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Dutchmen, Engineers Upbeat Going into Home Openers

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 18, 2002

After playing to decent reviews on the road last weekend, the Rensselaer and Union hockey teams are ready to bring their games home to their fans.

The Engineers and Dutchmen play their home openers tonight at 7. RPI takes on UMass-Lowell at Houston Field House, while Union plays Niagara at Achilles Rink.

Under coach Dan Fridgen, RPI is 6-2 in eight home openers. The Engineers have won five straight openers at the field house.

"Any time you get a chance to play in your home rink, especially the home opener, it's always exciting," RPI goalie Kevin Kurk said. "You want to start the season right at home."

Union is 8-3 in home openers, including 3-1 under coach Kevin Sneddon. The Dutchmen have won their last three Achilles openers.

Sneddon knows the adrenaline will be flowing.

"We love the confines of Achilles Rink," Sneddon said. "We have great fans. My big thing right now is making sure that we don't get overemotional about the fact that we're at home. We want to play the same way here that we do on the road, and that's consistent. We want to play with a lot of relentless energy, attack teams, use our speed and use our assets."

"But we don't want to play with so much emotion that we're out of control just because we're in our own barn for the first time."

Both teams opened on the road last weekend with two games and combined to go 1-2-1.

Union started its season last Friday with a 5-2 loss at Providence. In that game, the Dutchmen blew leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and they couldn't stop Peter Fregoe, who had a hat trick.

The next night at Merrimack, the Dutchmen fell behind 3-0 midway through the first period. But instead of giving up, they slowly crawled back into the game and earned a 4-4 tie on Randy Dagenais' goal with 50.7 seconds left in regulation and goalie Marc Wise pulled for an extra attacker.

Dagenais hopes the momentum from that game carries over against the Purple Eagles.

"The Merrimack tie was a big tie for us," Dagenais said. "It was like a win. It gave us a lot of momentum coming back from a 3-0 deficit. Obviously, anytime you open at home, there's a lot of adrenaline going."

The Engineers earned a split in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Madison, Wis. They shocked host Wisconsin, 5-1, in the first round, then fell to Boston University, 5-1, in the championship game.

RPI has a lot to be pleased about from its second-place finish. Kurk made 30 saves against Wisconsin and earned ECAC goalie of the week. Defenseman Scott Basiuk had a goal and two assists in the game to garner ECAC player of the week. Another defenseman, freshman Brad Farynuk, was named to the all-tournament team.

Engineers forward Nolan Graham believes getting the split is a boost to the team's confidence,

"It definitely was important, especially that first game," Graham said. "A lot of guys hadn't played a [college] game before. A lot of guys were questioning where we stood. We all played well and contributed. Everyone got that much more confident."

Notebook

RPI's last home-opening loss was a 4-3 decision to BU on Oct. 19, 1996. Union last lost a home opener to Merrimack, 5-1, on Oct. 31, 1999....

Freshman Kris Mayotte will make his Union debut tonight. He will get the start in goal....

Niagara (2-2) will be without leading scorer Joe Tallari. He is sitting out a one-game suspension after receiving a game disqualification penalty for spearing in last Saturday's game against Canisius....

UMass-Lowell (1-1) split its opening games last weekend at Colorado College.