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Gut-check Time for RPI

Engineers Need Points to Solidify Playoff Spot

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, February 8, 2002

One poll picked the Engineers to finish fifth in the ECAC and another sixth.

Yet with eight games remaining, RPI (4-7-3, 11 points) finds itself heading into this weekend in a tenuous 10th place - the final playoff spot if the season ended today.

"We didn't come in thinking we'd be in this spot," said co-captain Matt Murley, who is having another solid season personally with 30 points (16-14) in 19 games. "It's a good test of our character, and we're going to show everyone that we can get through this."

To get through it the Engineers must face their two toughest rivals back-to-back this weekend. Tonight they take on St. Lawrence, a team that has won eight of the last nine against RPI. Then on Saturday it's Clarkson, the defending regular-season ECAC champs.

"Two tough teams to play against," Murley said. "St. Lawrence has had our number in the past. Ever since I've been here we've had trouble with them. Clarkson always has a great team, but we've got the team that can take these guys."

An inconsistent defense has cost the Engineers a number of second- and third-period leads, and until their last game at Vermont the offense has come to rely too much on Murley and Marc Cavosie - the league's top two scorers.

"I'd definitely trade any amount of points we have for wins, and I know Marc's the same way," Murley said. "He's having a great year and he's a great player, but you can't just win games with one, two, or three guys. You need a whole team effort. That's what it's going to take this weekend."

For those who look at the cup as half full rather than half empty, RPI is only four points behind fifth-place Colgate. Two wins this weekend could move the Engineers up considerably.

"It's a real big weekend," Murley said. "We had a great weekend last weekend (3 points) and we're just looking to build off that and put two big weekends together. As seniors we've got four home games left and we want to get as many points out of them as we can."

Union College, which was picked ninth and 10th in the ECAC preseason polls, is in sixth place heading into the weekend against the same two teams. They beat St. Lawrence on the road for the first time in January.

Fresh and hot: Three Union freshmen are among the top 10 first-year players in overall scoring in the ECAC, certainly one of the big reasons for its success.

Jordan Webb is tied for third among league freshmen with 15 points (5-10), Marc Neron is tied for fifth (6-8-14) and Joel Beal ranks seventh (4-9-13).

Yale's Christopher Higgins leads all freshman with 21 points.

Ice chips: Union players will skate to raise money for the families of Sept. 11 victims on Monday at 5 p.m. at Achilles Rink. Donations will be accepted at the box office at intermissions this weekend. ... RPI's game against Clarkson is the featured game of the 10th annual Satellite Hockey Telecast and will be available at 55 sites across the country Saturday night.