Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute may be off to its slowest start in 13 years, but coach Seth Appert remained optimistic following his team’s 6-0 loss to Massachusetts Tuesday night at Houston Field House.
“They didn’t give up. The guys continued to battle hard,” Appert said. “Right now, they feel that the world probably is caving in around them. And they’re young, and we haven’t experienced as much success as we’d like. But one thing I reminded them of at the end of the game is that it’s Oct. 21, and we’re all in this together. It’s four games. It’s not that long. And we’re going to start marching forward together tomorrow.”
Dan Meyers made 25 saves for his first collegiate shutout, and Chris Davis scored twice for the Minutemen in the non-conference game.
RPI had a strong second period, but had nothing to show for it in falling to 0-4 for the first time since 1995-96. That team, under former coach Dan Fridgen, began the season 0-5 and finished 10-22-3.
RPI might have lost more than the game, though.
With UMass leading, 6-0, late in the third period, a hit from behind from Alex Berry sent Mike Bergin to the locker room with a shoulder injury that had Appert concerned he might lose the 6-foot-3 freshman defenseman for an extended period.
“Obviously, that’s our main concern — how Mike is right now,” Appert said.
While expressing respect for veteran UMass coach Don Cahoon and the Minutemen program, Appert wasn’t happy about the hit, or its potential consequences for Bergin, who was selected by the Dallas Stars in this year’s NHL draft.
“I’m upset about it,” Appert said. “It was dirty and it was unnecessary, but it happens. That’s not against their player. That was a situation that happened. College players get aggressive, sometimes, and that can happen. But at that point of the game, it’s a very dangerous play.”
The second period was especially tough for an RPI team struggling to score.
The Engineers outshot the Minutemen, 9-6, in that period, and had another four shots blocked. This, after UMass opened the game with a 20-8 shot advantage after the first 20 minutes.
But despite RPI’s efforts, UMass scored to stretch its lead to 3-0 at 16:14 of the second period when Will Ortiz, charging down the left side of the slot, sent a perfect pass to his right to Danny Hobbs, who had beaten his defender and one-timed it past a helpless Mathias Lange. RPI was stymied on two close-in chances a minute earlier during a long stretch in the UMass zone.
“In the second period, we controlled the game dramatically,” Appert said. “We probably had five or six great scoring chances, and pucks are bouncing through the crease. I’m sure the guys feel like pucks are ricocheting off us or off them, and are going wide instead of into the net. That’s what happens when you’re struggling to score.”
“It’s obviously not fun losing,” captain Matt Angers-Goulet said. “We’ve just got to get better, and play for 60 minutes.”
Massachusetts 2 1 3 — 6
RPI 0 0 0 — 0
First Period — 1, Massachusetts, Davis 1 (Wessbecker, Langeraap), 16:15. 2, Massachusetts, Kublin 1 (Marcou, Quirk), 18:38. Penalties — Polacek, RPI (interference), 6:05; Langeraap, Mass (roughing), 19:42; Burgdoerfer, RPI (hitting after whistle), 19:42.
Second Period — 3, Massachusetts, Hobbs 1 (Ortiz, Lecomte), 16:14. Penalties — RPI bench, served by Beauregard (too many men), 5:14; Virtue, Mass (interference), 8:14; Wessbecker, Mass (tripping), 11:09; Bergin, RPI (hooking), 17:00.
Third Period — 4, Massachusetts, Davis 2 (Langeraap, Bevis), 6:35. 5, Massachusetts, Wellman 1, 9:13. 6, Massachusetts, Lecomte 1 (Bevis, Nolet), 16:08 (pp). Penalties — Bergin, RPI (roughing), 16:01; Davis, Massachusetts, major-game misconduct (hitting from behind), 16:30; RPI bench, served by Rabbani (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:42.
Shots on Goal — Massachusetts 20-6-9 — 35. RPI 8-9-8 — 25.
Power-play opportunities — Massachusetts 1 of 4; RPI 0 of 3.
Goalies — Massachusetts, Meyers 2-1-0 (25 shots-25 saves). RPI, Lange 0-3-0
A — 2,750. T — 2:03.
Referees — Alex Dell, Scott Whittemore. Linesmen — Marty Demers, Richard Patry.