
And of course, no team can control the injuries or a bad call against it here and there, though the Engineers, it must be said, have paraded to the penalty box with much too much frequency and except for an instance two, the whistles against them have been warranted.
“What we can control is…how our attitude toward (ourselves) is and that we embrace this as a challenge and a great opportunity that we’re in and not as a ‘woe is me’ type of thing.
“We can control our execution of how we want to play and we can control our commitment in the Engineer way and how we want to play as a team.
“So, if we stay focused on those three things, we’re going to be just fine. We’re going to get through this and we’re going to become a very good hockey team.”


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