Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get the Full Experience

Let's be all the way real, here. Considering that the three overtime marathon on Saturday night would have been a tie in a regular season game (and considering that the Engineers only ever trailed in that game after the game winner), one could say that RPI is unbeaten in nine straight games on the road, with a record of 7-0-2.

At home, especially down the stretch, the Engineers were... not so good. In their final six home games, the team was 1-4-1, including a pair of awful losses to Colgate and Princeton.

Why the disparity? Seth Appert probably nailed it when he spoke to the media last week. This is a team that plays well when they play as a team - when they eat, breathe, think, and sleep as a team, they function as a team. When you go on the road, you travel together as a team. You have team meals. You have team meetings. You sleep in the same building, going to bed at the same time and roughly rising at the same time as well. No distractions. It's one heart beating together.

At home, it was more apparent that the team was more like a group of individuals. And why not? At home, once the game is over, everyone goes to their separate dorms or apartments. Everyone arrives mostly separately. There's no special team meal. Nothing off the ice is necessarily done as a team. Everyone's got something else they want to accomplish at home when the team isn't together.

So it's easy to see how a team that must play as a single, cohesive unit - that is, they have no superstars that they can rely on to carry the team - plays that much better on the road.

Fortunately, they're going to be playing away from Houston Field House for the remainder of the season, however long it lasts. But now there's a new wrinkle. Next weekend's games are just up the road in Schenectady. It's basically a home game, just as it has been for 20 years. Whenever RPI plays at Union, they sleep in their own beds.

Uh oh.

There is, however, a solution. Turn it into a road game.

This series didn't have to happen in Schenectady. It could just have easily ended up being in Ithaca, or in Boston, where normal road accommodations would be required. In that case, the money budgeted for a road playoff weekend would be used on everything you would expect - bus overnights, hotel rooms, meals, the whole nine.

That money's still got to be there. Use it. Find a hotel with space in a place like Amsterdam or Saratoga - somewhere far enough away from Troy to get away from it all, but not too far away from Schenectady to have things out of place. Make it a full road experience, with team meals, team meetings, and everything. Make sure the team's psyche is in the right mindset - team first, everything else second.

Heck, if you've got the money, leave on Thursday, and have the bus go up the Northway to Exit 30 and back, or something. Make this a real road trip experience.

That's what I'd do, anyway.

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