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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 2, 2004

Scouting RPI

Who's hot: Junior left winger Nick Economakos is the hottest among RPI forwards, with three goals and two assists in his past five games. Senior right winger Kirk MacDonald is 4-2-6 in his past nine. Prior to the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, defensemen had scored five of the Engineers' previous 11 goals and had seven assists among them.

Who's not: Senior co-captain Ben Barr has just one goal in the previous 10 games and senior winger Ryan Shields who had 18 points last season (7-11-18) has just one goal and three assists in 14 games this season. The RPI attack was held without a 5-on-5 goal in both tournament games, the first time the Engineers couldn't post a 5-on-5 in consecutive in several seasons.

Looking positive: The Engineers are 1-4-0 in their past five outings, including 1-3-0 at home after going 4-0-2 in their first six outings at Houston Field House. An optimist could point to the factors that the Engineers outshot Mercyhurst 42-21 and the only reason for the 3-2 loss was their 19-day layoff, which led to some poor shooting and puck-handling on a number of good scoring chances; and that an obvious icing call was missed just prior to Colgate's first goal during the Red Raiders' 2-1 victory over RPI.

"We're getting our chances, getting our shots," said head coach Dan Fridgen. "The puck just wasn't bouncing our way." Further, only one of Rensselaer's four recent defeats came in an ECAC contest and the Engineers' 3-2-1 ECAC record is the fourth-best in the conference.

And, both Brown and Saturday night's opponent, Harvard, have been struggling a bit, too. The Bears are 0-2-2 since taking over first place in the ECAC, including a 6-1 blowout at Colgate. "We need some guys to step up," Fridgen said. "These are very important league games."

Power play slipping: After getting three goals against Yale's weak penalty killers, the RPI power play is 3-of-18, including 2-of-15 last weekend when the execution was lacking. Fridgen isn't fretting yet.

"Power plays are cyclical," Fridgen said. "We got one in both games, but ... I think a lot of that has to do with the attitude around the net. I think we need to get hungrier. Find a way to find a way to put it through the back of the net, and not be so casual in that critical area of real estate in front of the net."

Scouting Brown

Great combination: Yann Danis' spectacular goaltending and outstanding special teams. That's the formula the Bears have used to take over the top spot in the ECAC with a 6-2-1 record for 13 points (although Cornell, 4-0-2 and Dartmouth, 3-0-3 have better league records).

Danis' numbers, 1.57 goals against average and 94.9 percent saves percentage leads the nation in both categories and are quite rare at the 726-minute level. He has three shutouts, has held five other opponents to one goal each and if one discounts his one poor outing, a 6-1 loss at Colgate, Danis' numbers are eyepopping, 1.13 and 96.2. ... The Bears' power play is among the Top 5 in the nation at 28.3 percent (17 of 60). Freshman right winger Brian Ihnacak has been the most effective with five power-play goals. Senior left winger Brent Robinson and junior center Les Haggett each has three.

The Bears have nearly as many power-play goals (17) as they have 5-on-5 goals (18). ... In ECAC play, the Bears' power play is at a whopping 30 percent (15-50). Brown struggled on the power play last season with just 32 all season.

Who's not: Like RPI, the Bears haven't been scoring much of late - just four goals in their last three games. Robinson has three goals and three assists in his past six games.

Revenge: The Bears finished far ahead of Rensselaer last season but couldn't beat the Engineers and that fact could be on their minds tonight.

Ryan Shields' third-period goal lifted RPI to a 1-1 tie at Brown and later, the Engineers ended a nine-game losing streak, 4-3, when Shields' shot with eight seconds remaining in overtime caromed off the skate of Brown captain Tye Korbel. The Engineers outshot the Bears, 38-21 in that game.

Stinging defeat: The Bears tied Findlay (1-1) in the consolation game of North Dakota's Subway Holiday Classic but may still be smarting from their first-round loss to Wayne State. Wayne tied the game with 24 seconds remaining in a 6-on-5 goal by Travis Rycroft and then won the game when Mark Nebus grabbed a rebound from traffic in front and beat Danis just 1:40 into overtime.