Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Getting Up For the Big Game

Before I start with this venting of frustration, let me get this out of the way: this is not an attack on Seth Appert. It is, however, a critique of the program under Coach Appert. Take from it what you will.

I got to thinking while sitting through the latest demolition of the Engineers, this time at the hands of Union (again). When was the last time we got to celebrate a blowout victory? It's something I thought of when I tried to find the last time RPI gave up six goals in a single period (I couldn't find it).

If we define a blowout as a four-goal-or-more separation in the final score, here are the blowouts of the Appert era.

October 21, 2006: Denver 5, RPI 1
December 9, 2006: Princeton 6, RPI 2
December 30, 2006: Union 5, RPI 1
January 5, 2007: Harvard 5, RPI 1
January 6, 2007: Dartmouth 6, RPI 2
January 12, 2007: Union 5, RPI 0
February 10, 2007: Cornell 6, RPI 1
December 15, 2007: Miami 7, RPI 3
December 16, 2007: Miami 5, RPI 1
January 12, 2008: Colgate 4, RPI 0
February 2, 2008: Princeton 4, RPI 0*
February 15, 2008: Colgate 4, RPI 0
February 16, 2008: Cornell 7, RPI 1
October 21, 2008: UMass 6, RPI 0
November 15, 2008: Quinnipiac 5, RPI 1
November 29, 2008: Northeastern 5, RPI 1
December 5, 2008: Yale 7, RPI 3
December 6, 2008: RPI 7, Brown 2
December 14, 2008: Miami 7, RPI 1
January 2, 2009: Boston University 6, RPI 2
January 10, 2009: RPI 5, Princeton 1
March 14, 2009: Cornell 4, RPI 0
December 30, 2009: Michigan State 6, RPI 1
February 20, 2010: Princeton 7, RPI 0*$
December 4, 2010: RPI 6, Brown 2
January 14, 2011: Cornell 5, RPI 1
January 22, 2011: RPI 5, Dartmouth 1
February 19, 2011: RPI 5, Clarkson 1
March 26, 2011: North Dakota 6, RPI 0
October 14, 2011: Ferris State 4, RPI 0
November 15, 2011: Union 5, RPI 1
December 29, 2011: UMass-Lowell 7, RPI 2
January 14, 2012: Union 5, RPI 1
January 27, 2012: RPI 4, St. Lawrence 0
February 4, 2012: Colgate 8, RPI 3*
February 18, 2012: Princeton 6, RPI 2$
March 2, 2012: RPI 5, Clarkson 1
November 3, 2012: Union 7, RPI 3
* - Big Red Freakout!
$ - Senior Night

That's a record of 7-31 in blowout games. By the definition of Saturday's game, we did win a pair of blowout contests last season, against the North Country teams (and one in the playoffs, no less). But by and large, they're fairly hard to come by. The NCAA tournament team of 2010-11 only posted three themselves. Up the requirement to five goals, and the record diminishes to 1-10. No matter how you slice it, the team's blowout to blownout ratio... sucks.

Then it struck me that a lot of the blowout losses were in "big" games. The NCAA tournament game, of course, but, like many (but not all) of the other non-conference games on that list, RPI was simply matched up against a far superior team (especially early in Appert's tenure - the 3 games against Miami, for instance).

So what constitutes a "big game?" Well, Freakout! would seem to qualify. Union has become our biggest rival, a team we play three times a year (at least), so that's one. Senior Night is usually supposed to be added incentive to win. Of course, the playoffs.

Freakout! record: 1-4-1 (12 GF, 28 GA)
Senior night record: 0-5-1 (8 GF, 24 GA)
Union record: 4-16-3 (46 GF, 81 GA)
ECAC playoff record: 7-13-0 (2-6 in series)

Three of the blowout losses were at Big Red Freakout! Two were on Senior Night (although to be fair, in 2010 Freakout! was held on Senior Night). Five were against Union, which tallies to more blowout losses against the Dutchmen than we have wins, period (and again, to be fair, Union has gotten very good).

The saving grace, really, is Black Friday, where the team can boast a 4-2-1 record under Appert - though both losses are in the last two years. And if you're still holding onto Clarkson as the main rival, that record is 5-9-1 with both teams scoring 43 goals in the 15 games - somewhat better than against Union, but again, Union has been better than Clarkson in the last six years.

What else is there? Well, why not throw in tournament play? Although the titles they confer are mostly a matter of bragging rights, the usual ambiguity as to the second night's opponent and the opportunity to play for some hardware makes a tournament a little bigger than your average non-conference fare.

2006 Governor's Cup: Champions
2006 RPI Tournament: 3rd Place
2006 Catamount Cup: 4th Place
2007 Icebreaker: 4th Place
2007 Governor's Cup: Champions
2007 RPI Tournament: 2nd Place
2007 Lightning Classic: 4th Place
2008 Governor's Cup: 3rd Place
2008 RPI Tournament: 4th Place
2009 Denver Cup: 4th Place
2009 Alaska Goal Rush: 4th Place
2009 RPI Tournament: 2nd Place
2009 Great Lakes Invitational: 2nd Place
2010 RPI Tournament: Champions
2011 UConn Hockey Classic: 4th Place
Overall record: 8-17-5

Now, it's hardly fair to fault some of these poor results, especially the 2007 Icebreaker (Minnesota, BC, and Michigan) and the Lightning Classic (Notre Dame, Colorado College, and UMass), and the big win against Michigan came at the '09 GLI, but some of these tournaments, especially the last one, were simply putrid. Losses to Niagara, Mercyhurst, Army, and Holy Cross, and a tie with American International are strewn throughout.

What am I trying to say here? I'm not really sure I'm saying anything other than trying to quantify frustration. Some of the early teams Appert coached were just rough squads that were low on talent. But as the talent level has picked up, these trends of underperforming in key games hasn't really changed much. Possibly, the disparity in blowouts to being blown out could point to an inadequate strategy when playing from behind. I have no clue.

I do know one thing, though. Appert likes to say that every game is equally important. On some level that's true. All games factor into the Pairwise Rankings, and every ECAC game is worth two points. But on an emotional level, for both players and fans, certain games hold more meaning to them. Union, even when they were a joke on the ice, always managed to get up for RPI. Today, even with a team that will be written into their (new) history books as an all-time great lineup, they still manage to get a little something extra for RPI, a team that, by recent history, they should have every right to overlook. Those big wins develop momentum, and although that can change from shift to shift and period to period, the game to game momentum is just as important, and nothing kills spirit like a big loss in a big game.

1 comment:

  1. This team has had discipline/character issues for a while, which really came to light once Kennedy and Polacek left. They care more about chippy bullshit and getting drunk than they do about winning. CJ was a lousy captain choice, and Leboeuf does not belong on the top D-line.

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