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Struggling Irish Host Engineers

Union's 2005 Schedule Opens in Connecticut

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, January 1, 2005

The RPI Engineers begin the New Year searching for the same slippery party favor - the mythic "60-minute game" - that has eluded them for three months.

Tonight, Troy's stick-toting travelers lace 'em up in South Bend, Ind., for the first of a two-game series against Notre Dame. Meantime, Union opens the 2005 portion of its schedule Sunday afternoon at Connecticut.

Like their gridiron cousins, the Fighting Irish icers have stumbled this season. They are 4-9-4 overall, 1-4-0 in their last five, and could be the perfect tonic for the Engineers (8-9-2) after what senior defenseman Matt McNeely termed a disappointing first half.

"Some periods, we looked like the best team in the league," McNeely said. "Other times, we couldn't hack it in Division III."

The Engineers are embarking on their busiest month this season (10 games), including four league weekends (Jan. 7-8 and 14-15 at home) that will be major determinants in their postseason seeding. They begin the second half in 10th place with a 2-5-1 league record, their worst in two decades after eight ECAC Hockey League games.

The Dutchmen's nine January games also represent their heaviest workload. Tied for second with a 6-2 league record, they have far exceeded their preseason billing, even with their current 1-4-1 stretch.

Once again, the masked men are providing the most intrigue. RPI coach Dan Fridgen characterized his team's goaltending to date as "sporadic." He would love, he said, for either Jordan Alford or Andrew Martin to become the clear No. 1 puckstopper. "It's in their hands," he said.

Meanwhile, Union coach Nate Leaman may continue to rotate goaltenders Kris Mayotte and Justin Mrazek in the short term, but could quickly gravitate toward naming a clear starter.