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RPI Poised for Solid Second Half

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 29, 2002

TROY - Seventeen games into the 36-game regular season, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a 7-9-1 record.

Among that mark is a painful, one-goal loss to Princeton - the only game the Tigers have won all season - and three victories over teams RPI should beat; they have in all 13 games against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Against teams from the established conferences, it's 4-9-1 and that included a 2-1 triumph over St. Lawrence that the Engineers easily could have lost.

Well, suppose you'd been told in preseason that after 17 games, senior forwards Nolan Graham and Carson Butterwick would have just four goals between them. What would you have conjectured that the Engineers record would be?

Kevin Croxton and Brad Farynuk and the other freshmen have made big contributions.

Right winger Croxton leads the Engineers in scoring with 15 points (6-9-15) and defenseman Farynuk (2-9-11) is second.

What's more, the Engineers show promise of what could be a solid second half of the season. Oh, they're not going to rip through the remainder of their ECAC schedule and push Cornell and Harvard at the top of the standings.

But at 2-4-1 in the conference, they can make a substantial rise.

Obviously, goaltending and defense are the strengths of the team. If the Engineers address their wish list effectively, the remaining 18 games (this weekend's Holiday Tournament included), could be quite entertaining. On that list: goalies Kevin Kurk and Nathan Marsters continue to be sharp - each of them; freshman defensemen Scott Romfo and Alexander Valentin become more consistent when opposing forwards challenge them in one-on-one situations; the team's backchecking improves; veterans Butterwick, Graham and Conrad Barnes step up on the scoring.

ECAC on TV: It's not a major package in terms of games - just six - but the ECAC and New England Sports Network (NESN) have again teamed up.

Both NESN and the YES Network will televise one regular-season game - Cornell at Yale on March 1 - and five ECAC tournament telecasts.

And with YES picking up the games, rather than Empire Sports Network, as in the past, the telecasts will be available to local viewers. Empire is still not seen in most areas of the Capital District.

The package also includes a weekly 30-minute show in February entitled "This Week in ECAC Hockey."

"The ECA is thrilled to continue its long-standing relationship with NESN and equally excited to join forces with the YES Network," said ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco. "These agreements with the two premier sports networks on the East Coast will be instrumental in helping the ECAC secure excellent exposure while also enabling us to continue to provide opportunities for our fans and supporters to see our programs in action."

A first-round playoff game (to be determined) will be televised on Saturday, March 8 and a quarterfinal-round game on March 15.

Both semifinals, from Pepsi Arena on Friday, March 21 (3:30 and 7 p.m.) will be shown, as will the title game the following night.

Also included is women's tournament final on Sunday, March 16.

College game to Iron City: Pittsburgh has never been much of a college hockey town. But it's trying to be.

Duquesne basketball, Pitt basketball, later pro hockey's Penguins always held the Iron City's winter sports fans.

But the city, Mellon Arena officials and the Penguins have contracted to stage a game between the CCHA's Ohio State and the ECAC's Princeton on Jan. 3.

When the Penguins called Ohio State last year, head coach John Markell jumped at the idea.

After all, Ohio State had five players on last year's roster from the Pittsburgh area. This season, the number of Pittsburgh natives is four, including junior goaltender Mike Betz, sophomore forward J.B. Bittner, freshman defenseman Nate Guenin, and junior center R.J. Umberger.

"We didn't have any problem with setting up the game, as long as the time was good and the opponent was fine," Markell said.

The Tigers have struggled to a 1-13 start to the 2002-03 season and a 1-9 conference mark but are one of the oldest programs in the country and Markell, whose club is 9-2-1 in the CCHA and 12-4-1 overall, doesn't mind.

"Princeton is a quality Division I hockey program that I'm sure will be extra motivated to win that game," Markell added. "We're looking forward to going there."

"This is the first Division I hockey game to be played in Pittsburgh and we're hoping it's a good measuring stick," a Penguins official said. "If this works as planned, we would love to have Mercyhurst (Erie, Pa.) or Ohio State host a two-day tournament and eventually bring the Frozen Four to the city."

Last week, ECAC rivals Clarkson and Colgate clashed at Ottawa and such neutral-site matchups in pro facilities will likely be on the increase in upcoming years.