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RPI Has Ignition Problem

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, November 23, 2002

TROY - Getting off to a good start has been a problem so far for the Rensselaer hockey team.

The Engineers' first-period numbers tell the story of why they have a 5-7 record. They have been outscored, 17-9, and outshot, 140-96, in the opening 20 minutes. Their goal differential in the last two periods is a plus-4, and they are a minus-1 in shots on goal in the final 40 minutes. They have given up the first goal of the game eight times, and are 3-5 in those contests.

In light of those numbers, one would think RPI coach Dan Fridgen would be concerned about his team's ability to get out of the starting gate.

But as the Engineers prepare to host Mercyhurst in a non-league game tonight at 7 at Houston Field House, Fridgen isn't too worried about it just yet.

"There's times we struggle to score goals in all periods, so I don't think the first one is something I feel is a trend," Fridgen said. "I think we've had some real good opportunities. Hopefully, that's a trend we're looking to change as the season progresses and we gain more experience."

However, playing catch-up hockey can take the energy out of a team.

RPI has had to do that in its last six games. It only won two of them - at St. Cloud State on Nov. 2, and against St. Lawrence seven days later.

Last weekend, the Engineers fell behind Yale, 3-0, and Princeton, 2-0. RPI lost to Yale, 5-2, and Princeton, 4-3.

The Engineers fired a season-high 48 shots on goal against Princeton goalie Trevor Clay, 42 of which came in the final two periods when they outscored the Tigers, 3-2.

But trailing, 2-0, after the first period came back to haunt the Engineers.

"[Catch-up] is the worst kind of hockey," Fridgen said. "You open yourself up defensively because you're pressing offensively. That was a similar situation we had down at Princeton. We're behind by two, we have to open things up, we get it to within one and we're still opened up."

"One breakdown will lead to a capitalization by the opposition, because you're still in the offensive mode."

Fridgen is happy that his players have worked hard and made the effort to come back. Three of their last four games have been decided by a goal, but RPI has lost two of them.

"Whenever a team does jump out on us, in no way do we lose our focus or throw the towel in," Fridgen said. "This team has a lot of character. We've fought the battle right to the final buzzer."

This is the third straight year that Mercyhurst (4-5-1) has played at RPI. The Engineers have won both meetings against the Lakers, who play in the MAAC. They earned a 5-0 victory Nov. 25, 2000, and a 4-3 triumph Nov. 17, 2001.

Mercyhurst lost last Saturday to Iona, a team RPI beat last month.

"They're one of the better teams in the MAAC," Fridgen said of Mercyhurst. "It doesn't help that they're coming off a loss to a team we played. They're going to be wanting to get on track."

Notebook

Freshman forward Kirk MacDonald could make his RPI debut tonight. MacDonald, who came to the Engineers from the Victoria Salsa of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, has been out with a virus....

RPI goalie Nathan Marsters is questionable for the game. He is recovering from the flu and strep throat....

Fridgen said defenseman Scott Basiuk could be a week away from returning to the lineup. Basiuk has been out of action since Oct. 18 when he cut his right hand with his skate against UMass-Lowell.