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Princeton Loss May Be Cause for Worry

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 18, 2002

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has vastly improved its defense.

The Engineers continue to play well in third periods of games.

Freshman winger Kevin Croxton has put together a three-game streak in which he's scored four goals.

The RPI power play, while still inconsistent, showed some signs of life over the weekend.

An eternal optimist can take some positives from the Engineers' 0-2 weekend. A realist knows too well that RPI's 4-5 loss at Princeton on Saturday night was an awful defeat.

It was a waste of 40 minutes of outstanding effort - and the waste of a schedule date that had 'W' written all over it.

All the 'we don't take anyone lightly' and 'anybody can beat anybody in this league' clichés aside, RPI should not have lost Saturday night's game. Period.

You want an applicable cliché?

'Don't let an inferior team hang around or they'll beat you.'

The Engineers not only let the previously winless Tigers hang around, they allowed Princeton to get a 2-0 jump during a totally unspirited first period.

The Engineers took over the game after that - dominating the Tigers - but with all the offensive problems they've had lately, the 2-0 deficit was too much to overcome.

The 5-2 loss at Yale on Friday night was nothing to panic about.

It was expected that RPI would probably lose that game - most ECAC teams will lose there this season - but the Engineers outplayed the Bulldogs much of the way. Yale, though, got two big plays from a couple of star players and a couple lucky bounces to more than hold off the upset bid.

But the Engineers should have been in a positive frame of mind to head down I-95 to Princeton and hammer the ECAC's weakest team. They didn't.

And having that game in the 'L' column instead of the 'W' could hurt them months from now. Sure, it's early, but those two lost points could, possibly, mean the difference between eighth and ninth place in the ECAC - which would mean opening the playoffs on the road instead of at Houston Field House.

And with the schedule requiring the Engineers' next ECAC contests to be at Brown and Harvard, a 1-5-0 start appears quite possible.

Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen was perplexed as to why the Engineers were outskated, outhustled and outhit by the Tigers in the first period - not to mention outscored 2-0 by a team that previously had totaled six goals in five games.

"I wish I knew," Fridgen said, adding the players will have to provide the answers "themselves."

Well, let's get back to that optimist.

He would also point out that the Engineers could have easily won the game - and came close to tying it on so many occasions.

Croxton took a poor clearing pass from a Princeton defender, took his time, measured goalie Trevor Clay and wrested one past him. That made the score 3-2 with 4:59 remaining.

After an exchange of goals, the slender Calgary native had a chance for another goal. He took a cross-ice feed, shifted to his backhand and fired.

Clay got his blocker in the right spot, just in time.

Danny Eberly scored 20 seconds later for the final count.

"Yeah, that was very frustrating," said Croxton, who would have traded both his weekend goals for a victory.

"We had so many chances but didn't finish," he added.

Earlier, though, Clay was noticeably tardy from post-to-post but the Engineers couldn't hit the opening.

Eric Cavosie hit the post on a perfect feed from Chris Hussey, while Nolan Graham, Mark Yurkewecz, Carson Butterwick, Ben Barr and Mikael Hammarstrom all had good chances (some more than one) but merely hit Clay with their shots.

Defensemen Eberly and Brad Farynuk could have beaten Clay with blasts from the point had the shots not been wide.

Since blowing a game in the third period at UMass (a 4-3 setback), the Engineers have outscored the opposition 9-5 in the third period.

Fridgen hopes that Croxton's streak will get some of the other forwards going.

"He's very dangerous (anywhere) inside the blue line," Fridgen said. "He can score many ways. But we need (scoring) from more than just him. Right now we've got some other guys who need to step up and start contributing more."