Friday, December 30, 2011

M-U-S-T win for Engineers

STORRS, Conn. -- Win-starved Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute faces a team struggling even worse than the Engineers are, meeting Army in the consolation game of the Connecticut Hockey Classic.
The Cadets have won just one of 16 games this season -- 1-9-6 -- meaning Army and the Engineers are a combined 4-23-6. It also means that the Engineers MUST win today, or their season will soon be lose. If RPI can't beat this Army team -- or won't play hard enough to do so -- how many of their remaining 15 ECAC Hockey games can the Engineers expect to win?
I know, Army came to Houston Field House on Halloween, 2009 and beat the Engineers, 2-1. That Black Knights team, however, was much strong than this team.
Plus, several of the top Army players have been injured lately or playing hurt. Only left winger Danny Colvin, seventh on the team in scoring (1-5-6), is out today.
The Engineers haven't faced a team over whom they're a clear favorite -- since the Brown six weeks ago -- or perhaps even, all season.
Today, they do. The must shake off the consolation-game doldrums and win this game.
Only 5 D-men: So incensed with the play of the defensemen in Thursday's 7-2 loss to UMass-Lowell, he dressed only five for today's game.
He benched sophomores Pat Koudys and Guy Leboeuf and inserted sophomore Bo Dolan.
Also in the lineup is senior alternate captain Justin Smith, who has played in just seven of the team's 17 games.
Perhaps Appert hopes some of Smith's toughness will rub off on the rest of the team.
Senior left winger Patrick Cullen sits again and hard-working fifth-year senior Joel Malchuk gets a day off following a less-than-stellar game on Thursday.
Junior Bryce Merriam is in net for Engineers.
RPI's lines are (l-r) are Laliberte-Higgs-Haggerty;
Smith is an extra winger.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

STORRS, Conn. -- Every now and then, coaches play hunches. Sometines, they work out, most of the time they're indifferent and other times ...
Rensselaer coach Seth Appert went with a hunch on Thursday and started freshman goaltender Scott Diebold over veteran Bryce Merriam against UMass-Lowell, the nation's No. 17 team.
Let's just say it didn't work out.
It wasn't all Diebold's fault. He was slow to react on a couple of goals but the Engineers were guilty of textbook defensive-zone giveaways on two others. Another was a shorthanded goal.
Thus, the Engineers trail 5-1 after two periods of the opoening-round game of the Connecticut Holiday Classic.
Ryan Haggerty scored for RPI on a nice close-range rebound and the 3-13-0 Engineers have continued to play hard despite the uphill battle and have actually outshot the 10-5-0 River Hawks, 18-15.
More later.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Will he (play), or won't he

LAKE PLACID --Freshman centerman Matt Neal practiced with his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institure teammates all week.
No, he did not dress for today's Festivu Faceoff game against Union at the Lake Placid Olympic Center but just the fact that it was considered -- that Neal was upgraded from 'out' to doubtful caused some excitement among RPI hockey fans.
Neal tested his sore right ankle hard repeatedly.
Head coach Seth Appert, noting the non-conference status of today's game, decided not to chance agrravating the injury.
The Engineers do not play again until Jan. 28 against UMass-Lowell in the UConn Tournament, so why not give the tender ankle another 18 days, at least?
Appert could choose to use Neal sparingly at UConn, or save him for the Dartmouth game on Jan. 6, the resumption of ECAC Hockey play.
In any event, it's almost certain now that Neal, who was scoreless in four games before incurring the injury, will rejoin the team at some point.
Appert had acknowledged that he and his staff may have had to consider seeking medical red-shirt status for Neal.
That decision? To play freshman center Matt Neal or seek a medical redshirt for him.
Now it appears that decision won't have to be addressed. The Engineers, who enter play today with a 3-12-0 overall record, are a better team with a healthy Neal in the lineup.
The same can be said for freshman right winger Ryan Haggerty, RPI's second leading scorer with three goals, three assists.
He's also sidelined today.
Haggerty still has a flu-like symtoms which kept him out of last week's losses at Princeton and Quinnipiac. He didn't skate all week but could play nonetheless, but in his weakended state, the possibility of incurring an injury would be increased.
So, the Engineers, who prior to last week averaged just 1.0 goals per game, continue without to of their more skilled forwards.
The good news, of course, is that the Engineers put in five goals in their two games last weekend.
The forward lines for RPI today, left-to-right, are: C.J. Lee-Marty O'Grady-Zach Schroeder; Brock Higgs-Jacob Laliberte-Patrick Cullen; Alex Angers-Goulet-Johnny Rogic-Joel Malchuck; Matt Tinordi-Mark McGowan-Josh Rabbani.
Higgs, still looking for his first goal (0-6-6) of the season, says the team's forwards "are playing with more confidence" now.
Sophomore defenseman Pat Koudys gets a day off and fellow soph Guy Lebeouf returns to the lineup with D-men Mike Bergin, Nick Bailen, Bo Dolan and Curtis Leonard.
Bryce Merriam is in goal.
For the best highlights of today's game, follow me on Twitter by logging on to

Saturday, December 3, 2011

HAMDEN, Conn. -- Seth Appert doesn't have a goaltender controversy. And he's not trying to start one with tonight's decision to start freshman Scott Diebold over junior Bryce Merriam, who's been regarded as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's No. 1 netminder.
After Diebold shut out Rochester Institute of Technology on Nov. 25, near his Buffalo home, Appert said: "We have a tremendous amount of belief in Bryce and he's our No. 1, but Scottie is going to be a really good college goalie, with a chance to be an elite college goalie, if he continues to put in the work and the time in like he is now. Every game we played him -- now (RIT) is four, including our exhibition (vs. Acadia College)-- he's been very good and given us a chance to win.
We need to find him more playing time."
So, Diebold, with his 1.35 goals against average and 94.4 saves percentage in a shade under 178 minutes, starts tonight against Quinnipiac. To day the 3-11-0Engineers, in the ECAC Hockey basement with a 1-5-0 record, desperately need a victory, would be understating their situation.
Once again tonight, RPI must play without second-leading scorer Ryan Haggerty (3- goals-3 assists-6 points, one of just three RPI players with more than three points, whose again sidelined by illness.
Can the defense maintain its high level?: Prior to leaving for the road trip, I asked Appert that question, if he's worried that, as the RPI offensive production improves (to whatr degree, who knows?), the defense will slip from its outstanding play of the first 13 games.
"No, not at all," he said, "because we can get better. Now, I'm not saying the numbers will look better. Right now, we're at 2.00 per game (discounting empty-net goals). Can we keep our goals against at 2 -- I don't know that's hard to do. But we can be more effective."
Appert noted that while Marty O'Grady and Brock Higgs, two strong two-way players, have been back from injuries for several games, both are just rounding into form.
Highlights on twitter: For the best highlights of tonight's game at Quinnipiac, follow me on Twitter. Log on to and go to troyrecordsport.