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Seniors, Barr None, Need to Score

Upperclassmen Need to Lead Offensive Unit That Struggled to Light the Lamp in 2002-03 Season

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 8, 2003

TROY - Last season, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior forwards Nolan Graham and Carson Butterwick were called upon to be the Engineers' goal-scoring leaders.

All-conference stars Marc Cavosie and Matt Murley, the ECAC's top two scorers in 2001-02, had left.

Graham and Butterwick were the top scorers among the returnees last season and each was expected to lead the 'goals scored' column.

Each scored just seven, tying for fourth on the low-scoring team. Each had fallen off from his goal-scoring output of previous seasons and each admitted to being quite disappointed.

This season, center Ben Barr and left winger Ryan Shields are in the same position as Graham and Butterwick; they're seniors expected to score more goals.

Barr had a breakout junior season with 11 goals and 13 games after posting a 6-9-15 scoring line in 61 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Shields' scoring marks for his three seasons are 5-8-13, 5-4-9 and 7-11-18.

Neither player worries about suffering the same fate as Butterwick and Graham.

"No, I never think about that stuff at all," Shields said. "I just think about how I'm playing and what I can do to help the team. You start dwelling on that stuff and you can kind of expect failure. You just want to focus on doing whatever you can do."

Barr concurred.

"You can't worry about stuff like that," he said. "I'm in the best shape of my life, I think I've prepared myself to have a successful season. The only reason that kind of stuff happens is when you start thinking about it and it gets into your head (again, Butterwick and Graham admitted such). Whatever happens, happens; I'm just going out and give it 100 percent every day."

Some RPI fans are expecting Barr to score 15-18 goals.

"Hey, if that happens, that'd be great," he said. "But if I can help our team in any way to win more games, that's what I need to do."

Shields, who had a streak last season where he narrowly missed scoring on several outstanding scoring chances over a half-dozen games, would love to get into double figures in the 'G' column.

He doesn't dwell on a certain number, though.

"I don't have a set number," he said. "I know if I play well, they'll come. But whether it's scoring goals or cheering on other guys to score goals, I'll do it."

RPI's most disappointing loss came at St. Lawrence. The Engineers were gunning for their first season sweep of the Saints since 1996-97. Barr scored a pair of power-play goals late in the second period for a 2-1 lead. His linemate, freshman Kevin Croxton, had scored two third-period goals in an earlier 2-1 victory over SLU at Houston Field House.

This night, though, the Saints scored twice early in the third period and added an empty-net goal in the final 10 seconds for a 4-2 decision. It was one of many bitter pills for the Engineers.

"Typical. We had so many of those," he said.

Barr and senior defenseman Scott Basiuk were selected as co-captains by their teammates.

"It's an honor," Barr said. "I look forward to helping the younger guys, or anyone on the team who needs an extra hand. Hopefully, we can have a successful season."

Barr is a hard-working player whose skill level doesn't match many ECAC players in his scoring range and Rensselaer coach Dan Fridgen says some of the younger Engineers could be inspired by him.

"Ben has worked his way into a lot of opportunities as far as playing situations," Fridgen said, noting Barr centered the team's top forward line for most of last season and was a special teams leader as well.

"And that was just because he's worked so hard," Fridgen said. "He really matured over his sophomore offseason and came back as a junior and didn't want to leave anything that was in his control to somebody else; his strength, how hard he worked, leadership. I'm utilizing him in every situation possible because his performance has given me the confidence to use him in those situations."

Shields, a left-handed shooter, played right wing much of the season and moved around from line to line, playing with virtually every center on the team.

He denied that it hampered his productivity.

"No, that's something you've got to be able to adapt to," he said. "It didn't affect any of us, changing lines. We were all getting frustrated with the lack of scoring. But when you're not winning, you've got to (make changes)."

En route to setting a school record for losses with 25 (12-25-3), Shields said the losing "was frustrating to say the least. You always have to come to the rink on Monday with a fresh approach and that got to be difficult."

The Engineers figure to have many fewer difficulties this year if Barr and Shields can increase their goals output.