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Road Trip Will Show if Engineers Can Compete With League's Best Teams

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 17, 2005

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute simply couldn't handle the top teams in the ECAC Hockey League last season. This weekend, the Engineers can get a good early barometer for their improvement.

They'll travel to meet 17th-ranked Colgate tonight and No. 4 Cornell Saturday night, hoping to keep alive a hot streak that's seen them lose only two of their past nine games (6-2-1).

Both the 6-2-1 Red Raiders and the 4-2-0 Big Red share the ECACHL lead at 3-1-0.

Rensselaer has lost just one of its first four ECACHL games (2-1-1) thus far but the work will get much tougher tonight. Getting one point out of the weekend, the ECACHL's toughest weekend pair-up, will be difficult.

Last season, against the ECACHL's top five teams - Cornell, Colgate, Harvard, Vermont and Dartmouth - the Engineers went 0-10-0. They totaled only eight goals, never scored more than two in any of the 10 contests and were shut out five times.

The loss at Colgate's Starr Rink, though, was 1-0 and if someone could guarantee the Engineers they'd allow only one tonight ...

"We're playing very well right now," said junior center Oren Eizenman. "These will be tough games but we feel we can compete with anybody right now."

"Tough places to win," RPI's Kevin Croxton said, "but we're confident in ourselves and we're ready for the challenge."

One worrisome aspect about Colgate (3-1-0, 6-2-1) is that the talent-deep Red Raiders have three players among the ECACHL's top 10 scorers and none is named Jon Smyth or Tyler Burton.

Senior center Kyle Wilson, who's always been a solid player, has developed into an all-star with 10 goals and six assists thus far, good for third among ECACHL players.

Sophomore center Jesse Winchester (7-7-14) is seventh in the league, having taken some of Burton's thunder, and junior defenseman Mike Campaner (1-13-14), who's second in the league in assists, is tied for ninth in scoring.

Smyth, a former scoring champ, hasn't exactly dried up; he has 10 points (3-7-10) and Burton, one of the top freshmen a year ago, has 11 (7-4-11).

The scariest part of the Raiders, though is their power play.

Each of the above players has a spot on the first or second unit and both units have been outstanding. Combined, the Red Raiders have 17 power-play goals in 58 chances, a gaudy 29.3 percent efficiency rating. That's by far the nation's best.

The Red Raiders are coming off a 6-4 loss at Harvard and will likely be at the top of their game.

Cornell (3-1-0) is also coming off a loss - a 6-1 rout at Dartmouth. In that game, junior goalie David McKee, who had a 1.52 career goals against average, gave up five goals and was chased by the previously winless Big Green.