Friday, November 16, 2012

Appert seemed at a low point

   I was sick virtually all week folks and was barely able to get through the basics but I still wanted to share this with you; even though it's somewhat dated, it's still relevant.
   When I spoke with Seth Appert last Friday night after Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's 4-0 loss at Dartmouth, the seven-year RPI coach was as down as I've ever heard him.
   After Saturday night's loss at Harvard, also 4-0, he was more reserved; almost resolved.
   Now, after three days of practice, he and the Engineers appear to be in decent mental shape to go out and end their five-game losing streak and seven-game winless skein with a victory over Mercyhurst.
   Back to Friday night.
   "I wasn't down, I was angry," Appert said.
  "You sounded down, more than angry," I replied.
   "Well, I was on the bus in front of the team," he said, and indeed, that thought occurred to me.
   Let's just say, though, among the many chats we've had by phone following road defeats, it wasn't among his more positive moments.
   Here's what he told me about that conversation.
  "I was angry with the way we responded to the adversity of the prior weekend," he said, referring to a pair of losses (4-2, 7-3) to rival Union. "Angry that we didn't respond with more resolve. So, I was angry."
   The next night, after he'd benched several lineup regulars such as top-line right winger Ryan Haggerty, Matt Tinordi and defensemen Bo Dolan and Curtis Leonard, Appert seemed resolved to the fact that any improvement the Engineers show, may take some time.
   He had dressed only 11 forwards and five defensemen, and veteran forwards C.J. Lee, the team captain, and Brock Higgs, didn't play in the first period at Harvard.
   "You never want it to get to that point," Appert said of the short lineup, which was already weakened by the injuries to leading-scorer Jacob Laliberte and to Zach Schroeder.
   Appert made the moves "for the long-term betterment" of the team.
   "And again," he said, you never want it to get to that point but eventually you've got to send a message. As coaches, we're teachers. We work with (players), try to help them, show them the path to success, to doing things the right way and you try to get them to take ownership of it. We watch videos with them, Bryan and Nolan (assistant coaches Bryan Vines and Nolan Graham) go on the ice early with them (before practices), we talk to them and sometimes I yell at them, all those different things.
   "But if it's not working," Appert continued, "eventually it's ice time. It just is. That's what every coach in every sport has -- playing time. You don't want it to get to that point with players you believe should be in the lineup but sometimes it has to be. I'm not the first coach to do it, I won't be the last."
   "We are a team," Appert continued, "and that's about making sure the guys, all of them, understand that the team comes first. It's on me to get them to buy into it and it's on them to buy into it."
   Appert gave a somewhat extreme but quite common example:
   "At the end of your shift and you're stuck out there for 50 seconds and you're dead tired, I don't care, an neither do your teammates, how much you want to get off the ice. What I care about, and so do your teammates, is, can you finish your shift the right way; will you continue to execute even though you feel your lungs burning and your legs burning, will you still block a shot, will you still take a hit to get the red line, or will you mentally check out at the end of that shift and just go through the motions the last 15 seconds because you're mad that somebody turned the puck over and you're still stuck out there?
   "Those are things we just have to get tougher at and we're getting there," he added. "It's a matter of me making sure they're getting that message better and a matter of them taking ownership of their own situations and what their teammates expect of them. That's what Saturday was about."
 Fans -- get all the Mercyhurst-RPI highlights on Twitter tonight and Saturday night at



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