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Four Bad Minutes, One Bad RPI Loss

Engineers' Late Collapse Saturday Puts Playoff Hopes in Further Jeopardy

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 28, 2002

TROY - It's not totally a cliché when hockey coaches tell their teams to 'play hard - and smart - for a full 60 minutes.'

Rensselaer, now 3-7-2 in ECAC play, remained in 11th place and would not make the 10-team playoff field if the tournament opened this week.

While the Engineers are in no real danger of missing the playoffs as of now, their hopes of getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs were seriously reduced by Saturday's defeat.

Just to get into seventh place and avoid Cornell, Harvard and Clarkson in the first round - those clubs outscored RPI 13-4 in the first meetings of the teams - the Engineers figure to need 13 points over their final 10 games. Six of those games are on the road - RPI is 1-7-0 away from Houston Field House - and Clarkson and Cornell are among the four remaining home dates.

Rensselaer played a solid game and took advantage of Vermont's notable defensive deficiencies in a 6-0 victory over the Catamounts on Friday night.

And on Saturday, the Engineers played well enough to win, a couple of late mistakes not withstanding.

Coach Dan Fridgen acknowledged that the Engineers "let up" after getting a 2-1 lead midway through the third. But on Jamie Herrington's winning goal, Herrington took "a Hail Mary pass" from Lee Stempniak. "It was either going to connect or it was going to go wide," Fridgen said.

"And then he (Herrington) just gets his stick on it and it just goes over Nate's pads. It's tough to explain."

It was the type of loss that will be tough to bounce back from, either short- or long- term.

"Hopefully, I've got a bunch of coffee beans," Fridgen said. "Why coffee beans? Because, under pressure and under adversity, coffee beans taste their best. Hopefully, with the high temperature, we'll be at our best."

THE GOOD: The Engineers killed all eight shorthanded situations they faced over the weekend, and have successfully killed their last 16 shorthanded situations. Over the last 16 games, RPI killers have allowed just eight goals in 64 chances. That's 87.5 percent efficiency. ... Since ending a four-game scoring drought, Marc Cavosie has four goals and eight assists. At 13-18-31, he leads the ECAC in scoring. ... Matt Murley was held scoreless in just one game since returning from a bout with mononucleosis. He has a scoring line of 8-6-14 in the other seven. Murley, 15-8-23 in 17 games, could be right behind Cavosie were it not for the five games he missed. ... Jim Henkel scored his first goal in eight games Friday night. ... Andrew McPherson had a four-game scoring streak prior to Saturday. ... Rensselaer blanked Dartmouth left winger Mike Maturo (13-14-27), who's second in the league behind Cavosie. Dartmouth's forward depth, though, probably the ECAC's best, certainly showed. ... Nathan Marsters got his saves percentage back over 90 percent, now at 90.8. He had his goals against average under 3.00 (2.97) after his shutout of Vermont. It's currently at 3.04.

THE BAD: The Engineers (9-10-3 overall) have had the lead in five of their losses and all three ties. In six of those games, they enjoyed a third-period lead. ... The RPI power play continues to be inconsistent. It's at 23.7 percent, 24-for-101. But it's 9-for-52 in ECAC games, and it's not just efficiency. At times, the power play just doesn't get set up, let alone create scoring chances. ... After scoring five goals (with five assists) over the first seven games, junior center Nolan Graham is 0-6-6 in 15 games since. ... Danny Eberly, who rushes the puck up ice as quickly as any RPI defenseman and most forwards, has just one assist in his last 10 games. He's 2-7-9 overall. ... When scoring first, Rensselaer has an unimpressive 7-5-2 record, with two of the victories coming in overtime.