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Engineers in Need of Reality Check

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 10, 2001

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's hockey team has 18 days to ponder its season.

Looking back at the first 11 games and the first five ECAC contests probably won't be very productive for the Engineers.

To say their records of 5-5-1 overall and 2-2-1 in ECAC play are not disappointing would be to deny reality.

Saturday night's 4-2 loss to Princeton is one that human nature would cause a team to relive. It's the type of loss that can stay with a team for weeks, let alone be damaging in the standings.

The Engineers need to look ahead, however, looking back only to reflect on the blatantly missing ingredient that caused the bad loss.

Over the next three weeks, the Engineers must develop the championship-caliber knack of being at the top of their game regardless of who their opponent may be. Teams that contend for titles do so.

Losing to Princeton and failing to beat Union - also on home ice, one week earlier - is indicative of the team's penchant for playing down to the level of a less-talented opponent. The killer instinct is too often missing.

"We don't have it," says center Jim Henkel. "You can't win (a championship) without it. And I don't understand it."

"We need to play consistent no matter who the opposition is and we just didn't do it," Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen said. "We want to get playing consistent hockey no matter who the opposition is and I didn't think we executed as well as we did (against Yale) and in order to be a real good team you have to execute game in and game out, no matter who the opposition is."

"It came down to us not being focused for that third period," said senior defenseman Jim Vickers. "We'd played strong in the third period to date, so I think it was a matter of intensity. We were just flat. We didn't come out focused."

Vickers took some blame for allowing Princeton a 2-on-1 breakout that led to a goal.

"One goal there I just lost focus," he said. "No excuse."

Captain and fellow defenseman Steve Munn agreed to a reporter's assertion that Princeton is the ECAC's weakest team and said he was both "shocked and disturbed" by the defeat.

Rensselaer had tied the game on Henkel's goal with just 22 seconds remaining in the second period. The Engineers were the superior team. They were at home. They had the momentum. They had permitted just eight third period goals in10 games. Princeton had allowed 18 in 12 contests.

"We had momentum on our side, we were ready to go," Munn said. "All we had to do was take advantage of the momentum we had and we didn't."

"We had a veteran 'D' corps out there tonight," Munn continued, "myself and the rest of the guys. We need to step it up a bit more and put more pressure on (opposing forwards) in our end."

In Friday's 4-2 victory over Yale, much of the credit could be given to Marc Cavosie's outstanding individual skills, to be sure.

However, after a sluggish first period, the Engineers played with intensity and desire after Yale rallied to take a 2-1 lead. That allowed Cavosie to take over the game.

Against Princeton, the Engineers were flat - to a man - and Cavosie, the ECAC's scoring leader, was not a factor.

"Coming back from two down is always good," Cavosie said, "but you've got to finish the job and we didn't do it."