Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tough league openers for RPI

TROY – When the ECAC Hockey schedule was released, many Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey fans bristled. “Why do we have to play Union right away – first two league games,” they wondered.

Sure Kelly Zajac had graduated and Jeremy Welsh left one year early for a pro hockey career but still, the Dutchmen were most powerful team in the league.
Freshman left winger Daniel Carr has a pair of 20-goal seasons. Right winger Wayne Simpson had proven himself as a goal-scorer and senior center Kyle Bodie could certainly step into Zajac’s role effectively.
Max Novak, Matt Hatch and Kevin Sullivan, as good as any third-line forwards in the league, have all shown the ability to put up points.
The Dutchmen also have, led by sophomore Shayne Gostisbehere, the best group of offense-contributing defensemen who are solid in their own end. And of, year, they have an All-American goaltender in Troy Grosenick and are a veteran team; the Engineers are a young team – two-third sophomores or freshmen.
Well, the Union-RPI league openers were just the ECACH’s rotation, one surmises, but those fans’ fears certainly were realized over the weekend as the Dutchmen maintained their recent domination of RPI with a pair of victories.
They didn’t play anywhere near the top of their game on Friday night but still left Houston Field House with a 4-2 victory. Then on Saturday, Union took advantage of a controversial major penalty call on RPI defenseman Luke Curadi to score three power-play goals within 2:04 to turn a 2-1 lead into a four-goal cushion.
Just a few minutes later, Engineers goalie Bryce Merriam stopped Simpson on a shorthanded breakaway but the rebound caromed in off the skate of RPI defenseman Nick Bailen, who’d been chasing Simpson.
Another goal late in the period, on some poor defensive zone coverage, put the Engineers in a 7-2 hole much too deep.
On Friday night, as mentioned Union wasn’t at its best offensively but emotionally the veteran Dutchmen kept to their game plan, kept their poise and used a deflected goal and Simpson’s pretty breakaway backhander goal to earn the triumph.
Many felt that the contact-to-the-head penalty by the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Curadi, which knocked the 5-11, 165-poundGostisbehere should have been a minor, even though Gostisbehere’s facemask was bent and he incurred a cut to the bridge of his nose.
Appert, while terming the call on Dolan “poor” and agreeing that Curadi’s penalty “could have (he later said should have) been a minor, he was quite clear that neither the missed call on Sullivan/Dolan or Union’s extended power play “was not why we lost.
“We lost because of our lack of discipline, both nights,” he said. “That (Curadi’s major) was a turning point in the game but (the game) turned on the way we handled it, not the call itself.
“It was not a dirty hit … but it was a violent hit but it wasn’t intentional (to injure). It probably looked worse than it actually was. But I don’t have an issue with it being a 5. Again, that’s not why we lost.”
Appert said, “what cost us both nights was our lack of discipline, not just the penalties but some other mistakes and I take full responsibility for it.”
Don’t the players have to share some of the blame, he was asked.
“I recruited them, I’m their coach,” he said. “I take responsibility.
“And I believe in every one of them,” he said.
As for the weekend, Appert repeated he’s “angry. But I still like our team. We’ve done some good things. Four our six games have been against Frozen Four teams (Ferris State and Union) from last year. We have to learn from our mistakes and we will. We’re going to get better and we’re going to make great strides.”
That better come soon. The Engineers are on the road at Dartmouth and Harvard this week and will come home with an 0-4-0 league record and seven-game winless streak if their play doesn’t improve dramatically.
On Friday night, as mentioned Union wasn’t at its best offensively but emotionally the veteran Dutchmen kept to their game plan, kept their poise and used a deflected goal and Simpson’s pretty breakaway backhander goal to earn the triumph.
Classy: Union center Kyle Bodie showed some class in which the rest of the Dutchmen can share during Union’s long power play after Lee’s penalty.

Twice Bodie, with the puck behind the net, had teammates open in front of the net but passed up the quality scoring chances, as is if to ask, ‘do we really need to make it 8-2.’
One of those open wingers was Daniel Ciampini, who was looking for a hat-trick goal but Bodie kept the puck, then passed back to the point.
Schroeder injury not long-term: Sophomore winger Zach Schroeder has a wrist injury but played through it on Saturday and will likely play this weekend.
Kasdorf makes debut: With Saturday’s game out of hand, Appert used the opportunity to give freshman goaltender Jason Kasdorf, a National Hockey League draft pick (Winnipeg) his first college minutes.
He played the entire third period, stopping all eight shots he faced, including a bang-bang shot off his blocker by the high-scoring Carr.
“It felt good to get out there,” said Kasdorf, who later made a brilliant sliding kick save. “It wasn’t the ideal game, the situation, but it was pretty exciting.
“I thought our guys played pretty well in front of me, clearing pucks and helping me out. It was only 20 minutes but it was fun.”
Bubela notches first: Freshman winger Milos Bubela scored his first collegiate goal in the third period Saturday night.
“(Mark) McGowan gave it to me in the slot,” Bubela said. “I put a (deke) on one guy and shot from the backhand. It felt good to get it.”
Numbers take a beating: Merriam’s goals against average saves percentage, and to a lesser extent, Scott Diebold’s, took a hit over the weekend. Nothing like the Engineers’ penalty killing and power play figures, however.
Prior to the weekend, the Engineers had killed 12 of 13 shorthanded situations for an efficiency rating of 92.3 percent, among the top six in the nation.
After Union buried five power-play goals in 13 chances, that glowing rating lost its shine, falling to 76.9 percent on 20-of-26.
On the power play, RPI had been successful 35.3 percent of the time with six goals among 17 power plays. After a 1-for-9 weekend against Union’s aggressive and effective penalty killers, that marked dropped to 26.9 percent (7-of-26).
Merriam entered Saturday’s game with a GAA of 2.86 and a saves percentage of 90.3 percent. He’s now allowing 4.71 goals per game and his saves percentage nose-dived to 85.6.
Diebold, Friday night’s losing goalie, saw his GAA go from 1.92 to 2.62, his saves percentage from a sparkling 92.9 percent to 89.2.
Stats have their place, however limited, but RPI has much bigger problems now than lowered numbers.


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