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RPI Has Score to Settle One Year Later with Duluth

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 3, 2003

TROY - Of the many gut-wrenching losses the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suffered last season, the two at Minnesota-Duluth may have been the most aggravating.

The Engineers led early in both games and were tied late in each, but were beaten 4-3 in overtime and 6-5.

Tonight and Saturday at 7, the two teams meet again at Houston Field House.

The teams are going in opposite directions as they collide again.

Duluth has won four of its last five games and the Bulldogs are 8-6-4 overall with a pair of (5-2, 4-1) victories over Union last week. They sit in a fourth place tie in the rugged WCHA with a 5-4-3 conference mark.

Discounting games with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference teams, Rensselaer (7-11-1 overall) is 1-6-1 in its last eight games and 3-11-1 in its last 15.

Last year, the Engineers led Duluth with under five minutes to play the first night, but a pair of penalties hurt them. They led 2-0 the second night, then surrendered five second-period goals. After Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley got them back into the game, the Engineers fell apart.

The bad memories of those two losses come at a time when the Engineers aren't feeling great about themselves, having posted a second straight, 4-3 loss to Princeton in their last outing.

Princeton is 0-14-0 in its other games.

In addition to coming against a team that RPI flat out should beat, that loss to the Tigers gave Rensselaer a 13-23 record in its last 36 games decided by one goal - 1-5 this season - and it has some of the team's veterans scratching their heads.

While the narrow losses to Duluth last season would seem to offer the Engineers some added incentive this weekend, they're only worried about their own play right now; getting a win - against anyone.

"We're still not playing 60-minute hockey," captain Danny Eberly said after the Princeton game. "We worked hard but we were getting away from our systems and you can't do that."

"Yeah we owe them (Duluth)," Eberly said, "but we just need to get a win."

Eberly is clearly frustrated and says the Engineers must stop letting the opposition - whether it's Princeton or a power such as Cornell - dictate the flow of the game.

"We can't be doing this consistently," he said. "We've got to change. I don't know if it's a personnel change, or the system, but we've definitely got to start playing as a team, playing 60 minutes and sticking to our systems, because when we start playing the other team's (system of) hockey, that's when we're really hurting ourselves."

"That's got to be in the back of our heads," junior forward Ben Barr said of the losses at Duluth. "We have to do everything we can to squeak one out here. Once we get another win under our belt, I think we'll be all right. We're just reeling right now."

Senior center and captain Jon Francisco had a four-point game (three goals) against Union and leads Duluth in scoring at 9-11-20. The Bulldogs average 3.6 goals per game, compared to RPI's 2.4.

Getting some more goals, consistently, would certainly help the Engineers, who scored just one goal in four of their last six games.

"It's really getting frustrating," Shields said, "but we just have to keep plugging away. There are a bunch of guys who are struggling right now. Once we get a few (goals), I think it'll be a snowball effect."

Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen was visibly disturbed by the Engineers' last-place finish in their own holiday tournament.

"I was hoping to use this tournament as a springboard for the (remaining two-thirds) of the season," Fridgen said. "But we completely missed the board and we'll see how deep the hole is."