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Third-period letdowns holding Engineers back

Third-period letdowns holding Engineers back

RPI must clear up its third-period woes in hockey.

If college hockey games took only two periods to play, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute would be a tough team to face. The Eng­ineers have outscored the opposition, 41-23, in the first 40 minutes.

But there is a third period that must be played, and that has been the Engineers’ biggest problem.

RPI has been outscored, 25-6, and outshot, 212-143, in the final 20 minutes of games. The Engineers have seen several leads disappear in the third period, most recently last Saturday, when Colorado College scored three times for a 3-2 come-from-behind victory in the first round of the Lightning College Hockey Classic.

While RPI coach Seth Appert is concerned, he isn’t panicking.

“The difference in the Miami, Notre Dame and Minnesota games, there were team breakdowns — not knowing how to play with the lead, playing passive and letting the opponent take it to us, or an opponent being too good for us to stay with,” said Appert, whose Engineers (8-9-3)

conclude their non-league schedule with a game against Maine (6-9-2) at 2 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine.

There was something different about the game with CC, though, which is encouraging to Appert.

“We were very good in the third period against CC,” Appert said. “We had two breakaways and three two-on-ones in the third per­iod alone. We didn’t finish them. Credit to their goaltender Richard Bachman, who was outstanding.”

Appert doesn’t want his players worrying too much about their third-period problems because it could affect the rest of their game. He also knew that, with such a difficult schedule they have played so far, there would be some growing pains.

“The speech to the team after the Notre Dame game [in the third-place contest] was this schedule that we made was not intended for a 25-win season,” Appert said. “We could have loaded up on teams that we felt we could beat, and we’d have a lot more wins right now, but we wouldn’t be near as good of a hockey team. This schedule is for us to learn how to be a champ­ionship program, to learn what it takes to compete every night with teams of this caliber and to apply those lessons in our last 15 games in league.”

The Engineers will get one more test when they face the Black Bears, who are having an off year. They have been outscored, 13-3, in their last two games. It took Maine, normally a high-scoring team, 17 games for a player to get 10 points on the season. Senior Bret Tyler leads the team with five goals and six assists. Senior forward Wes Clark is second with two goals and eight assists.

“A win would definitely help with confidence,” Appert said.

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