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Eric and Marc Cavosie

By Stephen Leon

Metroland, March 7, 2002

For brothers Eric and Marc Cavosie, playing hockey once was little more than a good way to wear themselves out so they wouldn't bounce off the walls of their family's home in Cohoes. "It was just kind of an activity we picked up in elementary school during gym class," recalls Eric, now 21 and, like his 20-year-old brother Marc, a junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "We were kind of rambunctious, so it worked out well-it got some of the rowdiness out of us."

Watching the Cavosie brothers play the fast, physical game that is required of Division I college hockey players, it's almost hard to imagine them at 5 or 6 years old, scooting around the rink at Albany Academy or at the hockey-skills school run by Troy's Dave Randall, who taught both brothers the finer points of power skating. Visibly proud of two of his most successful students, Randall often invokes their names in rinkside chats with his students and/or their parents. Responding to one parent who is concerned because his two young sons have been deliberately plowing into each other during class, Randall says, "That's what brothers do. The Cavosie brothers used to do that." Pausing, and smiling, he adds, "They probably still do that."

Indeed, flashes of that fraternal/schoolboy competitiveness are evident during a recent interview with Eric and Marc Cavosie in the home locker room at RPI's Houston Field House. When I relate how my 4-year-old son likes to knock over my 6-year-old on the ice, Marc Cavosie says, chuckling, "I didn't have to knock him [Eric] over. He fell on his own."

Having skated and played hockey together pretty much continuously for 15 years, the brothers agree that they have always been competitive with each other. "We were always on the same team," notes Marc, "always competitive for ice time, who got more points. . . . But really, it was just fun." Then he adds, with a sidelong glance at Eric, "For me it was, anyway."

"It was fun for me too," affirms Eric quickly. "The added advantage of one-upping my brother kinda helped out, made it a little bit nicer, always trying to be a little bit better than he was."

In their years playing hockey for Albany Academy, both Eric and Marc excelled in obvious ways: Both were high scorers, and both served as captains, Eric for two years, Marc for one. At RPI, however, the brothers have had to adjust to their diverging roles-especially Eric, who now skates in Marc's shadow as a defensive-minded forward. While Marc leads the team in scoring with 21 goals and 25 assists-he is fifth in the nation in points per game-Eric's primary role is to keep opponents' best forwards away from the RPI net, kill penalties, and grind it out in the corners. It is a role that easily could go unnoticed, though the well-versed hockey fans at the Field House have been known to voice their appreciation for Eric's hard work-as has his coach, Dan Fridgen.

"He's very consistent," says Fridgen, who frequently sends out the line of Cavosie, Jim Henkel and Chris Migliore against opponents' top lines. "You know what you're going to get. And his off-ice work habits are second to none."

Marc Cavosie concurs. "He doesn't necessarily get a lot of attention," Marc says, "but if you watch a typical shift of Eric's, he works his ass off every second he's out there. Every shift. . . . He [also] has a real hard shot, probably one of the hardest shots on the team. I don't think he gets it off enough."

Marc, on the other hand, has plenty of chances to score and to set up his teammates: As one of the most effective puckhandlers in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, he is expected to carry a considerable portion of RPI's offensive workload. He's a cornerstone on the power play, he often skates on an extra shift in addition to his shift with his own line, and now and then Fridgen teams him up with RPI's other puckhandling wizard, senior forward Matt Murley. Like Murley, Cavosie has an uncanny knack for controlling the puck in the offensive zone while defensemen either flail helplessly at him or hang back nervously to avoid being beaten, giving him time to wait for cracks to develop in the defense, which he exploits with deft passes or sudden dashes toward the net.

"Marc is really skilled, he skates real well, he's got excellent balance, his puckhandling is amazing, his vision of the ice is the best I've seen," says his brother. "He does a real good job of eluding players-you watch a game, it's not going to be one guy that's going to take him out, it's going to be the second or third guy-and I bet you half the time, he gets away from that second or third guy."

But being that good comes at a price: Opponents routinely rough him up, hoping to throw him off of his game or, better yet, get him to take unnecessary retaliatory penalties. And the fact that Marc leads the team in penalty minutes underscores that he sometimes takes the bait. "A lot of my penalties are out of frustration," Marc admits. "Every shift you come off with a new scrape or a new bruise, and it takes its toll on you."

And while being a good older brother might mean sharing a few words of wisdom in such situations, it can also mean knowing when to keep quiet. Marc recalls a game in which he had taken a couple of penalties, and several teammates let him know about it-but not Eric. "I realized I was frustrated," Marc recalls, "and I didn't necessarily want to hear it from everybody on the team. But Eric knew not to say anything."

"I just knew that getting into that subject with Marc would just make him that much more angry or agitated," Eric adds.

It's been an up-and-down season for the Engineers, and at their lowest, they found themselves in last place in the 12-team ECAC. But their fortunes began to turn around over two key midseason weekends in which both Cavosie brothers played crucial roles. RPI had just lost to Dartmouth at home, blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, and had to play the rematch in Hanover, N.H., six nights later. Again, the Engineers blew a two-goal lead, but this time, they held on to the tie-and staved off a four-on-three Dartmouth power play in overtime. Fridgen credits the entire penalty-killing unit, of which Eric Cavosie is a key member, with getting RPI over that hump.

RPI returned home the next weekend and turned back St. Lawrence 3-2-this time bending, but not breaking, as the Saints rallied in the third period. The next night, RPI finally did to Clarkson what teams had been doing to RPI all season long, coming back from a three-goal deficit to win 4-3 in overtime. The tying goal, with less than a minute to play, came on a blistering shot from Marc Cavosie.

"With his offensive ability," says Fridgen, "in situations where you need a goal, he certainly can be relied on."

The Engineers' late-season surge culminated in a victory over Colgate last Saturday that vaulted them into the ECAC's final home-ice slot for the playoffs. They will play a first-round two-out-of-three series against Princeton at the Houston Field House Friday and Saturday, and Sunday if necessary, at 7 PM. The winner of this series will go to Lake Placid the following weekend for the ECAC Final Five championship playoff.

However RPI fares in the playoffs, two of the key players will be two brothers who have played together nearly nonstop since they were barely tall enough to see over the boards. Though their roles on the ice have diverged, the competitive approach they share remains the same.

"I'd say the only difference coming here was that we adopted different roles," concludes Marc. "At this level, you have to accept your role on the team for the team to do well. You can't try to do your own thing."