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."


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