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RPI Seeks to Extend End

Engineers Open ECAC Playoffs Tonight at Home Against Princeton

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 8, 2002

TROY - Playing the first round of the ECAC playoffs on the road provided a short postseason last year for the RPI hockey team.

This season, the Engineers hope home ice will be the catalyst to a longer stay.

RPI went two and out at Dartmouth last season, but the fifth-seeded Engineers (16-12-4, 10-9-3) will play host to No. 6 Princeton (11-16-2, 10-10-2) in a first-round, best-of-3 series that begins tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.

"We're real excited to be home," said RPI senior co-captain Matt Murley, who will try to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. "For our eight seniors, this is our last chance, and we want to make the best of it."

Dan Fridgen was a rookie head coach at RPI when that 1995 team finished sixth in the ECAC but won its playoff series and reached the NCAAs. And while Fridgen said he would love to get there again, he's keeping his priorities in order.

"We're not looking farther than Friday night," Fridgen said before practice Thursday at Houston Field House. "Princeton is a very difficult team to play against because they've been inconsistent in regard to the kind of game they play."

The winner of this series advances to the five-team, single-elimination ECAC finals the following weekend in Lake Placid.

The Tigers beat RPI in Troy on Dec. 8, when the Engineers were struggling to find consistency, something that eluded them until a 7-2-1 stretch to close the season.

"They're a very, very physical team, as tough as any team we've played," RPI senior co-captain Steve Munn said. "But that's the kind of game I like."

It was a different RPI team that went into Princeton's rink Feb. 15 and came out with a 5-2 victory.

"The second time we played them we were playing better as a team," Fridgen said. "We capitalized on their mistakes in that game. Princeton capitalized on ours in the first game."

RPI has the best 1-2 offensive punch in the ECAC in Murley and junior teammate Marc Cavosie, both Capital Region natives.

Cavosie won the scoring title with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 league games and 46 points (21-25) in 31 games overall. Murley was second with 28 points (14-14) in ECAC play and 38 (18-20) overall.

"It's been awesome," said Murley, a Troy native. "Marc's had a tremendous year, but he worked hard all summer, and it certainly showed this year."

While those two players have been the key to RPI's offensive success, Murley said the biggest difference has come from the development of other players. Junior Carson Butterwick, for example, came on strong to finish with 14 goals and 28 points.

"It's one thing to have skills, but without hard work it doesn't get you very far," Fridgen said. "This team has the capability of being successful as long as we play as one."

And while 20 players are back from the team that got eliminated in the ECAC first round last year, there seems to be a different aura surrounding this club.

"We're a better team than we were last year," Fridgen said. "I don't think you can put pressure on these guys. They remained confident and positive when things weren't going so good. They haven't gotten too high when they could have, and they haven't gotten too low when they could have."