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Engineers Try to Keep Chugging Along

RPI Takes Momentum on the Road for Crucial Stops at Princeton, Yale

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 15, 2002

TROY - Hey, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey fans, when was the last time RPI - or any other ECAC team - played Princeton and Yale on a weekend when the games carried a high degree of importance for all the teams, with nearly the entire conference having an interest in the games?

Well, it's only been three years, but that's the case this weekend for both the Engineers and Union.

Rensselaer and the Dutchmen are both 6-6-3 in ECAC play, tied for sixth place with 15 points, though the Engineers should consider themselves seventh, since Union owns the tie-breaker.

While the Engineers will need help from several teams, they still can earn the fifth and final home-ice berth for the first round of the ECAC playoffs.

In addition to Union, they're battling Colgate (8-6-2, 18 points), Dartmouth (7-5-4, 18), Brown (6-8-2, 14) and St. Lawrence (7-10-0, 14) for both the fourth and fifth seeds.

The Engineers have lost just three of 16 home games (10-3-3) but are just 2-7-1 on the road.

The quality of their seed will depend on how they play on this four game road swing; games at Harvard and Brown follow next week.

Since its five-game winless streak, which included ECAC losses to Harvard, Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Union, the Engineers have lost just one of eight games (5-1-2).

While the Engineers - generally even-keeled through during bad times and good - want to keep last week's big comeback victory over Clarkson in perspective, the mood of the team is much better.

"Everyone's a lot more excited now," said star left winger Matt Murley. "It's getting toward playoff time and we're doing well now and we're real excited to keep building and keep winning."

Both Princeton and Yale have fallen on tough times.

The Tigers, 6-9-1, 7-15-1, are 1-3-1 since their 2-1 upset victory at Harvard.

Since its 5-2 triumph at Union on Dec. 8, Yale has dropped 10 of 12, including five of six within the ECAC. The 6-15-2 Bulldogs are 5-9-2 in the conference, holding down 11th place. The top 10 teams qualify for the playoffs.

The Engineers, usually reluctant to acknowledge their status as favorite, know they should win twice this weekend - guardedly at least.

"Yeah, these are two teams we should beat and have to beat if we want to keep improving," Murley said. "They're both near the bottom of the standings but they're two good teams, with some quality wins and in this league, anybody can beat anybody on any given night. Each game, you have to go into (it) focused."

Focus and motivation were a bit lacking the last time RPI met Princeton and the Tigers stole a 4-2 decision at Houston Field House.

"Definitely," said Marc Cavosie, the ECAC's leading scorer (18 goals, 22 assists, 40 points). "We (had come) off a big win over Yale (the previous night) last time and maybe we were a little relaxed. I think playing them (Princeton) first this time helps us. But I think at this point, we're a pretty solid team and we know what we have to do."

"We didn't execute in that game," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. "Obviously, our execution has been much better of late."

Cavosie said it hasn't hurt at all that the Engineers have gotten some breaks and seen some bounces come their way.

"We have a little more confidence," he said. "The whole thing (during the losing streak) was to stay positive and working our systems, and now we feel it's paying off for us."

NOTES: The scoring on Carson Butterwick's overtime goal vs. Clarkson was changed earlier this week, with Cavosie getting the secondary assist instead of Jim Vickers ... The Engineers scored four first-period goals at Princeton last season en route to a 6-2 victory. Princeton has swept RPI only once previously, taking 5-3 decisions in January and February of 1992.