Saturday, March 16, 2013

Backs to wall, will Engineers respond?

   TROY -- Many Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey fans were more than a but surprised that the Engineers lost Game 1 of their ECAC Hockey playoffs quarterfinal-round series to Brown on Friday night, 3-1.
   The Engineers had put together one of the best runs in league history to vault all the way to second place, then drop the opener to the seventh-seeded Bears, whom they had routed, 5-1, at Houston Field House just one month earlier.
   It was the seventh loss in the past nine homeice playoff games for RPI, dating back to 2006. More on that below.
   "It's better than losing the first game on the road (rather than at home)," RPI coach Seth Appert said when asked after the game.
   Appert said the Engineers, in addition to being more aggressive in the offensive zone for tonight's Game 2, also said they should "be an angry group."
   And he's confident they'll bounce back and force a deciding Game 3 on Sunday night.
   "This group has responded to adversity. They've been thrown a lot of tough situations this year and we've come out well. This team's shown a real good ability to learn from mistakes and we need to show that again (tonight)."
    Appert said the Engineers need to be tougher around the net front, where Brown is so effective defensively.
   "We need to need to have a tougher offensive mentality, a lot of those guys on those top three (forward), especially, because our best line tonight was the Mark Miller (fourth) line. That's good for them but them (Johnny Rogic, Travis Fulton and Miller) but we need to have more balance."
    Both Jacob Laliberte, who scored RPI's only goal, and Ryan Haggerty, who assisted, both agreed, each saying in exact words, "we need to be tougher (tonight)."
   And, as good as he's been since taking over as Brown's No. 1 goaltender, senior Anthony Borelli can be unnerved a bit, if the Engineers can put a good number of quality shots on him early.
   Can't win postseason games at home: It's puzzling. It's frustrating. It's maddening.
   Rensselaer is seeded seventh, can beat a 10 seed (Quinnipiac, 2006), the Engineers, a six seed, get taken out by an 11 (Brown, 2010) and even, worse, being seeded fifth, 12th-seeded (last place) Colgate shocks the fifth-seeded Engineers (2011).
   Now -- as the No. 2 seed, the Engineers are beaten, and clearly outplayed, by the seven-seeded Bears. Appert has been RPI's head coach for the latter two of those postseason series upset defeats.
   During that time, the Engineers did win preliminary-round series on the road -- at Dartmouth in 2009, at Clarkson last season.
   That's of little solece, especially if the Engineers don't come back and win this series.
   Is there a trend there? No. And only Lee played in the Brown series -- Game 1 only -- three years ago, so those failures have nothing to do with this season's team.
   These players, though, are the only ones who can end the frustration. That's the challenge they face tonight and, hopefully, Sunday night. Will the meet -- and overcome -- that challenge?


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