It’s back to the breakneck scheduling for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s hockey team. And there will be more meaning to these games.
The Engineers open ECAC Hockey play tonight at 7 when they face Harvard at the Bright Hockey Center. It’s the start of a stretch of three games in five days for RPI, which will play the Crimson again Friday at Houston Field House, and then Dartmouth comes there Saturday night.
The Engineers (1-4-1) were off this past weekend. Before that, they played five games in nine days, all non-conference contests.
“It was a healthy time to have some time off,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “A part of it was that it was good to practice a little bit more. We hadn’t had enough time to do that.”
The Engineers went 1-3-1 in the five games.
“The games were positive because we got to expose our weaknesses, and we got a lot of guys in the lineup,” Appert said. “But we needed time to practice on our weakness, on our strengths and kind of get some time to decompress a little bit, give them a little time off and get rejuvenated to get back after it now that the games matter.”
Appert believes the Engineers’ biggest weakness is that they don’t protect the puck well. And with a team that is trying find itself offensively — they have scored just seven goals — cutting down on turnovers is a must.
“When we attack and we’re aggressive, but at the same time, when we’re intelligent with our puck decisions, we’re a tough team to play against,” Appert said. “We did that for a good chunk of the game against Vermont, we did that against New Hampshire well and we did a better job of it on the weekend against Union and Robert Morris.
“When we’re throwing the puck around, when we’re not making smart decisions with it and then we’re not playing an attacking, aggressive style with and without the puck, that’s when we’ve struggled this year. That’s when we sat back a little bit, that’s when we’ve thrown pucks away and, therefore, let our opponents take their game to us instead of us taking it to them.”
Appert is looking forward to playing consecutive games against the Crimson (1-0, 1-0), who opened their season with a 4-1 win over Dartmouth on Friday. Harvard dropped a 4-0 exhibition game to the U.S. National Under-18 on Saturday.
Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Jan. 31. But with the Crimson playing in the first round of the Beanpot tournament Feb. 2, the game was shifted to tonight to give Harvard two days off prior to the Beanpot.
“I like the fact we’re going against the same team two games in a row,” Appert said. “I prefer that. I think it adds to the animosity and the intensity of the game. A lot of times with that second game of the series, there’s some good carryover. There’s some bad blood. It provides good theater.”
Appert said Mathias Lange will start in goal. …
Friday’s game will be the annual Black Friday jersey game. …
RPI has lost its last four visits to Harvard. The Engineers’ last win there was Feb. 13, 2004, a 3-2 decision.