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These Sophs Are 0-for-the-Season

Trio Puzzled by Sophomore Jinx

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 24, 2002

TROY - Conrad Barnes, Mikael Hammarstrom and Ben Barr, while they didn't exactly fill up the net, had pretty productive freshman seasons at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They totaled 10 goals and 20 assists in 33 games.

So, the fact that none of the trio has scored a goal this season is more than puzzling.

"It's been frustrating," said Barr, who had four goals and four assists for eight points last season. "But as soon as you stop getting the chances, that's when it gets real bad. As soon as one goes in, it'll be a different story."

Hammarstrom, a Gavle, Sweden resident who had two goals and seven assists last season, says the trio must keep the 'G 0' ledger out of their heads.

"You can't skate around thinking about that," he said. "Then, it's never going to happen. Lately, Ben and I have been having good chances."

Barnes, who led RPI freshmen in scoring last year (4-9-13), does have six assists this season but admits that the goal-column goose egg is bothersome.

"Yeah, I'd feel a lot better if I scored a goal," he said. "Obviously, it's frustrating. But as we all know, scoring goals isn't the only thing that helps teams win. We have a couple of the best goal-scorers in the nation (Matt Murley, Marc Cavosie) and we all need to do our individual jobs and for me, that's taking the body, killing penalties, winning faceoffs and going hard all the time. If I get a goal, great ... and it'd be nice to have a few more points ... but I just need to do what I can do to help the team win and that's not necessarily putting the puck in the net."

Barnes, playing right wing this season after centering a line last year, has probably played with 10 different forwards this year. The constant changes certainly can't help one's game.

"I don't know if that has anything to do with it," Barnes said. "Part of it is my own fault for not putting the puck on the net when I should, passing (off and thus passing) up a grade A opportunity away. You should be able to play with anybody on the team. It shouldn't really make a difference in what kind of player you are."

Coach Dan Fridgen says he likes Barnes' "nice touch around the net. If he had more confidence in it he'd do it more often. But he's one of the forwards who really understands defense and does a real good job of playing defensive hockey."

Barr (4-4-8 last season, 0-4-4 this year), Fridgen says, "has been real consistent and (even though he's not scoring), he's made it difficult to take him out of the lineup."

Cavosie (12-16-26), the ECAC's leading scorer, and Murley (13-8-21 in 15 games), have begun playing on the same line (Cavosie's) recently and have combined to score nine of RPI's last 13 goals.

As the Engineers try to vacate the ECAC basement and move up the standings as the stretch run begins - they host Vermont tomorrow night and Dartmouth Saturday night - they figure to need some improved scoring balance.

"We need guys like us to step up and start putting some points up there," Hammarstrom said.

"Mikael, lately, has been playing some of his best hockey, he's gotten grittier ... and I would really like to see him break out with his offense. He's certainly capable."

Hammarstrom, having played in 14 games, is still looking for his first point.

"Again, I think it's a confidence thing," Fridgen said. "Right now, we sure could use him."

While some have suggested that too much pressure is put upon Cavosie and Murley by having them play together, one could argue that the real pressure is on other forwards - especially those who've yet to dent the net.

"Once again, we can't be thinking about that," Hammarstrom said.

"You want to have more than one or two lines contributing," Barr said. "You think about it ... but you can't get (overly) frustrated."

Barnes says the forwards can feel pressured defensively.

"I think it's for (a case of) making sure we don't get scored on. We know those guys (Cavosie, Murley) are going to be a plus (plus-minus rating) almost every game. I don't know if there's a line or defense in the ECAC that can shut them (and right winger Carson Butterwick) down. So, my mentality is when I go out there, make sure we don't get scored on, (even if) we get matched up against the (opposition's) top line."

All five RPI freshmen, forwards Vic Pereira, C.J. Hanafin and Nick Economakos - and even defensemen Matt McNeely and Blake Pickett - have scored at least one goal each.

Does that increase the frustration Barnes, Barr and Hammarstrom feel?

"Of course," Hammarstrom said. "Most of us guys, before we came here, we were used to scoring lots of goals. Of course it's frustrating (not having any)."

"Ah, good for them," Barnes said. "We all root on each other. Next year, it'll be more of our responsibility (next year's juniors and sophomores) to put the puck in the net."