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Brown-bound Engineers Brimming with Confidence

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 3, 2005

TROY - The Brown University Bears did not beat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this past hockey season. And RPI is unbeaten (1-0-2) in its past three trips to Brown's Meehan Auditorium.

Those facts enable the 11th-seeded Engineers to take a busload of confidence with them when they leave for Providence tonight, where they'll battle the sixth-seeded Bears in the first round of the ECAC Hockey League playoffs.

"Yeah, they haven't beaten us," said RPI junior right winger Kevin Croxton. "We take a lot of confidence from that."

Freshman winger Jonathan Ornelas, "we know we can beat them and that gives us an edge."

The best-of-three series will be played Friday and Saturday nights (7 p.m.) and if those games are split, on Sunday night (7 p.m.).

Brown has won just three of the past 17 meetings (3-11-3) with the Engineers but most of those Bears teams were weaker than RPI - and weaker than most of the rest of the ECAC.

The Bears, though, were considered a better club over the past two seasons, but their only victory among the past four meetings was a masterful 1-0 shutout by All-American goalie Yann Danis last season at Houston Field House. The Engineers outshot the Bears, 30-17, without success.

Rensselaer then whipped Danis and the Bears, 4-0, at Meehan later in the season.

"That was one of the best games we played last year," said sophomore center Oren Eizenman.

This year, the Engineers (14-20-2 overall) blew a 3-0 lead at Brown but had to hang on for a 3-3 tie. They then rallied for a 3-2 victory on a Kirk MacDonald goal with 8.3 seconds remaining in the game on Big Red Freakout Night (Feb. 12).

Further, the Bears (9-9-2 in the ECACHL's regular season, 14-12-3 overall) have slumped of late, losing their final three games of the season and five of the past six.

"We have had sucess at Brown of late," Eizenman said. "Definitely that factors in. You think about (such a factor) when you go there, 'we know we can win at this rink. It's always good to know you can win at a certain rink. It gives you a little more confidence and sometimes it carries over."

"It definitely gives us an edge going in," echoed Troy native and junior left winger Mark Yurkewecz. "We know we can beat them. I think that works to our advantage a little bit."

Co-captain Nick Economakos said, "yeah, we're still confident. We beat them when we didn't have our best game, we've won some games on the road and they've been slumping."

"We know we can beat them; they don't know that," Ornelas said. "That gives us an edge on them mentally. Definitely."

Croxton pointed out that Brown, "couldn't beat us when we outplayed them (the Engineers were dominant at times during the 3-3 deadlock) or when they outplayed us (on Freakout Night). That gives us a lot of confidence."

The Bears had chances to put that game away - just as RPI did at Brown - but couldn't.

"It gives us some confidence going in," said Rensselaer head coach Dan Fridgen.

He added that however much of an edge that gives the Engineers depends upon how much the Bears allow their winless efforts against RPI - and their current slump - mess with their heads.

After all, RPI lost 15 league games (6-15-1) and against the five teams ahead of the Bears in the ECACHL standings, the Engineers went 0-10-0 and were outscored 37-8.

"I'm sure they are (thinking about it)," Fridgen said, "but we have some things to take care of and unless we take care of that, it doesn't matter what the past record has been."