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Engineers Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, March 3, 2006

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Dan Fridgen didn't waste any time when asked what would be the key to beating Quinnipiac in this weekend's ECACHL tournament first-round series.

"Any time they've had offense against us, it's been on the power play," Fridgen said. "The simple solution to that is to stay out of the [penalty] box and play a disciplined hockey game."

The seventh-seeded Engineers (14-15-6) host the 10th-seeded Bobcats (17-16-1) in the best-of three series starting tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.

Of the six goals Quinnipiac scored against RPI, five came on the power play. The Bobcats scored three third-period powerplay goals to rally for a 4-4 tie against RPI on Feb. 18 in New Haven, Conn. The other two came in RPI's 4-2 home-ice win Nov. 11.

Quinnipiac had 18 power-play opportunities in two games.

"The key to our success this weekend is being disciplined," said RPI defenseman Keith MCWilliams. "We have to make sure we win a lot of the one-on-one battles, and make sure guys are getting back on defense."

In their first year in the ECACHL, the Bobcats lead the league in goals with 118. They are paced by freshman forward Brian Leitch (13-27-40), who is a top candidate to win the ECACHL Rookie of the Year. Another freshman forward, David Marshall, has a team-best 21 goals to go along with 11 assists.

The Bobcats had three other players get over 30 points - sophomore forwards Jamie Bates (18-19-37) and Ben Nelson (15-19-34), and junior defenseman Reid Cashman (3-33-36).

Even though injuries reduced its depth to just 17 skaters at one point, RPI closed the season with a flourish. The Engineers had a six-game unbeaten streak, and it could have been seven if not for a disputed goal in their 2-1 loss to Colgate last Saturday.

"We've been through adversity," Fridgen said. "Having experienced that adversity allowed some of the players, like [Matt Angers-] Goulet and [Kurt] Colling, that normally wouldn't get opportunities in situations on special teams, to get a lot of opportunities, and they've made the best of that opportunity."

"Now that we've gotten healthy, I think we have more guys going, especially back on 'D' [defense], where it was tough sledding with just five guys playing."

Getting a split last weekend against two of the league's top teams - RPI beat Cornell, 2-0, last Friday - gives the players confidence heading into their showdown with Quinnipiac.

"If you can take anything away from [last] weekend, it's that we played two first-place teams in the league, and we played them real strong," said senior forward Kevin Croxton, who leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 23 assists. "The guys know that and, hopefully, we can keep that rolling in the playoffs.

NOTEBOOK

RPI is 4-0-1 all-time against Quinnipiac. One of those wins came in the 2001 Rensselaer Holiday Tournament.