Saturday, March 10, 2012

Engineers should have gained some confidence

SCHENECTADY -- Seth Appert said his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team realized "no moral victory" on Friday night when outplaying Union in the third period of its 3-2 ECAC Hockey playoff loss to Union; even though the defeat gave RPI a 4-17-4 in the past 25 meetings of the rivals and even though the Engineers nearly tied the game in the third period.
Maybe not, but after being outscored 15-4 in three previous losses to the Dutchmen this season, the Engineers could exact a measure of good psychology for tonight's Game 2 of the ECACH quarterfinal-round series at Union's Messa Rink.
The Engineers played the more talented Dutchmen quite even in 5-on-5 situations.
"Our first mistake was getting down shorthanded, those two (power-play) goals," said Rensselaer captain Mike Bergin.
Greg Coburn's power-play goal early in the second period gave Union (21-7-7) a 3-1 lead at that point.
"And they're a tough team to come back against," Bergin said. "They're not just offensively talented, they're really good defensively, too. We just have to come out buzzing (tonight) right from the get-go."
"We weren't in the box that much," Appert said. "Only five (Union) power plays, so from that perspective..."
To be sure, it will be quite difficult for the Engineers to beat Union without special teams being a big factor. For RPI to win twice, with Union's power play and PK seeing lots of action, it will be next to impossible.
Having said that, Patrick Cullen had a clear breakaway midway through the second period and Matt Tinordi would have had a second goal if he'd been able to cleanly handle Brock Higgs' cross-ice pass.
In fairness, it should be added that Union's Kelly Zajac rattled one off the crossbar in the third.
All in all, though, while not a "moral victory", the outcome was much better than 5-1, 5-2, 5-1 and the Engineers can be confident for Game 2 tonight.
"We don't care": Alex Angers-Goulet, after describing his third-period goal to the media after Game 1, was asked if Union deliberately made RPI wear its home sweaters (the Dutchmen wore their black alternative jerseys) because the Engineers had been 7-1-1 in their past nine road games -- and because RPI was lodging just six blocks from Messa Rink, rather than commute.
"I don't think so," he said. "We could wear yellow, I don't care."
Rensselaer captain Joel Malchuk, when told Union's, 3-2, Game 1 victory was the Dutchmen's first one-goal victory of the season, had no real reaction.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "It's just coincidence."
Yes -- the Dutchmen went 0-2-0 against last-place Brown, not only had the ECACH's worst record in one-goal decisions, but went winless in such games.
Go back as many years as you want and try to find another such example.
No doubt the Dutchmen would just smile and/or chuckle when the subject is mentioned.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Road trip to Schenectady

TROY -- What was joked about among Rensselaer hockey fans and the media on Sunday night is no longer a joke -- it's reality.
The Engineers will not commute to and from Union College this weekend, they'll lodge at a downtown Schenectady hotel, just a few blocks from Union's Messa Rink, where the two Rt. 7 rivals clash in the ECAC Hockey playoff quarterfinals best-of-3 series.
Messa Rink is about 16.5 miles from Houston Field House.
"It's not like a road trip, it is a road trip," RPI coach Seth Appert said Wednesday. "We're going to treat it exactly how we've been treating road trips this season, especially in the second half. That structure (involved in road trips), that we've talked about in the second half, that structure, our guys have played better with. So we're going to provide that structure to for our guys to give ourselves the best opportunity to play the right way."
It's been well-documented that Rensselaer's series-deciding, 4-1 Game 3 victory at Clarkson on Sunday night gave the Engineers a 7-1-1 record in their past nine road games, which included a 6-0-1 streak after Game 1.
To be sure, that recent success, after the Engineers had been 1-10-0 away from home, is part of the decision to stay in Schenectady.
"For some reason," Appert said, "our guys seem to (be more relaxed, play better on the road) ... and it's more about the togetherness and the structure than it is about being in another arena that has allowed us focus in and play better hockey."
The decision was Appert and was made "about 10 seconds after (Game 3 at Clarkson ended)."
Many others had the same idea, though, including a number of players, including defensemen Nick Bailen and Mike Bergin and goaltender Bryce Merriam.
"We were saying, 'wouldn't it be nice if we could stay in a hotel,''' Bailen reflected.
"Even my wife was on the same page," Appert said. "Even before I talked to her that night (after Game 3), I think she was talking to my mother and my mom said, 'it'll be nice that he'll be around this weekend a little bit more.'
"She said 'I'll put money on it that he puts them in a hotel,''' Jill Appert said of her husband.
"It doesn't guarantee of success," Appert said of the road-trip mantra, "and certainly isn't going to against a team as good Union but I think what it'll do, is allow us the focus to give ourselves the best chance to be in games with them. And that's what we need to do, to give ourselves a chance later in games with them because we haven't even been in it at the halfway point, basically, in the three games we've played against them."
The Engineers trailed 4-1 midway through the second period of Union's first 5-1 victory, at RPI on Nov. 15, and 3-0 at the halfway point of the 5-1 loss at Union on Jan. 14.
In its 5-2 loss to the Dutchmen at Lake Placid on Dec. 10, the games was tied 2-2 midway through the second but Union's Wayne Simpson and Shayne Gostisbehere scored later in the period and the Dutchmen took a 4-2 lead into the third.

Monday, March 5, 2012

RPI penalties weren't really humorous

POTSDAM -- Seth Appert referred to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team's third period Sunday night at Clarkson as "The Gong Show."
Actually, assistant coach Nolan Graham did.
"The Gong Show," Appert said when asked about it. "I think that's what coach Graham classified it as."
The Engineers got a tie-breaking goal from Mike Bergin at 4:12 of the third, on a 5-minute power play, and added two more later, by Joel Malchuk at 5:47 and Marty O'Grady's empty-netter with 1:12 remaining to win the best-of-three preliminary-round series in the ECAC Hockey playoffs.
Coming into the series, RPI had been outscored 34-18 in the third period and the final 20 minutes of games has been a problem for the team for several years.
Aided by the major penalty to Clarkson's Allen McPherson as the second period ended, the Engineers took control of the game and kept it throughout.
They did take several penalties, which of course, annoyed Appert greatly.
"I thought we played well, except for the penalties," he said. "We need to play with more maturity than that. We can't take those penalties. We can't put ourselves down 5-on-3 twice, with a two-goal lead, twice in the last 10 minutes of a game. I mean, that's absurd."
Brock Higgs was called for tripping when he appeared to be stationary at 11:06 but with nearly one minute remaining in that penalty, Guy Leboeuf took a totally unnecessaty cross-checking penalty. Later, with 4:06 remaining in the game, Johnny Rogic was guilty of hooking in the neutral zone, with RPI's defense set up behind the play. Bergin gave out an obvious, no-need-whatsoever slashing penalty 30 seconds later.
Clarkson pulled goaltender Paul Karpowich for a 6-on-3 attack. The Engineers survived without a goal being scored, helped out greatly by the most needless, foolish penalty of all, a slashing call on Golden Knights sophomore Ben Sexton just 34 seconds after Bergin's penalty.
Some 1:18 later, RPI's Marty O'Grady put the game away with an empty-net goal at 18:28.
"But we can't be taking those penalties," Appert reiterated.
Back to those third periods of play over the years.
Rensselaer, with a much-higher scoring team last season headed by two-time All-American Chase Polacek, reversed a disturbing trend by outscoring the opposition 38-32 in the third period of games. In previous seasons, the opposition had outscored RPI over the final 20 minutes by 42-33 in 2009-10, 43-16 in 2008-09, 50-18 in 2007-08, 46-22 in 2006-07 and 44-33 in 2005-06.
As this season progressed, the Engineers became a better team and improved third periods was a part of that evolution into the team that's posted an 8-5-2 record since a 5-1 loss to Union left the Engineers with a 4-17-1 mark -- 1-8-1 in ECACH games.
Appert asked if "the third period has been an issue since Jan. 1"
"I remember us coming back to tie Cornell in the third (with two goals)," he said. "I remember us being tied with Yale in the third and beating them."
Since Jan. 1, RPI has outscored its opponents 17-14. That's a far cry from being outscored 23-5 in the third prior to Jan. 1.
"I just think we've become a lot better team since Jan. 1 and (improvement within) the third period is a part of that."
Bergin stands out: Mike Bergin was expected by many to be an instant star when he came to RPI in September of 2008.
The soft-spoken Ottawa native was a bit shy at first, uncomfortable with leading RPI's top power-play unit. Then he spent nearly two years battling injuries.
The 23-year old Dallas Stars draft pick has been playing the best, most consistent hockey of his RPI career over the past month. He was outstanding throughtout the Clarkson series.
"Yeah, I think I am," the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bergin said. "I feel confident and all and it's easy to play well with these guys. Everybody's worked hard to get better."
Bergin spoke of his game-winning goal in Game 3, which broke a 1-1 tie 4:14 into the third period from low in the right circle.
"I kind of waited a little bit to find a lane," Bergin said. "Great pass by Higgsy (Brock Higgs) and unbelievable screen by Nealer (Matt Neal)."
Merriam in top form: Rensselaer junior goalie Bryce Merriam doesn't get the acclaim afforded Clarkson senior netminder Paul Karpowich does. Well, he should for his play in the series, especially in Game 3.
"Bryce Merriam was spectacular tonight," Appert said after the Engineers wrapped up the series. "Karpowich was a stud for them (in Game 2) and I thought Bryce outplayed him tonight. He's a big reason why we won."

RPI should enjoy victory; Did Jones diss Bergin?

POTSDAM -- It's no major accomplishment, a No. 10 seed in a 12-team tournament beating the No. 7 on the road. However, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute should savor Sunday night's 4-1 victory over Clarkson in the preliminary round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.
Coach Seth Appert says repeatedly the team's focus from Jan. 1 on was to be a "process focused" team -- instead of "results-focused" and work to become better and be a hard team to play against come March and hopefully, the results would improve as the team did. The strategy has been fairly successful thus far.
The Engineers began the calendar year with a 4-3 loss to Dartmouth, a game they could have won and a 2-2 tie with Harvard, a game they should have won but left them with a 3-16-1 record.
That was followed by a fairly unimpressive 3-1 victory over a grossly weak American International team and a 5-1 pounding by Union, their third such defeat to the rival Dutchmen this season. That loss could have sunken a team with a lesser resolve, a team with a less positive coaching staff.
The Engineers didn't fold up.
Since then, they are 8-5-2 and Sunday night's victory gave them a 7-1-1 record in their past nine road games.
"From where we were Dec. 30 to now, I think this is a good accomplishment and know we have to lock in and take the next step," Appert said.
Now the Engineers have to go to Union -- a team that's outscored them 15-4 in three games. They'll be a big underdog but Appert doesn't care.
"I said before the game, 'they can send us to Michigan or Boston College, I don't care, as long as we get to play next week because that meant we won today.'''
As the Dutchmen, who Appert has termed "the best team in our league" all season, he says "it's going to (take) everything that we have in us to give ourselves a chance."
Clarkson coach Jones confronts Bergin?: First-year Clarkson coach Casey Jones and RPI captain Mike Bergin appeared to have some harsh words during the traditional post-playoff series handshake. Each denied there was any hostility but the look on Jones' face at the time suggested otherwise.
One Clarkson insider said Jones felt Bergin should have gotten a one-game suspension for his late-game major penalty -- leading 5-1 at the time -- that left Clarkson winger Will Frederick a concussion.
League Supervisor Paul Stewart, the insider said, suggested a suspension for Bergin but was overruled by league Commissioner Steve Hagwell.
This is second-hand and could be half-true or totally untrue but Jones did appear controversial to Bergin.
More on this -- and more on the Engineers' gutsy playoff victory later today.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Appert not worried; Schroeder update; won't play

POTSDAM -- Seth Appert says his Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team won't have any psycholical problem getting emotionally ready and staying positive for tonight's decisive ECAC Hockey playoff game at Clarkson.
Some RPI fans aren't as optimistic about that thought.
The Engineers, convincing winners of Game 1, surrendered three one-goal leads on Saturday night and lost 4-3 in triple overtime.
Clarkson now has the momentum, the Engineers have a bunch of 'what-ifs' to ponder all day long after losing a game they should have won.
"We'll be fine," said Appert, who's more worried about his players' mental toughness tonight, rather than the psychological affects of the gruelling, galling defeat.
With the three extra sessions Saturday night, he said, in effect "you're playing your fourth game in three days.
"We just have to have outstanding mental execution (tonight)," he said. "Our guys are in great shape physically, so they're going to be ready to go in that regard. (But) your body is a little worn, so that's where your mind has to be stronger. You have to be stronger with your habits, you have to be stronger with your discipline you have to be stronger with how we execute because lack of execution in a (series-deciding) game is probably the downfall of a team. So, we have to be strong mentally."
Winger Matt Tinordi, becoming a team leader though just a sophomore because his tough, physical play, believes the Engineers are in a good position.
"I thought the team really stayed together," Tinordi said. "Guys were positive on the bench even with two guys short, (Zach) Schroeder (injured) and Lee (game misconduct). Guys kept together, kept loud, kept the energy level up and kept focused. It just didn't go our way.
"I like where we are," Tinordi continued. "We've done a good job being physical on them for two games, getting to the front of the net, making it hard on their goalie and their defensemen. (We'll) just get some rest and we should be able to keep wearing them down."
Schroeder, who looked as though he may have suffered a severe shoulder injury when he was run into the boards by Clarkson's Patrick Marsh with 24 seconds remaining in regulation time, was said to be just quite sore during the day and stringly considered playing tonight. Then the shoulder stiffened.
"I could have played ... but I didn't want to risk it," he said about 30 minutes before game time. I can't even lift it above my shoulder."
Should Rensselaer prevail tonight, Schroeder hopes to play in next weekend's quarterfinals. And he predicted senior winger Alex Angers-Goulet, a healthy scratch in Games 1 and 2, would have a strong game in his place.
Schroeder's 12 points (6-6-12) is tied for seventh on the RPI scoring sheet.
Angers-Goulet has just four point (1-3-4) in 29 games.
Lee penalty didn't warrant major: The absence of junior winger C.J. Lee that Tinordi also referenced was due to a major boarding penalty at 3:02 of the third period should have been ruled a minor. Lee took the Clarkson player into the boards with just one arm and had pretty much slowed to a stop at that point.
Since the hit made a lot of noise and occured right in front of the Clarkson student section and the Clarkson player lay prone on the ice, referees Chris Ciamaga and Joe Testa ruled the hit -- the one-armed shove to the player's side, not back -- a 5-minute infraction.
Clarkson's Alex Boak scored to tie the game at 2-2 3:22 into the penalty. Rensselaer would have killed a minor penalty -- which should have been the ruling -- and kept the lead. And Lee, a warrior, a tenacious penalty killer and RPI's goals leader with eight, thus missed the final 70 minutes, 48 seconds of the game.
Marsh's run on Schroeder was a no-brainer major, even if Marsh's stick hadn't been in Schroeder's skates as the players reached the boards. Schroeder was in pain -- but didn't remain down on the ice. He bounced up and skated away.
Appert didn't comment on the what the severity of Lee's penalty should have been but he certainly did on Schroeder.
"I thought he showed great toughness, great character," Appert said of his speedy freshman winger. "Not only to get to that puck first and take that hit to draw a penalty, but (after going) head first into the boards, (to) not stay on the ice trying to draw a further penalty, to not lay there looking and the refs, hoping they'll call it a 5 (-minute infraction), but to be a man, to get up and sprint back to your teammates on the bench shows what kind of toughness that young man has."
Scoring changes: The pressbox said Saturday night, no way Patrick Cullen's first goal, giving RPI a 2-1 lead at 6:47 of the second period, was unassisted, as it was scored. Tinordi had won a puck battle in the right corner, then Cullen, near the goal line, fired a shot that hit the arm of Clarkson goalie Paul Karpowich and went into the net.
Assists were added to both Tinordi and Brock Higgs later.
On Cullen's second goal, on which his long rebound of a Bo Dolan shot glanced a Clarkson defender and past Kaporwich for a 3-2 lead at 11:00 of the third period, a secondary assist was added to Schroeder.
Assists have added or changed on seven of RPI's eight goals in the series. No change on any of Clarkson's five.
Pay as much attention to your opponents rushes as you do your own, eh?
Sixth longest: Saturday's game was the sixth-longest in NCAA Division I history at 113:48. Rensselaer's previous longest game was also a 3-overtime setback, in Game 1 of the 2008 preliminary-round series at Yale, when Bulldogs freshman Broc Little scored at 105:40 to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory.
Yale won Game two the next night, also 3-2, in one overtime, on Sean Backman's goal at 5:40.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notes from RPI's Game 1 victory

POTSDAM -- What was most impressive about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 5-1 victory over Clarkson in Friday night's ECAC Hockey playoff opener?
Easy. Among the many areas in which the Engineers, excelled, the RPI power play was so outstanding it made many Rensselaer backers asking, 'where has this been all year?'
The Engineers were given three successive power-plays in the first period and converted on each of them, marking the first time this season that the power play has generated more than two goals.
Just as important as the goals -- and remember, two of the goals, both by defenseman Nick Bailen, came from the upper slot and on the first, winger Matt Tinordi stuffed in his own rebound -- was the Engineers' puck movement and stick-handling.
I can tell you, both were far superior to what the Engineers had exhibited on the power play in any of the 21 games I've seen this season. It had Clarkson penalty killers on back on their heals and even out of position. If the Engineers can continue that, and play as well as they did in other areas Friday night, they'll win this series and move on to the quarterfinals for just the second time in eight years.
Lee update: Junior winger C.J. Lee returned to action after missing a few shifts in the second period Friday night when he blocked a hard, power-play slapshot. He didn't appear to be skating at 100 percent, though, and later had a saucer-sized bruise on his right leg.
However, Lee skated hard and fast without discomforat at this morning's pre-game skate and should be fine for Game 2 tonight.
Appert lauds play of Bergin, Bailen, Haggerty, Tinordi: Rensselaer coach Seth Appert loved the way the Engineers played, especially their execution, for most of Friday's game.
He praised senior defenseman Mike Bergin's running of the power play, something Bergin was projected to do upon his arrival in Troy four years ago but something he took some time to get comfortable with doing.
He was in top form Friday night.
"I thought Mike Bergin did a good job running (the power play)from the top. He had good composure and poise with it, Appert said of RPI's captain.
On Bailen's two goals and fine all-around game, Appert said, "that's what you want from your veteran players. I think's had a lot better second half than he's given credit for. He's been a lot better defensively and he's starting to do things that are helping us win hockey games.
Originally, Bailen was credited with two assists that were later taken away (numerous scoring changes to follow).
"It's funny, but I thought he was better defensively tonight," Appert said after the game. "He won a lot of puck battles and took care of the puck really well ... and sometimes that translates to offensive success as well."
Appert praised Haggerty, who had two assists, saying, "I thought Ryan (played) hard all night," he said of the freshman right winger. "He was hard in hard areas, he was physical in puck battles and hard in front of the net."
On Tinordi, Appert said, "I thought Matt, for the second game in a row, had a really physical presence and (scored) a power goal (from the crease area)."
Changes ... like on every goal: Bailen looked quite puzzled -- and softly answered, "I don't know," when I asked him if he'd ever had a four-point game before.
That's because he knew he'd only scored the two goals and had not assisted.
One mistake was simply reading Haggerty's No. 39 and thinking it was Bailen's No. 29 but it was a rough night with visiting assists for the Clarkson stat crew. There was a change(s) on all four RPI goals.
Like Haggerty, Brock Higgs 'lost' two assists, Do Dolan lost one. Bergin and freshman forward Matt Neal were both credited with two assists after video tape was consulted. Haggerty, Lee and Marty O'Grady each picked up one.
Here are the assist(s) changes on each RPI goal with the goal-scorer in parenthesis: 1. (Tinordi) -- Haggerty and Lee, scratch Dolan and Bailen; 2. (Bailen) -- Bergin, Neal, scratch Jacob Laliberte; 3. (Bailen) -- Laliberte, Bergin, scratch Higgs; 4. (Joel Malchuk) -- change O'Grady to Guy Lebouef's primary assist, scratch Bailen; 5. (Laliberte) -- add Neal to Haggerty.
The changes kept Bailen (7 goals-13 assists-20 points) and Higgs (2-18-20) still tied for the team scoring lead with 20 points, not 22.
Not pleased: Appert said three times after what even he had to admit, was a pretty convincing victory that "we still have work to do."
Appert said "we got a little sloppy in the third," but what displeased him the most was "our faceoff intensity was just average."
Appert said he felt that Engineers had won "probably a little less than 50 percent" of the faceoffs.
In reality, they went 27-42.
"And I just think it's important that we continue to focus on the team-first mentality," he said. "I thought we executed very well for the first half of the game but when we start freelancing, we're just not very good."
Live chat: We'll have a live chat herein with RPI fans at 5:30 today at
Join us with your thoughts prior to Game 2 and we'll have another blog late tonight after the game.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Engineers appear loose, relaxed, ready

POTSDAM -- Following a spirited pre-game skate at midday today, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute appeared to be a loose hockey team but one ready and anxious to open the ECAC Hockey playoffs. They'll do so tonight (7) at Clarkson in Game 1 of the ECAC Hockey preliminary-round, best-of-three series.
"Absolutely ready," said junior goalie Bryce Merriam. "Ready to get rolling."
"Let's do it," said freshman right winger Ryan Haggerty.
The 10th-seeded Engineers (7-12-3 in ECACH games, 10-21-3 overall) wear the underdog's role against the seventh-seeded Golden Knights (9-9-4, 15-15-6).
The Golden Knights swept the Engineers during the season, 4-1 here in the league opener on Nov. 4, 3-2 at Houston Field House on Jan. 28.
Engineers coach Seth Appert was quite relaxed Thursday night. He was asked if the team's six-game unbeaten skein (5-0-1) on the road can be extended -- to at least, the very least -- 7-1-1.
"I don't know," he said softly. "I like the way we've been playing, but I don't know."
Here's how the ECACH premliminary-round playoff series shape up from here and I know, none of you needs to be reminded that a number of big upsets have occured in the prelims over the past six years. (Seeds precede each team, records are in parenthesis):
No. 10 Rensselaer (7-12-3, 10-21-3) at No. 7 Clarkson (9-9-4, 15-15-6): Engineers were swept and have won only 15 of 64 games in Potsdam all time. However, the Engineers have been playing better than the Knights of late -- and I have a hunch.
Rensselear, 2 games to 1
No. 12 Brown (5-13, 4, 8-16-5) at No. 12 Quinnipiac (9-8-5, 17-11-6): The Bears have won often from low seeds -- 11 twice. Not so sure they have enough to enough to take down the offensively-deep Bobcats, twice, though. Quinnipiac won 4-1 at home, teams tied 2-2 at Brown.
--Quinnipiac, 2 games to 1
No. 11 Princeton (6-12-4, 8-14-7) at No. 6 Yale (10-10-2, 13-13-3):After a 2-2 non-league tie to open the season, the Bulldogs whipped the Tigers, 5-2 and 6-2, the latter of which was last game. Yale is among the nation's top .500 teams and should roll.
--Yale, 2 games to 0
No. 9 Dartmouth (8-11-3, 11-14-4) at No. 8 St. Lawrence (10-11-1, 14-17-3): Many 8-9 matchups are tough to get a read on; this one, not so much.The Saints are always tough at home, and they won six of their final eight, including a 3-1 season-ending victory at Dartmouth. The Big Green won at SLU earlier, 3-1. They'll be competitive but the Saints will survive.
--St. Lawrence, 2 games to 1
Hockey chat later: Join us at for a live RPI hockey chat both today and prior to Game 2 on Saturday, at 5:30 p.m. both days.
And we'll have postgame thoughts and player comments herein later tonight.