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RPI Missing the Point

Lack of Offense Leaves Engineers Staggering in ECAC

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 2, 2002

TROY - Fine goaltending - and not enough goals.

Such was the case again this past weekend for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Their 1-1 tie at Brown and 3-1 loss at Harvard were a microcosm of the Engineers' Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference season thus far. They've done a fine job of keeping the puck out of their own net, but just haven't put enough into opposing nets to do any better than 10th place in the 12-team ECAC.

The one-point weekend - it's the only point RPI has earned in four conference road games - left the Engineers (6-8-1 overall) with a 1-4-1 ECAC record. And it left them scratching their heads in wonder as to when their offensive production will improve with any consistency.

The Engineers had scored a 5-3 victory over Mercyhurst in their previous outing, but the Lakers are a member of the lower-level Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The Engineers are 3-0-0 against MAAC teams, whom they've outscored 10-3.

Against established conferences, though, they are 3-8-1 and have been outscored 37-26.

It's even worse within the ECAC, where the Engineers have scored just 10 times in their six games. And one of those - Danny Eberly's goal Saturday night at Harvard - came on an extended 5-on-3 power play.

Contrast the above numbers with Union's. The Dutchmen, 3-2-1 in conference play for sixth place, have scored twice as many goals as RPI - 20 - in their six ECAC games.

The 6-5-3 Dutchmen will loom as the favorite on Saturday night when they invade Houston Field House.

"We weren't shooting the puck enough a few weeks back," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "Then we shot it more but weren't getting it on net. Lately, we've been getting good chances, but the puck's not going in the net for us."

Fridgen praised the Engineers for their continued improved defense and hard play. And both goaltenders, Kevin Kurk and Nathan Marsters, "did a solid job helping us stay in the game" - Kurk at Brown, Marsters at Harvard.

Fridgen hopes the frustration level some of the players are feeling doesn't begin to affect their play, especially with rival Union next on the schedule.

"It's frustrating," said RPI left winger Ryan Shields, who scored the game-tying goal at Brown Friday night. "We're playing hard but we're just not finishing (scoring) chances."

Carson Butterwick, who missed tying Saturday night's game by just a couple inches of the glove of Harvard goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, is as frustrated as any Engineer.

He's scored just one goal after notching 13 last season.

"We're all frustrated," he said. "We get good chances that we should bury and we don't. And we're taking some pretty bad penalties lately."

The Engineers had several solid chances other than Butterwick's blast off Grumet-Morris' glove, but "we just came up a little short on all of them," Fridgen said.

"Shieldsy took a shot but he had (Mikael) Hammarstrom on the flank wide open."

Grumet-Morris also made a sliding save on Nick Economakos with about six minutes remaining in the game and defenseman Blake Pickett had a semi-breakaway, but a Crimson defenseman dove and made a nice poke check.

On a second-period power play, Engineers center Ben Barr backhanded one through the crease that just missed the goalpost and Shields shot high with a one-timer on a pass from Kevin Croxton.

"Things just aren't going our way right now," Butterwick said.

NOTES: Veteran defenseman Scott Basiuk returned Friday night after having missed 11 games with a hand injury. "I had some limited playing time but it felt good," he said. "I got into the flow of the game a little bit and it's great to be back." ... The Engineers surrendered the first goal in both games. Discounting MAAC foes, they've done so in 10 of 12 games. ... Kurk (3-5-1) is winless in five games after a 3-1-0 start. Rensselaer has scored just seven goals in those five games.