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RPI's Physical Play Flattened Union

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, December 10, 2002

TROY - If the RPI hockey team should go onto a successful ECAC season, the Engineers and coach Dan Fridgen can probably look back to Saturday night's inspired victory over Union as the turning point.

Clearly this was the best effort at home by the Engineers this season as they gave Union a dose of their own typically physical medicine in the 4-1 victory. This was probably the first time Union was a paper favorite in the series in coach Kevin Sneddon's five seasons in Schenectady, but as he and Fridgen predicted, none of that makes any difference in this game.

There was plenty of the same kind of hitting the Engineers are used to absorbing at Achilles Rink over the past few years. The Engineers got the advantage with hard checking, much of it from forwards like Carson Butterwick and Eric Cavosie, who didn't score but made solid contributions.

Fridgen may also have found himself the scoring line he's been looking for in wingers Ryan Shields and Kevin Croxton, centered by Mikael Hammerstrom. They accounted for three of the four goals against the Dutchmen.

Union came back twice to tie the game after the Engineers had taken one-goal leads.

"That's one of the things I thought we did a very good job handling was the switch in momentum when they got the equalizers both times," Fridgen said. "We didn't get rattled. We kept our composure and continued to plug away and chip away at things. We got a couple of bounces."

Union hadn't lost to the Engineers in their previous four meetings (2-0-2), but now Fridgen is 13-6-4 against the local rival. Sneddon's record fell to 3-4-2.

"I thought they played real hard and kept it simple," Fridgen said. "At times you try to open up a little bit too much, but we had a game plan and they stuck to it."

Sneddon admitted he wasn't pleased with the effort of some of his players, but the Dutchmen bounced back to beat Iona the next night in Schenectady in a non-leaguer. In fact, they allowed only 13 shots in the game, a school record, after a slow start.

"The first period I thought we were real flat," Sneddon said. "I had to challenge them a little bit in the locker room."

RPI needs to avoid a letdown tonight when the Engineers play host to Boston University, their longtime ECAC foe before the Terriers moved to Hockey East.

New-wave penalties: There's a move afoot to give fans a bit more information when penalties are assessed in college hockey games this season.

In Saturday's RPI-Union game, referee Jeff Fulton gave Butterwick a penalty for "playing without a helmet" and one to teammate Ben Barr for "shooting after the whistle."

Formerly these would have been unsportsmanlike conduct or delay of game calls, for the record books. Think of some of the other possibilities, like: spraying ice chips in the goaltender's face or speaking with a loud voice to an official.

In a more conventional vein, Union was called for too many men on the ice twice. It wasn't the usual line-change variety, rather the Dutchmen actually were playing with six skaters.

Ice chips: Forward Ryan Shields doubled his seasonal output with his two goals, including an empty-netter, for RPI. ... Union plays at Northeastern on Saturday. ... Freshman goaltender Kris Mayotte has lost his last two decisions for Union after starting his career 5-0-1. ... BU is 29-26-2 all-time vs. RPI. ... RPI hosts Princeton, Merrimack and Wayne State in its annual HSBC Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28-29.