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Engineers Jump Right into Fire Tonight

North Country Foe Clarkson Skates into Houston Field House with Revenge in Mind

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 8, 2002

TROY - Nothing like opening your conference schedule against a chief rival while coming off a big road victory.

That's the case for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as the Engineers take on archrival Clarkson tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.

It's the Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference opener for the 4-4-0 Engineers, while the winless - that's right, winless - Knights come in 0-1-0 in the conference and 0-3-0 overall. They dropped a 2-1 decision in their ECAC opener at St. Lawrence last week.

St. Lawrence plays at Union tonight and skates into Houston Field House on Saturday night.

Clarkson, which blew a three-goal lead in an overtime loss at RPI last season, has struggled to score goals in its first three games, but the Knights have even more trouble this week.

Head coach Mark Morris was involved in an altercation with a player prior to the Knights' 2-1 loss at St. Lawrence. He's said to be facing a possible suspension. He was given a leave earlier in the week by the Clarkson administration and did not make the trip to the Capital District.

Assistant coaches Fred Parker and Jason Lammers will run the team tonight and Saturday night at Union.

Clarkson sports information director Gary Mikel was unavailable Thursday night.

Anyway, the Engineers have their own business to concern themselves, and coach Dan Fridgen confirmed that in so many words when asked if the Morris situation might be a distraction to RPI players.

"It better not be," he said. "We've got our own business to take care of. Regardless (of the Morris situation), they'll rally around and come in here knowing that we beat them two of three games last year - and they led one of them by three goals and one of them by two entering the final period."

The Engineers will be without junior defenseman Scott Basiuk for the fifth straight game, but captain and senior defenseman Danny Eberly will play.

He sat out practice a couple days earlier in the week after taking a hard elbow to the head from St. Cloud State's Jeff Finger Saturday night and sitting on the bench for the final 30 minutes.

"I'm fine," Eberly said. "They just gave me a couple days off as a precaution. I wouldn't miss this game. I'll be out there."

The Engineers' 3-1 victory in that game - after having lost 3-0 to St. Cloud the previous night - gives them a mighty boost heading into the ECAC season.

"The guys are very anxious," Eberly said. "Guys are really anxious to get out there and face these two North Country teams. We saw a very good (St. Cloud) team, ranked nationally. They were very strong and we're not going to see anything different from Clarkson and St. Lawrence. But the fact that we know we can win against a team like St. Cloud gives us confidence this weekend."

The Knights, picked by coaches and media to finish third in the ECAC this season, could have won the St. Lawrence game.

Center and co-captain Kevin O'Flaherty is among several Knights who started a bit slowly, but as soon as the senior star gets going, the Knights should be their usual selves.

Eberly doesn't think anything will affect the Knights' focus to avenge their 4-3 overtime loss here on Feb. 9, when RPI scored three goals in the last 12:43 to forge a 3-3 tie, then won the game on Carson Butterwick's goal at 1:28 of overtime.

"I don't think so," Eberly said. "I think they'll come out that much harder. Thinking back to that game here last year, if I were Clarkson, I think Rensselaer would be the first team I'd want to play this year. They're going to come out gunning for us."

Right winger Butterwick agreed.

"That win was huge for us, tough for them," Butterwick said. "Those Clarkson returning guys are going to be gunning for a win in our rink and they've probably been thinking about it ever since."