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RPI, Union Enter Rinks of Fire

Face Colgate, Quinnipiac on Road in ECACHL's First Round

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 2, 2007

The prospect of their competitive hockey careers ending this weekend should be enough incentive for the eight seniors playing for Union and RPI as underdogs in the first round of the ECAC Hockey League playoffs.

"You don't want to think about that," said Union captain Sean Streich, one of two seniors for the 12th-seeded Dutchmen, who play at fifth-seed Quinnipiac. "You just want to take it a shift at a time, a period at a time. We want to go as far as we possibly can. You can't let that kind of stuff get in your head."

Streich and forward Olivier Bouchard will be the lone graduates for the Dutchmen, who must find a way to beat a team that handed them three of their 17 losses this season.

"The last game was a 3-2 game with an empty-netter," Streich said. "So we thought we played a lot better in that game (after losing 8-5 and 8-2). Basically our transition and defense have to be great."

Quinnipiac (16-13-5, 10-8-4) led the league for a period of time and appeared headed for a first-round bye before being swept on the regular season's final weekend. Still, the Bobcats were tied with Clarkson as the league's highest-scoring team (3.59 per game).

"We've just got to shore up a few things and stay out of the penalty box," said Streich, whose club could have avoided last place with a victory in its final game (3-1 loss to Brown). "We really wanted to win that game. Obviously, penalties got us into a lot of trouble."

One of those penalties, a kicking call against Jason Walters, will keep the freshman out of tonight's first game after he was given a disqualification. Walters has 26 points for Union.

Streich, a defenseman, has played in 143 games for coach Nate Leaman. Bouchard has appeared in 144, with 53 goals.

Based on the season series, RPI's six seniors might have a better chance of prolonging their final year. The Engineers won two of the three meetings with Colgate and had the Raiders down 2-0 on the road in the loss.

The Engineers, however, will be missing freshman defenseman Eric Burgdoerfer, out for the playoffs with a broken foot.

"He had that injury in the first period Friday night," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "He played with it, through it, knowing that we were thin on defense. We only dressed five (defensemen) that night. I think that shows a lot about his character and what he's willing to give to his teammates with how much pain he must have had to play through in the second and third periods. He still ended up scoring a goal as well."

RPI has only two senior defensemen - co-leading scorer Jake Luthi and Ryan Swanson - which makes the Colgate challenge more difficult. The other seniors are all forwards - captain Kirk MacDonald, Oren Eizenman, Kevin Broad and Tommy Green.

RPI and Colgate finished in a tie for eighth place with Yale - all with 17 points. But the Raiders were awarded the eighth seed and final home playoff berth based upon records against the league's top four clubs.

"We've played well on the road pretty much all year," Appert said. "Even the games we've lost, we've played well on the road. We have not always been able to come out with the victory in those games, but we've been a good road team."

Despite having three players with 30 points or more, Colgate has had some difficulty scoring lately. And against RPI the Raiders managed only six goals in three meetings.

"Their top line is probably the best top line in our league," Appert said. "In the three games we've played against them, we've been, for the most part, intelligent with the puck."

"The way to defend that line is to make them come 200 feet against you to try to score. You start giving turnovers to (Tyler) Burton's line in the neutral zone or the defensive zone, you're going to be in a world of hurt."

The NCAA has announced the participants for the second annual Frozen Four Skills Challenge, and RPI forward Kirk MacDonald has been selected to compete in the event, which will be held April 6 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and televised live on ESPNU.

MacDonald will compete for the East team against the West.

Each team will have six male position players, six female position players, two male goaltenders and two female goaltenders.