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Engineers in Need of a Pick-me-up

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 6, 2005

TROY - "We'll see what we're made of."

That was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's perennial leading scorer Kevin Croxton commenting on the Engineers' schedule over the next six weeks, and how it would be easier to enter the rugged 12-game stretch with the momentum of two victories last weekend at Notre Dame.

The Engineers got one win (3-1 on Saturday night), then allowed the weaker FIghting Irish to outplay them the following night.

Rensselaer co-captain Nick Economakos says that in recent seasons the Engineers have played "our best hockey against our best competition,"

That best competition, within the ECAC Hockey League at least, is facing the Engineers - 2-5-1 in ECACHL play - over the next two months.

First, this weekend, is Dartmouth and Vermont at home. Then Colgate and Cornell at home, followed by road trips to St. Lawrence and Clarkson (Jan. 21-22) and Vermont and Dartmouth (Jan. 28-29).

Then Harvard and Brown come to Houston Field House (Feb. 11-12), followed by a trip to Cornell and Colgate (Feb. 18-19).

Vermont - the surprise team in the ECACHL this season - Colgate and Cornell have a combined ECACHL record of 14-3-3. Harvard, after a slow start, is 6-3-1 and many league followers believe if the Crimson beat Cornell and Colgate this weekend, they'll win the ECACHL regular-season title.

Dartmouth (3-4-0), the preseason pick of the media, is still a strong team, even without injured Hugh Jessiman. The Engineers sure could use a 4-point sweep of the Big Green but that will be a tall order.

Assuming Rensselaer sweeps Princeton and Yale on the season's final weekend, to have any shot at finishing fourth and earning the final first-round bye in the playoffs, the Engineers will need a mark of, say, 10-2-2.

Such a streak is likely beyond their reach.

And don't forget this: While it may be quite difficult for Union to stay among the leaders, the Dutchmen enter their rough stretch with a 6-2-0 league record and certainly have the tie-breaker over RPI since they swept the Engineers.

The Engineers finished fifth last season with a 13-8-1 record, one point out of fourth. After eight league games last season, though, RPI had a 4-3-1 record - and won seven of the following 10.

Likely, sixth place is the best the Engineers can achieve - unless they do run off a 13-3-0, or 12-3-1 skein.

In any event, they are better than a 2-5-1 club, talent-wise, and we indeed will see what they're made of in the upcoming weeks. Only they can change their current 10-place standing in the 12-team ECACHL.

Weird, indeed: When it was pointed out that RPI and its ECACHL opponents have the same period-by-period scoring totals (8-8 in the first, 10-10 in the second, 6-6 in the third) but the Engineers have won just two of their eight games, head coach Dan Fridgen said "that's a weird stat."

And one can only imagine, unless he slips a hidden microphone in the RPI lockerroom, just how frustrating that stat is to the players.

Look at the ECACHL standings. Brown has also scored as many goals as it's allowed but the Bears have lost just three of their nine league games (4-3-2). Princeton has scored 33 and allowed 38 but the TIgers are 4-6-0 and that's better than 2-5-1.

Two other teams who've been outscored in league play are also ahead of the Engineers at 3-4-0 - St. Lawrence (outscored 23-20) and Dartmouth (18-14).

"That is frustrating," Economakos admitted.

Fellow co-captain Brad Farynuk just shook his head and muttered.

Junior center Oren Eizenman pointed out that the Engineers "have only ourselves to blame."

True. The reason for the "weird stat" is simple.

Each of RPI's five ECACHL losses was by one goal. The Engineers outscored Clarkson and Yale 10-4 in their two league wins.

The players to a man believe they have some fortuitous bounces and even lucky breaks coming their way and the law of averages would back them up, though Economakos points out that when "you start hoping for good bounces, that's when the one-goal losses turn into three- and four-goal losses."

Again - only the Engineers can change their lot with hard work.

Stunner: HOW??!! - was 1-11-0 Yale able to tie 12-5-0 WCHA power Wisconsin on its own ice. Not only is that as shocking as any score this season, but a feather in the ECACHL's cap, even though the Bulldogs didn't win the game.

They also lost the Shootout to the Badgers, had little left emotionally the next night and got blown out by Clarkson, 7-1, in the consolation game of the Badger Showdown.

Perhaps still in shock, Wisconsin lost the title game to Ferris State (7-10-2), 5-3.