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Another 1-1 Weekend for RPI Hockey Team

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 8, 2004

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fans are quite used to 1-1 weekends.

When the Engineers split with Clarkson (a 5-3 victory) and St. Lawrence (a 3-2 defeat) over the weekend, it marked the 24th time since the 1999-2000 season that RPI has divided ECAC Hockey League games on the same weekend. Some 16 of those have come at Houston Field House.

Twice at home during that span the Engineers won on Friday night and were held to a tie on Saturday night.

Only twice since the 1999-2000 season began have the Engineers beaten two ECACHL opponents on consecutive nights at Houston Field House.

"They just never seem to be able to make the sweep," an Engineers fan said to two buddies as he left the Field House following the St. Lawrence game on Saturday night. "It's frustrating."

Each year, Rensselaer plays 11 weekends of two ECACHL games. Ten of those have either both games at home or both games away. The two yearly games with Union, of course, are divided by site.

The St. Lawrence game was frustrating to fans, who saw the Engineers succeed on just one of 14 power play opportunities one night after the power play went 5-for-11 and shot RPI into sixth place nationally in power-play percentage at 25.7 percent (18-of-70).

Head coach Dan Fridgen and his players downplayed the disappointment in the defeat, pointing to the fact that they outplayed St. Lawrence and giving the Saints credit, pointing out SLU had beaten three Top 15 teams (Michigan State, Maine, Miami-twice).

Judging the mood in the lockerroom, though - and how long the door stayed closed after the game ended - they certainly felt deep disappointment.

For the Engineers to contend for an ECACHL title - or any other team with the talent to do so, for that matter - they're going to have to win back-to-back games at least several times.

By the way, since 1999-2000, and including this year's 1-1-0, RPI has a 50-51-10 ECACHL regular-season record. During that time, the Engineers have posted a 2-0-0 weekend 10 times (just twice at home, as mentioned) and gone 0-2-0 on 10 weekends as well. Weekends involving a tie and either one victory or one defeat total eight.

MacDonald still hot: Junior right winger Kirk MacDonald had three goals over the weekend to bring his ECACHL-leading total to 10 (though half of league teams have played just a few games).

MacDonald credits his linemates Kevin Croxton and Nick Economakos for his success.

"They're just doing a great job of finding me in scoring position and giving me super passes," he said following the Clarkson game. "I'm just shooting the puck and (pucks) have eyes right now, I guess," MacDonald said. "Guys are setting me up. Nothing special."

On Friday night, he rifled a laser from the right circle past the glove of Clarkson's Dave Leggio, just inside the right goalpost and under the crossbar.

"That one just came right to me and I just stepped into it," MacDonald said. "Those are the ones you don't get very often but you love 'em when you do."

Saturday night, his shot from the lower slot hit the top of the glove of SLU goalie Mike McKenna and continued on, high into the back of the net.

Is Martin No. 1?: Fridgen was asked if senior Andrew Martin, with two solid performances over the weekend, has taken the No. 1 role from goalie-of-the-future, freshman Jordan Alford.

"I don't really have a No. 1 goalie," Fridgen said. "It's whoever is playing better will be in the net."

Certainly, at 2-1-1, 2.95 goals against average, 89.1 saves percentage, Alford has played well, too.

Fridgen will likely split the pair in next week's games with Union.

Martin's numbers now read 3-2-0, 2.43, 90.5%.

Power-play disparity: Virtually all teams will have a higher power play efficiency in their victories than in their defeats but the Engineers have been night-and-day thus far. Their power play is 3-for-29 (10.3 percent) in their three losses and 14-of-44 (31.8 percent) in their five wins. They went 2-for-11 in the 3-3 tie with UConn.

While the power play certainly figures to be among the ECACHL leaders this season, the Engineers are going to need more equal-strength goals to finish among the top four in the league.

One-goal losses: Last season, RPI won its first five games decided by one goal but only one of those came in an ECACHL game. The Engineers, in their last 44 ECACHL games decided by one goal, over parts of six seasons, have a 17-27 record. That mark speaks for itself.

Notes: MacDonald (10 goals-5 assists-15 points) and Croxton (4-11-15) share the early ECACHL in scoring and Economakos (3-11-14) is third. In points per game, Clarkson left winger Matt Moulsen, with seven points (4-3-7) in four games is the leader at 1.75 points per game. MacDonald and Croxton are next at 1.67, then Economakos at 1.56. ... Rensselaer has still been outscored in the first period (9-7) but has outscored the opposition 30-16 over the final two periods. ... The Engineers are 2-2-0 on their current five-game homestand, which ends Friday night against Union. Then they go to Union the next night and to Yale and Princeton Nov. 19-20.