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It's Not All Bad News for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 25, 2003

TROY - The bad news is, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has only two ties among its 11 ECAC road games this season.

The good news is, the Engineers quite possibly could be playing at the sites of those ties - Union (3-3) or Brown (1-1) to open the conference playoffs, although they could easily be at Dartmouth, too. All that will play out this weekend, the final one of the regular season.

Dartmouth and Brown are currently tied for fourth place in the ECAC with 22 points, though Dartmouth has the tiebreaker, having posted a 4-4-0 record against the top four teams to date, while Brown has gone 3-4-1 in such games.

The Big Green are at 11th-place Rensselaer on Friday night, then close the season at Union on Saturday.

That game will be huge for both teams, as well as Brown. The Brown Bears figure to have a good chance to win one game, if not both, skating at home against St. Lawrence (7-11-2, 10-18-4) and Clarkson (9-10-1, 12-18-1).

Dartmouth figures to have a tougher time, though. The Green lost at home to Union and has a 3-6-0 road record in league play.

Union will go past Dartmouth and could go past both teams if the Dutchmen sweep this weekend.

Should Brown get a tie and a loss and Dartmouth split, Union would move into fourth and earn the final first-round bye.

Most likely, Brown will hang on to the No. 4 slot and the Dartmouth-Union winner will get fifth, and open the playoffs against last-place Princeton; the loser getting sixth place and hosting No. 11 RPI.

Many would love to see an RPI-Union playoff, likely some RPI players, though it's doubtful they'd say so publicly.

The Engineers beat the Dutchmen (4-2) at Houston Field House and the aforementioned tie at Achilles Rink.

"That's what I want to see," RPI Sports Information Director Kevin Beattie said of a possible Engineers-Dutchmen best-of-three series.

A big challenge for the Engineers in the meantime this weekend will be to take the positives out of their 4-3 loss to Colgate in their previous outing - in which they outplayed the Red Raiders - and get at least one victory over Dartmouth or Vermont entering the playoffs.

Rensselaer has just one win over its last 14 games (1-11-2).

Graham playing well: Nolan Graham's goal Saturday night - the one that counted - was his second in four games.

He's been playing solid hockey and Saturday marked the second time this season he and Butterwick - members of a red-hot line two years ago - scored a goal in the same game.

Even though they no longer play on the same line, Graham says that fact offers some confidence as the season winds down.

"Definitely for both of us," the senior from Nanaimo, B.C. said. "It's been a struggle offensively for the whole team the whole year and for us. Benny's (Barr, Butterwick's center) got his line going and with Nick (Economakos) and my line's contributing, too, so ... we can be a little scary come the playoffs."

Long balls hurt: Engineers goalie Nathan Marsters took full blame for not stopping the game-winning goal by Colgate's Scooter Smith, which came from near the blue line.

However, both he and Kevin Kurk, whether it be from screens, waning concentration, wavering confidence, or fighting the puck - have given up a number of long ones lately.

Eight times in the last seven games, RPI foes have found the net from the blue line or a few feet in front.

That has to change.

Stats can lie: Two student assistants in the Colgate Sports Information Office were talking about the Engineers and the Red Raiders after the 2-2 first period Saturday - after RPI had wiped out Colgate's 2-0 lead.

"They (RPI) beat us in almost every category," the female student said to her male counterpart. "Their power play and penalty killing (efficiencies) are better than ours, they have more goals and a better goal differential (overall, not in ECAC play)."

"They haven't been winning," she said, "but they're a team that can beat our butts."

Nice testimonial, but Colgate beat the Engineers - for the second time.

Just about everyone: Alexander Valentin's goal on Saturday night put all six of eight RPI defensemen in the 'G' column.

Only veteran forwards Eric Cavosie and Conrad Barnes and defensemen Blake Pickett and Matt McNeely haven't found the net yet this season.