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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 5, 2003

Scouting RPI

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute returns home this week and returns to ECAC action after a two-week stint against the WCHA and Hockey East and a 3-1-0 record, which included a tough, 4-3 loss at New Hampshire. The Engineers should have a bit of revenge on their minds both tonight and Saturday vs. Princeton. Last season marked the first time Yale swept the Engineers since 1997-98 and the fourth time ever. ... Against RPI, Princeton enjoyed two of its three victories and one of its three ties last season. ... Tonight, Rensselaer must do what virtually every Yale opponent has done this year - put the puck in the net. The Bulldogs have had major problems in goal and have surrendered 62 goals in 11 outings, 5.6 per game. Head coach Dan Fridgen and co-captain Ben Barr both warn that getting too excited about scoring chances could be harmful. "We have a game plan on which we want to concentrate, to help us be successful," Fridgen said. "We always look to shoot the puck and if you do, there's certainly going to be rebounds, especially if you keep the puck low. We really don't concentrate on the goaltender, if he's been struggling. We try to stick you our game plan."

"Yeah, we know we'll (get scoring chances)," Barr admitted. "But I try not to worry about stuff like that. If we keep playing like we have, things will take care of themselves. But if we start thinking about scoring goals and getting points ... that's when things get out of whack and start going downhill."

"With any team that's struggling, you worry," said co-captain Scott Basiuk. "You never know when they're going to pop out of it. And we know they can score." ... Barr is second on the RPI score sheet with nine points (4-5-9) behind Kevin Croxton (5-8-13). ... The loss at UNH ended Rensselaer's three-game winning streak. If postseason is excluded, the Engineers did not win three straight at any time last season. ... Rensselaer has a handful of players suffering from colds or flu-like symptoms but each is expected to play tonight and Saturday. ... The Engineers may not be among the half-dozen higher-scoring teams in the East but they do have more balance than they've had in nearly a decade. The Rensselaer line chart now can put forth a forward with at least eight points on three lines and one or two players with at least four points. Engineers defensemen have already combined for 10 goals (and 15 assists). Matt McNeely has three of those goals.

Scouting Yale

Yale knew that it had questions on defense this season but 27-year head coach Tim Taylor couldn't have foreseen what's happened thus far. The Bulldogs have been outscored 62-35 over their first 11 games and the question of which has been worse, the goaltending or the defense, could spark a fierce debate around New Haven. "It's really difficult to pinpoint our problems," Taylor said. "In terms of the makeup of our team, we have that very dangerous combination of youth on defense and youth in goal. It's one thing when you're breaking in new defensemen to have that big stopper back there; or to have some veteran defensemen in front of a young goalie. Despite the nice run he had last year, (sophomore) Josh Gartner is still a young goaltender. And last year, he had three solid senior defensemen in front of him that he doesn't have this season."

'Way too passive': "The technical answer to the question (defense or goaltending)," Taylor added, "is that we've been way too passive in the defensive zone. We coaches have challenged our kids to be more aggressive down there. We haven't been and that gets the confidence of the (opposition) offense going and it becomes infectious."

The Bulldogs have been outscored 25-6 in the second period this season, the nation's worst one-period discrepancy. ... Yale captain Vin Hellemeyer is off to a rough start offensively. A 31-point scorer (11-20-31) last season, the senior winger has just one goal and one assist in 11 games. ... Yale's top three scorers - Joe Zappala (7-3-10), Christian Jensen (3-7-10) and Jeff Hristovski (3-6-9) are all sophomores.