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Union Intends to Seize Initiative Against RPI

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 10, 2003

Five weeks ago, the Union College hockey team was considered the favorite in its matchup with Rensselaer at Houston Field House, mainly because it had more offensive talent.

However, the Dutchmen didn't perform like a favorite. The Engineers played with more desire, and the result was a 4-2 ECAC win for RPI.

Union doesn't want that to happen again. The players are promising to be hungrier and play with more passion when they face the Engineers tonight at 7 at Achilles Rink.

To demonstrate just how hungry the Dutchmen (3-4-1 ECAC, 7-10-3 overall) are, team captain Nathan Gillies made a prediction.

"We've got to take our game to them. We can't let them take the game to us and dictate the game," Gillies said. "This is our home barn. On behalf of the fellows, I'm guaranteeing a win at Achilles Rink."

Union coach Kevin Sneddon cringed when he heard Gillies' prediction. But that shows him the Dutchmen are committed to snapping a four-game losing streak.

"We're just hungry, no matter who we play right now," Sneddon said. "We've done some good things and have nothing to show for it, in our second game out at Minnesota-Duluth and against a good Harvard team last weekend. We've shown signs of improvement from the latter first part of the year. I think our guys are just hungry to get something to show for it."

In the Dec. 7 game at RPI, Union twice came back from one-goal deficits to tie the score, but they never seized the momentum from those tying goals.

It was a role reversal from past meetings between the two teams. Union was the team that seemed to have more desire in proving that it could compete with RPI (2-4-1, 8-12-1), the more established hockey program in the Capital Region.

RPI goalie Kevin Kurk, who stopped 31 Union shots last month, expects a more determined Union team this time.

"They don't want to lose both games to us, so I'm sure they're going to be coming out as hard as they can," Kurk said. "I'm sure they're going to be fired up. It'll be a different team."

RPI is coming off a split of last weekend's two-game series with Minnesota-Duluth. Engineers coach Dan Fridgen was pleased the team's effort in both games. He is more concerned about his team's improved play than what Union is doing.

"We're not really looking at them and what they're thinking," Fridgen said. "We're staying within our focus and attempting to do what we need to do."

Achilles Rink has been a house of horrors for the Engineers in their last three visits.

- On Jan. 14, 2000, the Engineers watched the Dutchmen rally from a 2-0 deficit with two late third-period goals to send the game into overtime, then win on Alex Todd's OT goal.

- In a Nov. 4, 2000 game, a 4-2 Union win, Jason Ralph's third-period power-play goal that gave the Dutchmen a two-goal lead was allowed to stand, even though the net was off its supports.

- Last Jan. 16, the Dutchmen overcame Matt Murley's hat trick to win, 5-4, thanks to another controversial score. Joel Beal's goal midway through the second period, which pulled the Dutchmen to within one, appeared to be gloved in by Union's Jeff Wilson.

"There's been some close calls," Union defenseman Randy Dagenais said. "Usually, there's one [game] in the ECAC where one close call or one mistake makes a difference. And especially against RPI, where both teams want to win."

Fridgen doesn't believe the Dutchmen have a psychological advantage against his team at Achilles.

"Things are going to happen in a game," Fridgen said. "Those are called breaks. Those are called bounces. Every team needs them now and again."

Notebook

Sneddon hasn't decided who will start in goal. Kris Mayotte has started the last two games, and he was in goal for the last game with RPI. He made 28 saves. Tim Roth hasn't played since allowing five goals against UMD on Dec. 28....

If Fridgen sticks with his goalie rotation, Kurk will get the start....

RPI senior forward Carson Butterwick, who missed last weekend's games because of a concussion, is expected to return to the lineup tonight.