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Engineers Must Have Balance to Improve

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 30, 2003

TROY - Balanced scoring was a major problem for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey last season. If Saturday night's 6-0 victory over Army was any indication, the Engineers could have far more players with decent numbers this season.

Tommy Green's fourth line keyed the offense with three goals, two by Green. Left winger Cody Wojdyla, a transfer from Fairfield, also scored his first RPI goal.

Last season, Rensselaer's fourth line produced only about seven all season (at some times, RPI's third and fourth lines were not clearly discernible. Being generous in allowing this, I count no more than seven.)

In any event, improving the scoring balance is imperative this season if the Engineers are to improve their overall record (12-25-3) and the output of Green's line against Army was certainly a positive sign.

"That's exactly right," Fridgen said. "But they had a responsibility and they went out there and played to their role perfectly. I thought they did an outstanding job, defensively, and they chipped in a couple of goals as well."

Fridgen had switched all three forward lines after RPI's disappointing 4-4 tie with UConn and the Engineers made him look good.

"Hey, that's them playing; I don't control that," he said. "They feed off each other and we have some guys who aren't in the lineup who are capable of being in the lineup. We've got a little bit of depth here, which is good. Those are going to be some tough decisions ... with regards to personnel - all the way through the season."

Fridgen will enjoy having to make those decisions. "Definitely," he said. "Where somebody may have had an off game against UConn, it gives somebody else an opportunity to jump in."

The stat sheet bears out the team's balance; the Engineers' 14 goals on the season have been scored by 11 different players - eight forwards and three defensemen.

If that balance can continue for the entire season, defensemen Scott Basiuk and Brad Farynuk can put in about 10 goals each and RPI's defensive zone play improves, the team certainly can advance a few spots in the ECAC standings.

Eizenman relieved: Talented freshman Owen Eizenman is the 'A' line center for the Engineers, whether or not he wants to be.

He and his line didn't have a strong game against Army and he was thrilled Green's line stepped up.

"It was great," Eizenman said. "I wasn't on my game today. There was no secret about it. Anybody who watched saw that I wasn't on my game for some reason or another. But that's going to happen. And I'm not going to be scoring half our team's goals."

"We have four solid lines," Eizenman said. "It wasn't unexpected that Tommy Green put two in. He's a very talented player and it was just a matter of time before he got his. And we have a lot of other players where, it's just a matter of time before they step up."

Green honored: Green's big game earned him ECAC Rookie of the Week honors.

The Martensville, Sask. native beat out Clarkson left winger Mike Sullivan and defenseman Matt Nickerson to earn the award.

Eizenman won Rookie of the Week honors the previous week for his two goals in leading the Engineers back from a three-goal, third-period deficit into a 4-4 deadlock with UConn.

Barnes not frustrated: Conrad Barnes easily could have had three goals in the Army game.

The senior center-right winger put one four-foot rebound shot off the near goalpost from the left side of the crease, fanned on another rebound from about eight feet and had a sweeping, close-range turnaround shot deflected wide by a defender at the last possible split-second.

On each play, the Army net was half-open.

"Probably all three, I think," the Denver-area native said when asked which he'd put in if he had them over again.

But he was just thrilled to be consistently in the goalmouth with the puck coming his way. It had been a long time for him.

Barnes had 13 points as a freshman and 17 as a sophomore.

The 2002-03 season was not a memorable one for him.

He totaled just two points in 27 games, led the team in penalty minutes, took several misconduct penalties (he had 61 minutes in 17 penalties) and did not skate well.

He faced a long, tough summer just to have a chance at being in the lineup nightly.

"And he did it," Fridgen said of Barnes.

"He's done the things he needed to do."

Four weeks, four No. 1s: After Niagara's shocking upset of top-ranked New Hampshire, Maine has shot to the No. 1 slot in U.S. College Hockey Online's Top 15 poll.

The Black Bears are the fourth team to be so exalted in just four weeks this season.

Boston College and Minnesota preceded UNH and Maine atop the poll.

Union totaled 27 points in the voting, third among Others Receiving Votes.

The Dutchmen, a 4-2 winner at Niagara earlier, play at New Hampshire on Friday night.