Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can RPI improve, escape last place?

TROY -- After Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's latest drubbing at the hands of rival Union College -- the Engineers' three losses to the Dutchmen this season are by a combined 15-4 score -- one has to ask just how many more victories RPI is capable of this year.
The Engineers have won just one of nine ECAC Hockey games thus far, have a 4-17-1 overall record and only two of the four victories have come against teams from major conferences.
In half of their 22 games, the Engineers have scored fewer than two goals and scored exactly two on seven other occasions. Save an empty-net goal against AIC, the Engineers averaged 2.0 goals per game in three games against the weaker Atlantic Hockey Conference. Against the major conferences, they score at an anemic 1.7 goals per game.
Other than the leg wound that has sidelined senior Alex Angers-Goulet for the past two games (he has just two points in 20 games) the Engineers have been healthy for six games now. Discounting that empty-netter, they've reached three goals just once -- a 4-3 loss to Dartmouth.
Only four RPI forwards have scored more than two goals this season. Sure, defense and goaltending win hockey games at all levels but scoing 1.7 goals per game will lose games in any college hockey conference.
The Engineers had appeared to be making some progress prior to the 5-1 loss at Union Saturday night but their first period at Messa Rink Saturday night was poor. Undisciplined penalties led to Jeremy Welsh's 5-on-3 power play goal early in the game, then two glaring mistakes led to a pair of shorthanded goals by the Dutchmen.
The Engineers simply aren't good enough to overcome a three-goal deficit against a team the caliber of Union.
Junior All-American defenseman Nick Bailen was both angry and frustrated, as were his teammates.
"We had three things that we said we we’re going to go out and do (keep Union power plays to three maximum, not give the Dutchmen many odd-man rushes, win the majority of faceoffs)and we didn’t do any of them,” Bailen said. “Myself included, we had breakdowns and we didn’t play 60 minutes.
“Obviously, it’s real bad right now for us,” Bailen added. “We take a step forward, then we take a step back and this was a huge step back for us.”
Rensselaer head coach Seth Appert was pleased that his team played hard throughout the third period, during most of which the Engineers (1-8-1 in ECACH) outplayed the Dutchmen (5-2-3, 11-5-6). That hardly made up for RPI’s earlier mistakes and lack of intensity.
“We didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to win,” said RPI head coach Seth Appert. “Our goal was to hold them to zero power plays, to keep the game five-on-five but we didn’t give ourselves a chance.
“We did not give ourselves the opportunity because of the lack of discipline in the penalties we took and the lack of urgency that some of our guys on the power play showed to give them two shorthanded goals.”
So, where is the Engineers’ confidence level?
Only they can answer that.
It’s clear, though, they simply are not strong enough to rip off a five-, six-game winning streak. After a trip to Brown -- the only team to lose to RPI this season (1-0) -- and Yale, the Engineers are home for four straight games. Three of those games, against St. Lawrence, Clarkson and struggling Colgate, loser of four straight. Even Yale is just 1-3-1 over its past five ECACH games.
A closer outcome against Union -- which outscored RPI 15-4 in three victories this season, certainly would have served the Engineers better.
The 12th-and-last place Engineers are six points out 11th place in ECACH and seven points from 10th place. They 1-11-0 away from Houston Field House this season and to make any climb up the standings whatsoever, they're going to have to win a couple games away from home -- Brown, Harvard, Dartmouth.
And to do so -- somehow, they're going to have to find a way to score three, even four goals in a game a few times.
Full credit to Union: Appert told the media after the game to be clear; his above comments should in any way “diminish what Union did. I thought Union was outstanding, I really like their team, I love their leaders and the passion and intensity that Jeremy Welsh plays with. And Grosenick (Union goalie Troy Grosenick) was great. I thought they were very, very good and deserving of their victory.”
Not enough effort: Appert has said a number of times recently that the Engineers have “too many guys who want it to be easy, who aren't willing to do what it takes to win, too many who aren’t disciplined enough to have long-term success.”
He was asked if he cared to mention some.
“It’s just too deep throughout lineup,” Appert said. “Just too many of them. But obviously it falls upon me and our older guys to shoulder that and obviously, I’m not doing a good job of reaching our older guys.”


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