The venerable Houston Field House is undergoing an extensive facelift designed to make it one of the most attractive venues in the ECACHL. Meanwhile, it seems that one of the old rinkâ€™s prime tenants, the RPI women, have been testing the new elevators prematurely.
How else could one explain the Engineersâ€™ up and down fortunes this season?
RPI was fast on its way to becoming one of the Nationâ€™s best success stories prior to the Christmas break.
That was then.
The new year, however, has been a story with an unhappy ending, at least so far. The Engineers charged into the break with a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1), and just one loss (9-1-2) in their final 12 starts.
Those numbers have been completely flipped. Theyâ€™ve lost five of their last six contests, and are just 2-7-1 since 2009 rolled around. Needless to say, the Engineers are searching for answers as they head into this weekendâ€™s North Country trip to St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
â€œWe were just working well as a team,â€ said RPI co-captain Melissa Boik, trying to put a finger on the situation. â€œI canâ€™t explain exactly what it was, because if that was the case, I could explain what is happening now.â€
A glance at the game log reveals two things. One of them, the uptick in scoring, is encouraging. The other, the ballooning goals against numbers, is not.
â€œWeâ€™re scoring more goals this time around,” said Boik a senior defenseman from Allen Park, Mich., “but weâ€™re letting in more, too.â€
A partial explanation, according to Boik, is that they arenâ€™t surprising their ECAC foes the second time around they way they might have in their first meetings.
â€œClearly,â€ she said, â€œboth sides of our games have had their ups and downs. So teams we played the first time around, they know whatâ€™s going to happen when they play us. Everyoneâ€™s adjusting to it.â€
Last Saturday, Harvard did some tinkering and skated out of Houston with a 5-4 win. This after RPI surprised the Crimson back in November by holding them to a 1-1 tie.
â€œThat was probably one of my favorite games of my career,â€ said Boik. â€œThe feeling coming out of it was great. That we were finally able to get a point out of them.
â€œWe knew what we had to do, coming into there. We knew how hard we had to play. Thatâ€™s basically just what we did.â€
The rematch was an entirely different tale, but almost wound up with the same result. The Crimson exploded to a 4-0 lead before RPI stormed back with a trio of third-period goals to eventually make it a one-goal game.
â€œOur penalty kill struggled that weekend, said Boik. â€œBut we made our way back into the game, and we didnâ€™t stop fighting the entire time.”
Boik led the last ditch charge by bombing in two third-period goals. The second came with 1:56 to play, and kept the Engineersâ€™ hopes aflicker.
â€œI donâ€™t think the second goal went straight in,â€ she said. â€œI think a teammate tipped it in. The first one was just a plain old shot to the net. There were enough teammates screening for me.â€
It was the first multi-goal effort of her career, and gave her five for the season. It was her reward for playing with a little bit of desperation, and confidence, too.
â€œThe next few games,â€ she said, â€œIâ€™m going to have to be shooting more.â€
Currently sitting at 12-12-3 (7-7-2), a split of their six remaining contests would give the Engineers a .500 record for the first time in their brief ECAC Hockey existence.
Boik said that she and her teammates will have to stay on the offensive over the final three weeks in order to hit the playoffs with a full head of steam.
â€œWeâ€™re definitely a skating team,â€ she said. â€œSo that works to our advantage. So with us puck movers, weâ€™ve got to get that going.â€
That elevator does have an up button, too. Now, if they can just manage to find it again.