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Princeton Happy to Face Engineers

Toothless Tigers Going for Third Win of Season Against RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 14, 2003

TROY - Princeton University's suffering hockey team probably can't wait to get to Houston Field House tonight.

The Tigers have won only three of 23 games this season, two of those against RPI. And while the other was a head-shaking, 2-1 verdict at nationally-ranked Harvard, and even though RPI has won just nine of 30 games, the setbacks to Princeton stand out noticeably on RPI's slate.

The Engineers, 3-11-2 in ECAC play, 9-19-2 overall, hope to avenge those two losses tonight at 7, then they host high-scoring, high-flying Yale (10-6-0, 14-9-0) on Saturday night.

Princeton grabbed a 2-0 first period lead when RPI visited in November, then held the Engineers off for a 4-3 victory.

In the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament consolation game, Kevin Croxton gave RPI a 1-0 lead with 4:04 remaining in the first period, Princeton scored a pair before the period ended. Then the Tigers scored early in the second for a 3-1 cushion and it was catch-up time again for RPI.

After the Engineers ended a seven-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime victory over Brown last week, and Engineers fan shouted, 'hey, don't fall two goals behind Princeton and you'll win the game.'

Indeed, the Engineers dominated both losses to Princeton - after they were down by two. Tonight, they'll try to take command right from the start.

"That's a tough way to play hockey regardless of who the opponent is," Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen said of the two deficits, "especially when you're struggling to score yourself."

"We have to get a better start (tonight)," Fridgen added, "and maintain the intensity better."

The Engineers' intensity level wavered in both previous games with the Tigers.

In a season where the loss count will go well over 20, going 0-3-0 against Princeton (now 2-14-0 within the ECAC) would be a big black eye for the Engineers.

Still, most RPI players don't use the word 'revenge' but they view it as 'just another game'.

"We've already dropped two games to them," said assistant captain Carson Butterwick. "It's nice to have a chance to turn it around."

Asked about the possibility of the 0-3 vs. Princeton stigma, Butterwick said, "it's in the front of our minds. The guys recognize it and I think they'll be up for the game."

"They've got three wins, two of them against us," said junior left winger Ryan Shields. "Yeah, that will motivate us."

"You want to beat any team (that's beaten you twice), especially a team behind you in the standings," said Croxton, who has three goals against the Tigers.

"You've got to win those games," said the freshman right winger.

"There's no way you want to have a team beat us three times (of three games), no matter what (its) spot in the standings," Shields said. "We have to use that as motivation."

"They got three wins, two of them against us," said junior left winger Ryan Shields. "Yeah, that will motivate us."

Princeton freshman right winger Patrick Neundorfer scored the second and third Tigers goals for the 3-1 lead at RPI and senior left winger Neil Stevenson-Moore has three goals in the two games with Rensselaer.

Yale plays at Union tonight, in a matchup of the ECAC's hottest teams - other than Cornell, as each has won five of its last six games.

The Bulldogs whipped both the Engineers (5-2) and the Dutchmen (7-4) in earlier meetings in New Haven.

With top line left winger Nathan Gillies among three Union players out serving a game disqualification, the Dutchmen would likely be unwise to get into a shootout with Yale again.

The Bulldogs have scored 21 goals in their last four games and lead the ECAC in scoring.

Left winger Evan Wax (17 goals-16 assists-33 points) leads the conference in goals and is among a four-way tie for second place in league scoring with teammates Ryan Steeves (12-21-33), Dartmouth freshman Hugh Jessiman (15-18-33) and Union's Jordan Webb (16-17-33).

Joel Beal (7-25-32) is sixth in scoring and tops the ECAC in assists.

Standout sophomore Chris Higgins (16-13-29), despite missing four games, gives the Bulldogs three scorers in the Top 10 at No.10. Gillies (14-14-28) is 11th.

The Engineers, meanwhile, don't match up well with the Bulldogs.

Fridgen was asked what he'd like to see different Saturday night from the Engineers' loss at Yale.

"I'd like to see us play better defensively, all around," he said, "though, if I remember, we played pretty well."

"They do have a lot of lethal weapons," he said of the Bulldogs, "and it begins with Higgins. They all feed off him ... the energy and confidence a guy like (him) gives a team."