This weekend’s two-game series with Mercyhurst won’t affect Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s ECAC Hockey standing because they’re non-league contests.
But for a team facing another slow start to a season, the Engineers’ fragile confidence needs a big boost.
The Engineers (1-5-2) look to stop a seven-game winless streak when they host the Lakers (3-2-1) of Atlantic Hockey tonight and Saturday at Houston Field House. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Since winning their season opener over Ferris State Oct. 12, the Engineers have gone 0-5-2. The low point of the young season came last weekend, when RPI lost a pair of 4-0 games to Dartmouth and Harvard.
In an effort to shake things up, RPI coach Seth Appert made several lineup changes for the Harvard game. He dressed just 16 skaters, two under the limit. RPI had 11 forwards and five defenseman. The players who were watching from the 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.
But the Engineers were outshot, 22-5, and were down, 2-0, after the first period.
“It was down,” Appert said. “Hopefully, it’s rock bottom, so to speak. Sometimes, you have to get to a real low, and then climb out. We didn’t respond well [last] Friday from what happened the weekend before [losing two to Union] and the hard week of practice. That is, certainly, disappointing to me.”
This season’s start is beginning to look like last year’s for RPI. After eight games last season, the Engineers were 1-7. Eventually, they would be 3-16-1 before going 9-8-2 the rest of the way.
“What we’re going through is not what we went through last year,” Appert said. “We’re a different hockey team. We’ve got to grow up a little bit, though, and I have to help our guys grow up and understand how to respond when things are thrown at you.”
There is some good news for RPI. Leading scorer Jacob Laliberte, a sophomore, has been cleared to play after experiencing concussion-like symptoms after the Nov. 3 game against Union. Those symptoms kept Laliberte out of the lineup last weekend.
“I’m feeling way better,” said Laliberte, who has four goals and six assists. “I think I’ll be playing this weekend. I’ve been cleared to play since I’ve been symptom-free since Sunday.
“I want to get back out there and help our team get back on track I think were ready to go.”
Appert is happy to have Laliberte back.
“We certainly missed him [last] weekend,” Appert said. “But that’s not an excuse for why we played the way we did. We should have played better.”