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RPI Leaves Ice in Tailspin

Engineers Are Outscored 12-1 Over the Weekend

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, January 9, 2005

TROY - After Saturday's 3-0 loss to Vermont concluded the RPI Engineers' worst ECAC Hockey League weekend, by goal differential, since 1997, co-captain Nick Economakos said he believed "the effort's been there."

There are two ways to spin that.

There's the positive: Despite being outscored 12-1, "the effort's been there."

There's the negative: Despite the fact that "the effort's been there," the Engineers were outscored 12-1.

One night after their worst home loss (9-1 to Dartmouth) in three decades, the Engineers mustered 16 shots on goal before an announced crowd of 2,812 at Houston Field House, shoveling very little of the accumulating angst off the team's offense, defense and goaltending.

The minus-11 goal differential was the team's worst league weekend since a combined 12-0 pasting at St. Lawrence and Clarkson in November 1997.

The Engineers (9-12-2, 2-7-1 ECACHL) have lost three straight and are 0-7-1 against major-conference teams with winning records.

"Very, very frustrating," Fridgen said.

Meanwhile, the 12th-ranked Catamounts departed the Capital Region after their first consecutive shutouts since January 1973. They blanked Union, 4-0, on Friday. "Thirty-one shots on the weekend," said satisfied head coach Kevin Sneddon. "Not bad."

Fridgen tried, before and during the game, to smack some life into his stagnant offense. All five of Friday's healthy scratches were in the lineup Saturday. Every line changed from Friday to Saturday. Every line changed from the second period to the third period. Some lines changed from the beginning of the third to the end.

Freshman Dan Peace, one addition to the lineup, centered three pairs of wings.

"That's as much as you can do," Fridgen said.

On the faint-praise news wire, RPI's goaltending was three times better Saturday than Friday. Against Dartmouth, Andrew Martin and Jordan Alford combined for a .680 save percentage. Martin played all 60 minutes Saturday. He stopped 25 of 28 shots, or .890.

Fridgen said he was "a lot sharper." Martin felt he played "all right."

But there was only so much he could do on a night his teammates attempted exactly one shot from between the circles, by Kirk MacDonald in the second.

Economakos, MacDonald, and Kevin Croxton once formed one of the nation's top-scoring lines. Economakos has one goal in his past 13 games. MacDonald has one, an empty-netter, in 14. Croxton has zero in 11.

"It starts getting in your head," Economakos said. "It's more of a mental thing now."

Meanwhile, Vermont winger Matt Syroczynski, a healthy scratch Friday, entered the lineup and scored twice, his second and third goals this season.

Given the magnitude of Friday's defeat, and the Engineers' 2-11-1 record when the opponent scores first, grabbing an early lead was critical. They didn't. Worse, Vermont's 1-0 edge came courtesy of a soft goal, when Chris Smart beat Martin with a non-threatening shot at 4:20.

Martin, who was not screened, believed the shot would go wide. Instead, it sailed over his blocker and into the net. "A goal that early," he lamented, "took the momentum away."

Vermont had almost as many goals (two) as RPI had shots on goal (three) in the second. Syroczynski scored from the high slot - again, high-blocker - and later on a third effort, after two sensational pad saves on the doorstep.

RPI's second semester does not begin until after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Fridgen said he doesn't believe his players are "living right."

"Video games, late-night pizza," he said.

One wonders what will happen if the calls to Hoosick Pizza continue. Both of next week's opponents, Cornell and Colgate, are nationally ranked.