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Engineers Are Recharging

Having Lost Top Scorers, RPI Still Plans to Contend

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, October 11, 2002

TROY - The coaches in the ECAC, who in their preseason poll picked RPI to tumble from third place to eighth, evidently believe the Engineers are facing a rebuilding year in 2002-03. RPI's Dan Fridgen respectfully disagrees.

"I don't use that word (rebuilding)," said Fridgen, the affable veteran of eight seasons behind the RPI bench. "I'm stepping on the ice with a new team. It's a new season. I'm really looking forward to working with the team that's here."

What's not here are two All-America forwards and more than half the goal production from a team that finished last season 20-13-4 overall and tied for third in the ECAC before winning the consolation game in the final ECAC Tournament at Lake Placid. Matt Murley and Marc Cavosie, the stars of the team, are in the AHL this season.

"Honestly, I crossed that bridge last year when we had our last game of the year," Fridgen said. "You have to do that. We go through this every four years anyway. We have different players that come in and important players that leave. From a coaching perspective, you're looking for those players returning to step forward and fill the voids of those that have left. Each year, things tend to work themselves out."

The Engineers still have a solid core of returnees both at forward and on the blue line, but their most important experience this season may come in goal, where Nathan Marsters (15-9-3, 2.58 goals-against average) and Kevin Kurk (5-4-1, 2.91) return for their junior seasons. Fourteen other players are back, 10 forwards and four defensemen. Nine lettermen have departed, and nine freshmen are coming in.

"I think they're pretty solid," Fridgen said of the Class of 2006. "They're going to provide the program with a lot of depth because I feel each one is capable of stepping in and contributing in their way. What is their way? Ask me that around Christmastime."

In the meantime, Fridgen is looking for leadership from senior defenseman Danny Eberly, who was voted team captain for the 2002-03 season.

"I think he's the type of player and person that is vocal in the room, that leads by example," Fridgen said. "I think the players feel very comfortable with him. He's easy to talk to. Regardless of whether they have an academic problem or an athletic problem, they can go talk to him. He's one of the guys back on the blue line that's capable of settling guys down, and he can give some experience to the incoming freshmen since there are four defensemen."

Junior defenseman Scott Basiuk and leading returning scorer Carson Butterwick (13 goals, 26 points) are the assistant captains.

"I think Scott's a very level-headed guy," Fridgen said. "He's very intelligent and keeps the game real simple. You also have Carson to provide the leadership for the forwards."

The Engineers haven't missed the ECAC playoffs in the Fridgen era, and this year they're guaranteed to be participating in the postseason, as all 12 teams will qualify. There are plenty of incentives to do better than just qualify, however.

"Home advantage is the thing to get," Basiuk said. "Just look at our first year when we went up to Dartmouth, a team we definitely could have beaten. We went up there and got knocked off. Last year Princeton was a good team, and they came in here and we knocked them off. Home advantage is big, and that's what you've got to aim for."

That will be no easy task for the Engineers, who will need improved performances from veteran forwards like Nolan Graham, Conrad Barnes, Ryan Shields and Ben Barr.

"I would say that we're a team now that has to not rely on others," Fridgen said. "We have to each of us take charge and provide the type of play they're capable of providing. There's gotta be 26 guys that take responsibility and not rely on somebody else to get the job done."