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RPI's Fate on the Line As League Play Heats Up

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 6, 2006

TROY - Okay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, it's back to ECAC Hockey League play.

Now is the time for the Engineers to prove they belong among the league contenders, or will be left fighting for sixth, seventh place six weeks from now.

Dartmouth, which has had RPI's number of the past five years, steams into Houston Field House tonight and perennial contender Harvard visits on Saturday night.

While Rensselaer has played its best hockey within the ECACHL with a 2-1-3 record, the Engineers were woefully inconsistent in their 13 nonleague contests, compiling a 6-7-0 record.

All that's behind them now.

"We're not thinking about that," said tri-captain and leading scorer Kevin Croxton. "It was kind of a learning experience. You use the non-conference games to get some guys some ice time, try new things, combinations."

"We're ready to go with the rest of the league schedule and to win some games," Croxton said.

"It's good, sort of, that our struggles have come in the nonleague games," said senior defenseman Scott Romfo, "because (such losses) aren't weighed as much."

Dartmouth is the only team among the Engineers' next four opponents that is not nationally-ranked. The Big Green, 6-8-0 overall, is 5-5-0 within the ECACHL, while 10-6-1 Harvard leads the league with 14 points at 7-5-0 and is ranked 13th nationally.

Dartmouth has an 8-1-1 regular-season record against RPI the past five years and put an embarrassing 9-1 pasting on the Engineers at Houston Field House last season.

Engineers co-captain Brad Farynuk admits he has a vivid memory of that game but, regarding the continued frustration against Dartmouth, he said, "I don't usually pay much attention to the stats."

"We just have to improve our special teams play and be more consistent," he said. "These next two weekends are crucial to our season."

Dartmouth, led by centers Eric Przepiorka (seven goals-10 assists-17 points) and Mike Ouellette (8-8-16), has been up and down this season, much like RPI.

They won four of five after an 0-4-0 start but were in a 1-3-0 stretch before the overtime victory over Bemidji.

Harvard, which had goaltending questions in preseason, has allowed 2.3 goals per game over its past 10 after permitting 3.3 over the first seven.