College Hockey Slap Schotts Week 7 — RPI is struggling again
This was supposed to be the season that RPI started off strong. The Engineers wanted to and prove that last year’s start was just an aberration. The real Engineers would come out and play hard and win a few games.
Unfortunately for the Engineers, it’s more of the same. After eight games, RPI has a 1-5-2 record. After eight games last season, the Engineers were a 1-7. If you want to say that it’s better to have two more ties and two less losses after the same juncture as last year, go ahead, but you would be delusional.
To be fair, the Engineers did have a good first four games. I covered their opener against Ferris State, a team that reached the NCAA hockey tournament championship game. I thought the Engineers looked sharp in a 3-1 win. They came back with a 2-2 tie the next night against the Bulldogs. They went to Minnesota State the following weekend and had leads in both games against the Mavericks. However, RPI came home 0-1-1. Not great, but having leads on the road had to encourage the Engineers.
But then came the start of ECAC Hockey play last weekend. The last thing RPI coach Seth Appert wanted to have happen was his team lose their first four games.
Not only have the Engineers opened 0-4 in the league, they haven’t looked good at all. Although they only lost, 4-2, to Union in the Nov. 2 opener at Houston Field House, Appert said the game was over after the second period, when the Dutchmen scored two late goals in the second to make it 4-1. And there was some undisciplined play that displeased Appert greatly.
It didn’t get much better in the next night’s rematch. RPI surrendered six second-period goals, including three during a major power play, and dropped a 7-3 decision.
Then came this past weekend, a disastrous road trip to Dartmouth and Harvard. The Engineers managed just 18 shots in Friday’s 4-0 loss to Dartmouth.
For Saturday’s game against Harvard, Appert decided to shake things up. He dressed just 16 skaters, two under the limit. RPI had 11 forwards and five defenseman. The players who were watching from the Harvard stands who played the night before were right winger Ryan Haggerty, left winger Matt Tinordi and defensemen Chris Bradley, Bo Dolan and Curtis Leonard. The replacements were left winger Travis Fulton and defensemen Luke Curadi, who was coming back from a one-game suspension for the game disqualification he received in the second Union game, and Phil Hampton.
Asked on the pregame show on WRPI-FM (91.5) if he was trying to send a message, Appert said, “They benched themselves.”
Well, the tactic didn’t work. The Crimson, who were coming off a bad 6-2 loss to Union the night before in a game in which they were outplayed, came out flying. They outshot the Engineers, 22-5, and had a 2-0 lead. Not good.
To me, only dressing 16 skaters was a panic move. Since the move didn’t work, how do you motivate the players now? Appert is risking losing the confidence of his players in him.
It didn’t help that RPI was missing its leading scorer, Jacob Laliberte, because of concussion symptoms. The line Laliberte, Haggerty and Matt Neal have combined to score 10 goals. The rest of the team has six, and half of them have come from defensemen Nick Bailen (two) and Bo Dolan (one). The scoring-by-committee approach that Appert wanted to have this season hasn’t come to fruition.
The Engineers’ fans are getting restless. They expected Appert to turn the program around after Dan Fridgen was let go after the 2005-06 season. Even though they have gone to one NCAA tournament (2011), the Engineers have produced just two winning seasons under Appert — 18-17-4 in 2009-10 and 20-13-5 in 2010-11. His career record is 82-127-28. And I know RPI fans see the success that Capital Region-rival Union has had the last few years, and are doing a slow burn.
If RPI fans believe the school will consider firing Appert if the team’s struggles continue, don’t count on it. Appert was given a contract extension after the 2010-11 season that runs through 2017-18. I doubt that the administration will want to be paying for two head coaches.
RPI returns to action this weekend when it hosts Mercyhurst for two games. Even though they’re not league games, you have to say that these are must-win contests. And the Lakers aren’t pushovers. They are 3-2-1 overall, and are unbeaten in their last four, a streak that started with a 3-3 tie against Ferris State Oct. 20.
If the Engineers stumble again this weekend, then it may be time to go into full-panic mode.
Dartmouth on top
Dartmouth was picked by the coaches and the media in their preseason polls to finish in the middle of the pack in the ECACH standings.
But after six games, the Big Green (5-0-1) are the country’s last unbeaten team, and they are in first place in the ECACH with a 4-0 record. They have some good offensive talent in sophomore forward Tyler Sikura (4-7-11) and junior forwards Eric Robinson (7-2-9) and Matt Lindblad (3-3-6). Robinson has scored three game-winning goals.
Junior goalie Cab Morris, who played in just seven games during his first two seasons, has a 3-0-1 record with a 1.22 goals-against average and one shutout. He was 20 minutes away from posting back-to-back shutouts before Union scored twice in the third period in Saturday’s game, which Dartmouth won, 3-2.
While Union, Cornell and Harvard were the chic picks to win the league, Dartmouth will be trying to crash the party. So far, the Big Green have done an excellent job.
ECACH Power Rankings
I’ve decided to do ECACH Power Rankings each week. You may agree, or disagree, with my picks.
4) St. Lawrence
Mixed poll results for Dutchmen
Union moved up from eighth to seventh in the USCHO.com/NCAA top20 college hockey poll, but dropped from seventh to eighth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll on Monday.
The Dutchmen split their two ECAC Hockey games over the weekend. They beat Harvard, 6-2, Friday, and lost to Dartmouth, 3-2, Saturday.
Union (3-1 ECACH, 6-2-1 overall) is one of five ECACH teams in the USCHO poll, and it is the highest-ranked league team. Cornell is 10th, Dartmouth is 12th, St. Lawrence is 16th and Harvard is 17th.
Team (First Place Votes) Record Points Last Poll
1 Boston College (50) 8- 1-0 1000 1
2 Denver 7- 1-0 934 3
3 Minnesota 6- 2-1 890 2
4 Miami 6- 2-2 817 5
5 New Hampshire 6- 1-1 734 9
6 North Dakota 4- 3-1 696 6
7 Union 6- 2-1 665 8
8 Notre Dame 6- 3-0 646 7
9 Western Michigan 5- 2-1 605 10
10 Cornell 3- 2-1 525 4
11 Boston University 5- 3-0 514 11
12 Dartmouth 5- 0-1 385 NR
13 Michigan 4- 4-1 362 12
14 Colorado College 7- 3-0 343 19
15 St. Cloud State 6- 4-0 327 15
16 St. Lawrence 5- 2-1 228 13
17 Harvard 3- 2-0 211 14
18 Nebraska-Omaha 6- 3-1 149 NR
19 Northern Michigan 4- 4-2 130 16
20 Ferris State 4- 4-2 85 18
Others receiving votes: Massachusetts-Lowell 64, Alaska 36, Niagara 33, Yale 24, Holy Cross 22, Quinnipiac 22, Ohio State 12, Providence 12, Massachusetts 7, Lake Superior 5, Northeastern 5, Minnesota-Duluth 4, Merrimack 3, Michigan State 2, Minnesota State 1, Princeton 1.
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine 2012-13 Men’s College Hockey Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Rank School Last Week’s Ranking 2012-13 Record Weeks in Top 15
1 Boston College, 510 (34) 1 8-1-0 7
2 Denver, 461 3 7-1-0 7
3 Minnesota, 441 2 6-2-1 7
4 Miami (Ohio), 402 5 6-2-2 7
5 North Dakota, 317 6 4-3-1 7
6 New Hampshire, 307 9 6-1-1 4
7 Notre Dame, 280 8 6-3-0 7
8 Union, 275 7 6-2-1 7
9 Western Michigan, 244 10 5-2-1 7
10 Cornell, 192 4 3-2-1 7
11 Boston University, 172 12 5-3-0 7
12 Dartmouth, 127 NR 5-0-1 1
13 Michigan, 126 11 4-4-1 7
14 Colorado College, 65 NR 7-3-0 1
15 St. Cloud State, 58 NR 6-4-0 1
Others receiving votes: Harvard, 41; St. Lawrence, 34; Nebraska-Omaha, 12; Northern Michigan, 7; Holy Cross, 3; UMass-Lowell, 3; Ferris State, 1; Niagara, 1; Yale, 1.
I have a vote in the USCHO.com poll. Here is how I voted:
1) Boston College
5) New Hampshire
6) Western Michigan
8) North Dakota
9) Notre Dame
12) Boston U.
14) St. Cloud State
16) St. Lawrence
17) Colorado College
18) Northern Michigan
19) Ferris State
Daily Gazette Stick Salutes
Time for my weekly awards.
Player of the Week — Andre Calof, Princeton
The junior forward two goals and three assists to help the Tigers open ECACH play with wins over Cornell and Colgate. He scored twice, including the game-winner, and had an assist in Friday’s 5-3 victory over No. 4 Cornell. Calof collected two assists in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Colgate.
Goalie of the Week — Cab Morris, Dartmouth
The junior netminder made 18 saves in shutting out RPI, and then stopped 28 shots in the victory over Union.
Rookie of the Week — Greg Lewis, Clarkson
The freshman goalie picked up his first career shutout with a 22-save effort in a 1-0 win over Yale on Friday. Lewis stopped 27 shots in Saturday’s 3-3 tie against Brown.
Teams of the Week — Dartmouth and Princeton
Dartmouth knocks off RPI and Union to take sole possession of first place, while Princeton upset No. 4 Cornell, 5-3, Friday and downed Colgate, 4-0, Saturday.
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