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RPI Aims to Topple a Giant

Powerful Cornell Wary of Engineers Following Sweep Over Favored Union

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, March 13, 2003

Number 11 in the ECAC against No. 2 in the U.S. looks like a hockey version of David and Goliath, but Cornell coach Mike Schafer says his team is taking nothing for granted against RPI this weekend.

"The biggest thing is I haven't had to convince our players," said Schafer, as his regular-season champs prepared for the Engineers in the best-of-3 weekend series at Lynah Rink in Ithaca. "Our players have respect for them."

Cornell (19-2-1 ECAC, 24-4-1 overall) had an extra week off with the first-round bye while RPI was upsetting local rival Union in two games. The Big Red won both games from RPI this season, including 5-0 at home in their most recent meeting.

"We played them just a couple of weeks ago here, and we have a pretty good feel for who their players are," said Schafer, last season's ECAC Coach of the Year. "They've got some pretty good players with (Danny) Eberly and Scott Basiuk back on defense and a good goaltender in Nathan Marsters. They've got some good, solid forwards. And obviously, they're playing well right now."

This will mark the sixth time the two teams have met since the Eastern College Athletic Conference went to its current 12-team, single-division format in 1984-85.

Cornell knocked off RPI 3-0 last year in the ECAC semifinals, their first post season meeting since 1997-98, when Cornell came in seeded eighth and beat third-seeded RPI 2 games to 1 in the first round. In three other ECAC semifinal meetings, RPI had a 2-1 edge.

Cornell has not lost a home game (13-0-0) this season and has won 16 consecutive games overall at Lynah. RPI's last victory at Cornell was two years ago, but until last weekend at Union, RPI had not won a road game against an ECAC opponent all season.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, games aren't played on paper," Schafer said. "They're 3-2 against WCHA teams, beating Wisconsin, St. Cloud and Minnesota-Duluth. They're a young team, so they're much better at the end of the year than they would be at the start."

Schafer said he believes the extra time off is a positive situation for his club, which already is the best defensive team in the country (1.34 goals per game).

"We've got a bunch of guys healthy," he said. "I think what's been kind of missing in our game a little bit is a little emotion for the last few weeks. We've got a great jump back in our stride as far as some guys have really got their legs back under them. It's been a great bye week for us to get prepared."