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RPI Will Have to Keep Winning with 'D'

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 6, 2002

We knew it.

We knew Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute would score many fewer goals this season than the Engineers did over the past four seasons, at least early on.

The only two goals RPI netted last weekend came on an extended 5-on-3 power play at Harvard and when Brown's Yann Danis - arguably the ECAC's top goalie - was fooled by a nifty blind backhander by RPI's Ryan Shields.

Quite literally, the Engineers could have been blanked twice last week.

Will the scoring problems be alleviated?

Not totally. This is a good group of forwards, but not a highly skilled one. There is no Marc Cavosie, no Matt Murley. But again - we knew that beforehand.

Looking at lineup charts last Saturday night, the Engineers couldn't match up with Harvard's Tyler Kolarik (six goals), Tim Pettit (6), Brett Nowak (5) and Dominic Moore (5). Yale's Ethan Wax has eight, Ryan Steeves and Chris Higgins six each and both Harvard and Yale have played five fewer games than RPI.

With a similar schedule to Rensselaer's, Union's gotten eight goals from sophomore center Jordan Webb, eight from sophomore winger Marc Neron, seven from senior left winger Nathan Gillies and five (with 10 assists) from senior center Kris Goodjohn.

Sure, defense wins championships, and two years ago Cornell finished third in the ECAC with just 44 goals in 22 games. But the Red allowed only 44 and were 8-3 in ECAC games decided by one goal that season.

But to win with defense, a team must consistently win those tight games. Thus far this year, RPI is 1-3 in games decided by one goal.

And with veteran teams during the previous seasons, RPI went 5-8 (all games) in 2001 and 6-6 last year.

One of the Engineers' problems is the fact that Nolan Graham is the only true centerman among the four players currently playing center on a full-time basis.

Swede Mikael Hammarstrom has four goals and four assists and he's made some great passes, but most of his background is at right or left wing.

Junior Ben Barr had an immediate impact with a pair of goals in his first game at center (a 5-3 win over Mercyhurst), but he's a lifetime right winger.

Junior Conrad Barnes is solid on faceoffs - though he's struggled lately - but much of his background is at right wing, too.

That calls for some major adjustments for all the forwards.

The biggest factor, though, is veteran forwards Carson Butterwick, Barnes and Shields must pick up the productivity. And we'll discuss other problems in this space later.

All that said, this team doesn't have to hover around 10th place in the 12-team ECAC, where it now sits.

The Engineers have the talent to finish within or near the top six. Finishing eighth or better earns a first-round home-ice advantage this season.

That is certainly within their reach.

Love those speed-up rules: College and pro, hockey games are faster this season. The speed-up rules have had their effect. A couple of RPI games have been played in 2:07.

Guys like me are often still writing or typing something when the puck is dropped following icing or a frozen puck but that's all right. I'm not complaining.

The games are faster and that's fine.

Cavosie, Murley to meet: Former Rensselaer All-Americans Cavosie and Murley - the ECAC's top two scorers last season - will meet again tonight in Houston.

Cavosie's Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League host Murley's Wilkes-Barre Penguins. Among those in the crowd will be RPI equipment manager and Cavosie's dad, Tom Cavosie.

"Marc and Matt will meet again (Friday) night," Tom Cavosie said on Thursday before heading for the airport.

"Maybe (they'll meet) down in the corner," he added with a laugh. "I'm looking forward to it."