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Time to Drop the Pucks

Union Travels to Notre Dame, RPI at Boston University in Season Openers

By Tim Wilkin

Albany Times Union, October 11, 2001

If the coaches of the ECAC are correct, it won't be much of a winter for the college hockey teams at RPI and Union.

The league's 12 coaches picked the Engineers to finish sixth, four spots higher than the perennially struggling Dutchmen. The coaches like Harvard, which finished 16-15-2 last year (12-8-2 in the league) to finish atop the ECAC.

RPI coach Dan Fridgen and Union coach Kevin Sneddon say they pay no attention to what their peers think about their teams.

"We are certainly a different team this year," said Fridgen, whose team opens Saturday night at Boston University. "I hope we are a team that will be fun to watch. I think we have guys that certainly have the potential to put the fans on the edge of their seats."

RPI returns 21 players from last year's team, which finished 17-15-2 overall and 11-9-2 in the ECAC and was swept by Dartmouth in the first round of the league playoffs.

The Engineers had just one senior, Glenn Coupal, on last year's roster. This year they have eight, including co-captains Steve Munn and Troy's Matt Murley.

Murley, a 1999 draftee of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is one of the most explosive scorers in the league. He led the team with 42 points last season (24 goals), and again will be counted on to fire the offense.

"He said he wanted to have a role in the leadership of this team, and we have given him that," Fridgen said.

In addition to Murley, RPI has proven scorers in senior Jim Henkel (11 goals, 30 points), junior Marc Cavosie of Cohoes (13, 29), junior Carson Butterwick (9, 29) and senior Jim Vickers (8, 28). Junior Nolan Graham added 11 goals and 14 assists last season.

RPI is solid in goal with sophomore Nathan Marsters, who had four shutouts as a freshman and was named the team's Most Valuable Player. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Marsters only figures to get better.

Munn anchors a defense that allowed 2.62 goals per game last season, 13th in the nation.

Union opens its season with back-to-back games at Notre Dame, starting tonight.

The Dutchmen are in their 11th season in Division I, and at the beginning of last year looked like they would give their fans a season to remember. Union opened the season 6-1-1 and was ranked nationally for the first time in school history. But an 11-game winless stretch made the start but a distant memory, and the final tally was a 12-18-4 record, 8-12-2 in the ECAC.

"We learned a lesson last year," Sneddon said. "The returning players now know what it takes to win, and that is something we did not have the previous few years. We had an early taste of success last year and then we let it slip it away."

Union still made the playoffs last year, where, for the second straight season, the Dutchmen were eliminated by St. Lawrence.

The Dutchmen will go as far as senior goalie Brandon Snee can take them. Snee played in 33 games last year and was 12-17-4, though he did not get much help. He is regarded as one of the best goalies in the league.

"We are hoping to take some of the pressure off of Brandon," Sneddon said. "Last year he might have been too hard on himself. Obviously he is the backbone of our team."

Sneddon said the Dutchmen figure to be stronger defensively and, he hopes, a smarter hockey team. Union surrendered 26 power-play goals last season.

The top returning goal scorer is senior captain Jeff Wilson, who had 12 last year. So getting offensive production is a must. Sneddon said Union's overall team speed will be enhanced by players such as Glenn Sanders, Kris Goodjohn and Nathan Gillies.

If those players perform well and Snee is as reliable as before, the Dutchmen have a chance to improve upon last year's finish and surprise the other ECAC coaches.

"All I want to do is help put this program on the map as far as being competitive in the league," Snee said. "I think we have a chance to get to Lake Placid (for the ECAC championships), I really do. But if we don't get that far but do have a semi-successful season, I'll be happy."