Rensselaer’s Struggle has Gone from Bad to WorseSunday, January 8th, 2017
When I wrote a feature in November on RPI it was just a struggling hockey team that was trying to find rhythm and momentum. I felt as though it would turn it around during the second half or late in the first semester. It had points where it seemed like that would be the case. Even then, the Engineers were in games until the end. There was a 3-2 loss against Ohio State, a 3-1 loss to St. Lawrence, it led by two against Yale, late, only to have the Bulldogs come roaring back to win in overtime and there was an overtime defeat on the road to Union. Albeit losses, they weren’t ones that would get anyone’s head shaking.
Unfortunately, the results since then have been downright embarrassing and things have gone from bad to worse. As a Program, it is also approaching some program low-marks if the current trends continue.
Since I wrote that feature, the Engineers have won just once, to Arizona State, have gone a paltry 1-8-0 and are on a current seven game losing streak. It isn’t as if the Engineers are just losing nail-biters in their current seven game losing streak, either. They have given up five or more goals in six of those games and six or more in four of them. During the skid, they had a three-goal lead against Princeton evaporate in a game it ended up losing in overtime. In the third period and overtime, the Engineers put four shots on goal, while the Tigers had 30. Other than that the closest game was against Quinnipiac, a 4-1 defeat that they were outshot 51-15 in.
On the season, the Engineers have a -2.09 goal margin, which is the worst in the ECAC (next worst Brown -1.64). That margin is also the second worst in the country, to Niagara’s 2.35 margin a game. During the seven game skid that I talked about above, that margin shoots to -3.43 per game (39-15 or 5.57-2.14 per gm). For perspective, by the way, 50 out of 60 teams in college hockey have a loss/win margin of less than 1.0 and another five teams have a better goal margin than 1.35. RPI and Niagara are outliers, as they are the only two that have margins of greater than 1.75.
These are not results that RPI or any team in a major conferences should be having. No team in the country should be consistently allowing six goals a night and no team should be losing by 3.14 over a period of nine games. In most of those games, the result isn’t inflated by empty-net goals.
Usually there is more to blame when a college hockey program falls from grace than just a coach or a coaching staff, but the onus in these circumstances always falls there. Teams with the history and backing like RPI usually have a quick trigger, but lets also remember Seth Appert is still under contract until 2020-21. Unless some alum steps forward a buyout would be pricey and probably unreasonable.
That contract was signed in 2013, a season after RPI had a second place finish. The best finish since was last year, when the Engineers finished in a tie for fifth. It bowed out in the quarterfinals, being outscored 13-4 over two nights. Honestly, this year I figured they would come close to that, but it hasn’t happened. There is always some responsibility at that level and based on RPI fans I have read and talked to there certainly is.
As I was digging through the RPI team history, the Engineers are on pace to have its second worst season in its DI hockey history, the worst by percentage was in 1965-66 when it went 3-19-0 (13.64 win pct.). The winning percentage this season, is at a paltry 15.2 percent and over the last few weeks has been falling quickly.
The 19 losses it currently has is already the ninth most, in a season, since it became a founding member of the ECAC, in 1961-62. With 14 more games left in this season there are many more that can be added. Of note, the largest loss total that the engineers have had in a season, is 27 in ’08-09 and 26 in ’14-15, each in the last decade under Appert.
The fewest wins in a season it has had in the ECAC is era is three (65-66) but teams only played 22 games then. This season, the Engineers are on pace for just five, after rounding up from 4.86. This would be astronomically low for the RPI program, considering only once since 1970 has it even been in the single-digits.
It is tough to point to what exactly has gone wrong, but it is clear that defensively there have been some problems, as I mentioned above. There also comes the fact the Engineers have been outshot by an average of 10 on goal per game and giving up an inflated 36.39 shots per game. They have a 43.7 percent corsi that is sixth worst in the country.
Usually when a team is under pressure as much as RPI is, there will be trouble, unless they have great goaltending and a good system in place that keeps those attempts to the outside. Even then at 37 shots allowed per game, a goalie would need to have a .95 save percentage just to allow just two goals and a .92 to keep it to three. This is what RPI has had in the recent past, but now those areas seem to be a trouble.
Whatever has happened to RPI in recent weeks, is something that shouldn’t happen to a team of RPI’s stature, in the ECAC. No program in the country is immune to these seasons, however, they happen. For a program like RPI’s, which has two national titles to its credit, this season has brought about a sad state of affairs. If things don’t turn quick, the blame has to go somewhere I suppose but is there really a sign it will? Lets just hope, it does turn around to some degree.