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Engineers Left a Shade of Big Red

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 22, 2003

ITHACA - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute took its turn skating into Cornell's Lynah Rink Friday night and the powerful Big Red gave the Engineers the usual beating visitors have absorbed in the past two seasons.

Freshman Shane Hynes scored one goal and assisted on two others and the McRae twins each scored a goal for the third time this season - Mark had a pair - as Cornell rolled to a 5-0 ECAC victory.

The shutout was the sixth of the season for Cornell sophomore David LeNeveu, the nation's leading goaltender. He tied the CU record for shutouts in one season, set by Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden and lowered his goals against average from 1.28 to 1.22.

The Big Red (21-4-1 overall, 16-2-1 in ECAC play) are 12-0-0 at home this season and 24-1-1 during the past two seasons.

Rensselaer, victorious in just one of its past 13 games (1-10-2), dropped to 3-13-3 within the ECAC and 9-21-3 overall. Like many other ECAC teams, the Engineers were overmatched by the Big Red.

Only once has a visiting team played the Big Red within three goals this season (Colgate, 3-1) and the Engineers did their best to avoid a blowout.

Cornell's stick-handling, passing and intensity were too much.

The Big Red had two tough road games last weekend - a 2-2 tie at Brown, a 4-3 hold-your-breath victory at Harvard - but showed no hint of a letdown coming back home. They've outscored opponents at Lynah (58-11).

"Men playing with boys, bottom line," was how Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen assessed the drubbing.

"Give them credit," he said of the Big Red, ranked No. 3 nationally. "They played very well, they were hungry. And we didn't execute the way we wanted to execute."

Not a good formula against Cornell.

"We talked about it," Fridgen said. "If you want to stay in the game, we had to do an excellent job of executing and staying disciplined. We didn't."

The deep, balanced, veteran Big Red also exploited RPI's youth.

"They did a real good job getting after our defense," Fridgen said. "If we had a little more experience there, I think we could have handled the pressure better. A faceoff goal, two power-play goals, faceoff goal again, which we didn't execute well."

The Big Red limited the Engineers to just 12 shots on goal - four in each period - and there weren't many strong scoring chances among them.

Kevin Croxton fired a blast off LeNeveu's shoulder in the first period, Ryan Shields hit his pads on a semi-breakaway in the second and LeNeveu made a big stop on Nolan Graham in the third.

"There weren't many," Fridgen said. "They (CU) don't give up many to begin with and they played very hard."

Matt McRae sent a faceoff back to his brother Mark on the blue line 5:20 into the game and the star defenseman beat a screened Kevin Kurk for the game's first goal.

Twice the Big Red scored late in a period.

With 41 seconds remaining in the first, the Engineers failed to clear the puck and Sam Paolini picked it up and fed Hynes in the lower left slot for a 2-0 Big Red lead.

At 18:28 of the second, two RPI defensemen allowed Matt McRae to walk down the slot and he fired one above Kurk's shoulder and under the crossbar for a 4-0 lead.

Mark McRae added his second goal on a cross-ice feed from ECAC scoring leader Ryan Vesce at 14:21 on a power play; the Engineers having been shorthanded for well over five minutes.

It was suggested that the loss will be easier for the Engineers to put behind them than some of the other tight losses to lesser teams.

"Not really," Fridgen said. "I'm not real happy with the way some of our guys played. When you're playing a team such as Cornell and you know that their strengths are their forecheck and their power play and you give them as many (power-play) opportunities as we did (eight), you're not even giving yourself a chance to stay in the game."