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RPI, Union Still Have Goals to Meet

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 1, 2002

TROY - The pressure is off RPI to make the ECAC hockey playoffs, but there's still plenty of work left this weekend if the Engineers are to earn a home berth.

In Schenectady, Union College is walking a tightrope in its attempt simply to make it into the postseason. The Dutchmen, currently in ninth place (10 teams qualify), tonight play host to Colgate and then must tackle ECAC champion Cornell on Saturday.

If Union (7-10-3, 17 points) wins both games, the Dutchmen will make the playoffs. They could also get in with less than two wins and the right combination of ingredients effecting 10th-place St. Lawrence (7-11-2, 16 points), 11th-place Yale (7-11-2, 16 points), and eighth-place Princeton (8-10-2, 18 points).

"That's why you play the games this time of the year," said Union coach Kevin Sneddon of his team's task, one that was exacerbated by a road sweep at Harvard and Brown last week. "That's what our league is about right now - anybody can win on any given night right now. Unfortunately we've fallen short the last couple of weekends."

Union had been in excellent shape in the middle of the ECAC pack when the new year arrived, but the Dutchmen were on the road for six of their past eight games and compiled a 2-5-1 mark that has left them in a precarious position on the final weekend of the regular season.

"We've got our work cut out for us, but it's no different than any other weekend," said Sneddon, whose team finished tied for ninth last year and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by St. Lawrence.

These will be the final home games for six Union seniors as the Dutchmen are already eliminated from a home playoff spot. The best they can finish is 9-10-3 with 21 points. Six teams already have 22 points, including Colgate.

Union lost at Colgate and Cornell early in the season, but the Dutchmen improved significantly during December and have a 7-4-5 home record. Last year, Union beat both Cornell and Colgate at Achilles Rink.

"We've got a very good team in Colgate coming in (tonight), which will be a huge challenge for us," Sneddon said. "We get through that game and we've got to come back against one of the top teams in the country. You can be down about it or you can be excited about the opportunity, which we are. If you're a true hockey player, you get fired up for that chance to knock off a top dog."

RPI will get first crack at the top dog of the ECAC in Cornell. The Big Red is the eighth-ranked team in the nation and has the country's second-best defense (1.81 goals allowed, 1.60 in ECAC play). The Engineers (9-8-3, 21 points) are currently in sixth place, but could be anywhere from second to ninth by the end of Saturday night. They had a six-game win streak snapped at Brown on Saturday.

"We're just concentrating on playing 60 minutes of hockey," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, whose team finished tied for fifth last year and lost in the first round to Dartmouth. "Against Brown we didn't play as well as we're capable of playing. We just want to get back on track here and hit the playoffs on a high note." Notes: RPI's duo of Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley rank 1-2 in ECAC points entering the final two games. Cavosie (12-16-28) is third nationally with 1.52 points per game. Murley (14-13-27), one of eight seniors who may be playing their final home games, is fifth with 1.48 per game. ... RPI goalie Nathan Marsters made the ECAC honor roll this week, stopping 53 of 56 shots in RPI's two games.