Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute entered the postseason on an incredible run.
The Engineers went 11-2 over their final 13 games, including an 11-1 run in their last 12 ECAC Hockey contests that saw their league mark go from 1-6-3 to 12-7-3. It also got the Engineers a second-place finish and their first-ever ECACH tournament first-round bye.
Now, the Engineers are two games away from their first semifinal appearance in 11 years. But when the 16th-ranked Engineers (17-12-5) host seventh-seeded Brown (13-12-6) this weekend in the best-of-three quarterfinals at Houston Field House, there is one thing that RPI coach Seth Appert fears — complacency.
Asked if the bye week was good for his team, Appert curtly said, “We’ll find out Friday at 7.
“How do you know? We planned it out and did things the way we wanted to do things. We’ll find out with how young men step on the ice with edge and the attitude and the tenacity on Friday at 7.
“Confidence, I think, is high. . . . [But] confidence and complacency are close siblings, if not twins. They run right next to each other. Our confidence is high, but we’ve got to keep our edge. We have to make sure that we have a bite to us. We want to be a mean, nasty team. When we play the right way, I believe we can beat any team in the country. And if we’re not committed to playing that way, if we want to play cute and skilled, then any team can beat us.”
RPI captain CJ Lee knows that he and his teammates can’t rest on their laurels now, not with the goal of getting Atlantic City, N.J., for next weekend’s final four so close.
“We’ve been getting after it last week and this week in practice,” Lee said. “We’re not sitting back and just kind of going into the weekend. We’re still working hard. We’re still doing the things we did the last three months to get to where we are right now.”
RPI took the season series against Brown, 1-0-1. That win came during its stretch drive, a 5-1 triumph Feb. 15 at Houston Field House. Three of those goals came on the power play.
“We have to do a lot of things differently than we did in that recent game,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “We’ve go to make sure that we’re really, really good on the defensive side. RPI goes to the net really hard. They’re very well coached, and they execute their game plan to a T. For us, we’ve got to concentrate wholeheartedly on eliminating those second opportunities for RPI.
“And we have to be disciplined. We don’t want to put them on the power play too much. They kind of ripped us apart the last time we were up there on the power play.”
Brown did fire 31 shots on RPI freshman goalie Jason Kasdorf in that game. But the only puck to elude Kasdorf was Joe Prescott’s goal at 4:56 of the third period. That made the score 5-1.
“We want to get pucks into their zone, and try and play in the offensive and try and put pressure on their goaltender,” Whittet said. “We didn’t really do that at all the last time we played. We floated through that game and were out of it. Tribute to them, they played the game unbelievably hard and were in our face and took it to us from the get-go. We have to make sure that we’re just prepared for a battle because they’re going to bring it to us.”
Brown has a reputation of playing an in-your-face style, and it can draw even the most disciplined teams into taking bad penalties. It’s something Lee knows the Engineers must avoid.
“We’ve done well staying out of the box this year and being disciplined,” Lee said. “[It’s] just playing between the whistles and not getting into anything after the whistle with them. That will be huge for us.”