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Engineers Hope to Atone for Last Year's Tournament

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, December 28, 2003

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior defenseman Scott Basiuk is still embarrassed by his team's performance in last year's Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament.

In wasn't so much that the Engineers finished last in their own tournament, but it was the way it happened. After dropping a tough 2-1 decision to eventual champion Merrimack in the opening round, the Engineers played an uninspired game against ECAC rival Princeton. They fell behind, 3-1, and lost, 4-3.

That still haunts Basiuk and the Engineers. They are hoping to prove that last year's tournament was just a fluke when they host the 53rd edition of college hockey's oldest holiday tournament. RPI (8-5-2) will face Mercyhurst (6-6-1) in the first round tonight at 7 at Houston Field House.

"We've got to put on a good showing at our rink in our own tournament," said Basiuk, the team co-captain. "We're definitely thinking about last year. It's going to drive us even more than usual."

Today's other first-round game pits Colgate (7-6-2) against Northeastern (2-9-2) at 4 p.m. On Monday, the consolation game will take place at 4 p.m., with the championship game to follow at 7 p.m.

RPI coach Dan Fridgen is looking forward to a better showing this time around.

"First of all, it's our own tournament," Fridgen said. "We take a lot of pride in that. We're going to try to win the thing and do as best we can."

The Engineers won't have an easy task against the Lakers, even though they are 3-0 against them.

Mercyhurst, which is in fourth place in Atlantic Hockey, has beaten some quality opponents on the road this season. It won at Ohio State, 3-2, Oct. 24, and at Western Michigan, 7-4, Nov. 22. A week later, the Lakers were seconds away from winning at Cornell, but settled for a 3-3 tie.

"There's some real good competition involved this year," Fridgen said. "We're going to have a good test in Mercyhurst. They've always been a very, very strong program, and very well coached. We certainly have our hands full in that first game."

The Engineers are playing well entering the tournament. After starting the season 0-2-1, they have gone 8-3-1. At one point, they had a five-game unbeaten streak.

That may be one reason why the players have more confidence heading into this year's tournament than last season's event.

"We're fairly happy with our performance in the first half," senior forward Conrad Barnes said. "We had some games that we wished we could have back. Although this tournament's not a conference game, and we have some big games coming up, we can't look past this weekend if we're looking to do something good in the second half." Notebook

RPI has won 17 tournament titles, the last coming in 2001. . . .

Northeastern has captured one tournament title, in 1974, when it was a six-team tournament. The Huskies last played in the tournament in 2000. They beat the Engineers, 3-2, in overtime in the opening round, and lost to St. Lawrence, 4-3, in the title game.