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Rivalry Moves Up on Schedule

RPI, Union Play Back-to-back Games This Weekend

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 12, 2004

Usually, when the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College men's hockey teams meet, they either play one game in December and the other in January.

Or, if they play on back-to-back nights, the games are normally in January, as they were last season.

So it seems kind of strange that the Capital Region rivals will be finished with each other, at least for the regular season, after this weekend.

"It seems like it came pretty quick," Union senior forward Jordan Webb said.

But both sides don't mind the early-season ECACHL contests. RPI will host tonight's game at Houston Field House at 7. Saturday's game will be at Union's Messa Rink, also at 7.

"It brings a lot of excitement to the season," RPI defenseman Brad Farynuk said. "I think it gets a lot of people in the Capital District involved with the hockey that's going on in the community as far as a great rivalry with two Division I teams. The media obviously puts a lot of coverage into it."

"I think it's great for the game in general."

Union forward Jonathan Poirier agrees.

"It's going to be a huge week- end," said Poirier, who was named ECACHL player of the week Monday. "Hopefully, we'll get there ready to play."

RPI defenseman Keith McWilliams believes the teams could play each other in the summer, and it would still generate excitement.

"Anytime you play, there's going to be the same amount of competition between us," MCWilliams said.

The Dutchmen (2-0 ECACHL, 3-5 overall) opened league play last weekend with home-ice victories over St. Lawrence and Clarkson. They are in a four-way tie for first place.

Union coach Nate Leaman believes it's too early to get excited.

"There's 22 games," Leaman said. "We learned that last year when we had that late run there and finished up strong. In this league, it comes down to the last game of the season. Our goal right now is to take points out of every weekend. I thought we did a good job of that last weekend, obviously."

After scoring 10 goals in their first six games, all non-league contests, the Dutchmen scored 10 times last weekend. That leads the ECACHL.

"They're hot," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "There's no question about that."

RPI (1-1, 5-3-1) leads all ECACHL teams in overall goal scoring with 39. The Engineers have one of the top forward lines in the country in Kevin Croxton, Nick Economakos and Kirk MacDonald. MacDonald (10-5-15) and Croxton (4-11-15) are tied for third in the country in scoring, and Economakos (3-11-14) is tied for fifth.

The Engineers split their two games last weekend, beating Clarkson and losing to St. Lawrence. They were 5-for-11 on the power play in the 5-3 win over Clarkson, but just 1-for-14 in a 3-2 loss to St. Lawrence.

"I think we're playing pretty well," Fridgen said. "I thought our loss against St. Lawrence could have gone either way."

RPI, which has a 41-10-6 series lead, has gone 5-0-1 in the last six meetings with Union. The Engineers swept last season's series, 5-1 and 3-1.

The 5-1 win came at RPI. It was a game in which Union didn't show up mentally prepared to play. The Dutchmen don't want a repeat of that tonight.

"We came out flat, and they took it to us," Webb said. "This year, we're a different team. We've got to come out of the gate fast, and everybody's got to be ready to play. We have to do the little things right that we worked on all week in practice. We have to stay focused."

Notebook

Union will hold it's annual alumni game Saturday at 10:15 a.m. There will be a dedication of the team's new locker room at 4:45 p.m., and a reception will follow in the Garnet Room at 5:15. . .

Last Friday's Black Friday jersey bidding raised $7,200 for RPI. An Adam Oates jersey went for $850. . . .

Dutchwomen on road

The Union women's hockey team returns to ECACHL play this weekend with two games at Cornell. Tonight's game is at 7, and Saturday's is at 4.

The Dutchwomen's only league victory last season came against the Big Red, a 3-1 decision Feb. 28 at Messa Rink.

Union (0-2 ECACHL, 3-3-1 overall) hasn't played a league contest since opening the season with two losses at Clarkson Oct. 15-16.