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RPI Set for Home Opener

Engineers Look to Avoid Second Straight 0-3 Start Tonight as They Square Off with UConn

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 17, 2003

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has played 12 hockey games in four seasons against teams from the Atlantic Hockey Conference (formerly Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). The Engineers have won all 12 and their next two games are against such teams.

The Engineers dearly hope to keep that streak alive tonight (7 p.m.) when they open the home portion of their schedule against the University of Connecticut. They host Army on Oct. 25.

Prior to last season, RPI had opened a season 0-3-0 just once since 1966. A loss tonight would give them a second straight 0-3-0 start.

With all due respect to the UConn Huskies, who won only eight games last season, an RPI defeat tonight would represent a good-sized upset.

Their preliminary line chart for tonight's game lists nine freshmen forwards and three freshmen defensemen.

Rensselaer opened its season with a pair of 5-2 defeats last week, at Boston University and at Providence College, and those losses kept a painful trend going.

Since beginning last season with a 5-1 victory at Wisconsin, the Engineers have won just eight of their 38 games (8-27-3) against teams from the four established conferences. Two of those were at Union in the ECAC playoffs. Improving that record dramatically is the Engineers' main goal. In the meantime, though, they must beat the teams from the second-tiered conferences, for confidence's sake, at least.

The ECAC season begins in just two weeks and for the Engineers, it will be the conference's toughest trip over the years - to Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

So, while it's far from desperation time, the Engineers know tonight's game is a vital one.

"Absolutely," says co-captain Scott Basiuk. "There's no doubt about that. We didn't play that well last weekend. But it's a new start, we're at home, and we've been practicing hard to get things straight."

The Engineers showed some promise offensively last week but went long periods without getting quality shots on goal. And they turned the puck over 10 times in each game, and several giveaways led to opposing goals. Rensselaer permitted too many odd-man breakouts.

"It was good to see what we have on the road," Basiuk said. "We know we have to work and we know we can't get back on our heels. We'll get it going."

With an assist in each game last weekend, senior winger Mikael Hammarstrom, who had a career-high 14 points last season, is tied for the team scoring lead (with Ben Barr, 1-1-2).

"I had a couple points on the power play," the Swedish native said. "A couple of helpers. It's always nice to get some points but I'd rather have 'Ws'."

"We didn't get enough goals last week," Hammarstrom said. "We've got to get more (than two) this week."

Basiuk says the Engineers never discuss their unbeaten status against Atlantic Hockey teams.

"No, that never comes into play," he said. "I don't know why. We usually play pretty well against these teams and I hope it continues."