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Engineers Off and Running

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 9, 2004

TROY - The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team just started practicing for the 2004-05 season last Saturday.

Today, the Engineers are suiting up for a game. They face Merrimack at 5:05 p.m. in the first round of the Mutual of Omaha Stampede in Omaha, Neb.

RPI hasnít had much time to prepare for its season-opening contest. An NCAA rule instituted this year moved the start date of college hockey practices to the first weekend of October. Practices previously started in late September.

This is the earliest season opener ever for the Engineers. They opened on Oct. 11 of both 2002 and 2003.

It has been a difficult week for the players and coaches trying to prepare for the game.

"Everything is racing," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said . "Youíve got travel plans that youíre still coordinating, and meals and two assistant coaches. Youíre breaking them in. Itís gone very, very quickly."

"But I think weíre ready and looking forward to going out there and playing a game."

Junior forward Kevin Croxton, RPIís leading scorer last season with 18 goals and 21 assists, knows there will be some mistakes made in the game because of the lack of practice time.

"Itís tough," Croxton said. "Weíre trying our best. As long as guys learn from [their mistakes] and donít make them again, thatís all we can ask for."

Senior forward Nick Economakos believes the team will be ready.

"Itís been a summer full of preparation," said Economakos, a co-captain. "Iím sure the the guys will tell you that the offseasonís harder than the regular season these days."

Croxton, Economakos and junior Kirk MacDonald will form RPIís to scoring line. They were the teamís top three scorers last season, combining for 43 goals and 60 assists.

"Iím real excited about it," said MacDonald, who had 15 goals and 19 assists last year. "It should be fun. You canít complain when youíre playing with those two guys."

As to who will start in goal this weekend, Fridgen will probably play both freshman Jordan Alford and senior Andrew Martin. Both goalies are looking to replace the graduated Nathan Marsters.

"How Iím going to split them, I donít know," Fridgen said. "Itís going to depend on the performance of whoever I go with first."

Notebook

Host Nebraska-Omaha will face Connecticut in the other game today. On Sunday, the consolation game will be at 5:05 p.m., and the championship contest at 8:05 . . .

Fridgen is three wins away from tying Mike Addesa on RPIís all-time wins list. Addesa won 186 games from 1979-89. . . .

RPI is 17-7-2 all-time against Merrimack. The Engineers won last yearís meeting, 5-4, in North Andover, Mass. . . .

This marks the sixth straight year RPI has opened a season on the road. The Engineers are 3-2 in opening games the last five years.