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Victory Just What the Doctor Ordered for RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 5, 2004

TROY - Nothing is more frustrating to athletes than playing well and losing. When it happens several games in succession, it can ruin a team's season.

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers were in desperate need of a victory on Saturday night, having lost three straight games while outplaying the opposition.

Another defeat to Harvard on Saturday night, with the toughest part of their schedule looming, may have been too much for the Engineers to overcome.

So they went out, turned up their intensity and dominated the tough Crimson throughout their 4-1 victory.

The power play still lacked cohesiveness, the Engineers still missed the net on 20 shot attempts (or they could have had several more goals) but nonetheless, they controlled the contest. In the process, they put behind them their trio of recent one-goal losses at home in which they outshot the opposition, 98-61.

Friday night's 1-0 loss to Brown, in which they held the Bears to just 17, was particularly gut-wrenching; the kind of loss that can affect a team for weeks, especially when it continued previous frustrations.

The Engineers didn't let that happen.

"We didn't get down on ourselves and look what happened," said co-captain Ben Barr.

"It's not like we were playing bad hockey," sophomore Kevin Croxton said. "We were playing well and just not getting the goals. It's like basketball. If you go 0-for-20, you just have to shoot your way out of it and that's what we did."

Fridgen was asked if, in the back of his mind, he worried that frustration would fester in the players' minds, that they wouldn't be able to overcome it and that it would adversely affect their performance.

"Well, we've been working on attitude and psyche in disappointing losses," he said. "I think it's a good sign. The adversity these guys have gone through. I'm not so sure, as evidenced by last year, that we weren't able to pull it out. When you lose, you look back and say, 'what didn't we do?'"

"Well, it was pretty obvious what we weren't doing (putting the puck in the net) and you have to give (the players a lot of credit) for staying as mentally tough as they did."

MacDonald keeps lead: Kirk MacDonald's goal late in the second period was his eighth, moving him ahead of Croxton (who had tied him earlier in the game) for the team lead.

MacDonald, a sophomore right winger from Victoria, B.C., doesn't think much about his points.

"Yeah, I don't really worry about that too much," MacDonald said. "I just try to go out and play and take good shots when I get them. If I play hard, I'm going to get the chances. But as long as somebody scores and we win, it doesn't matter much."

Barr on top line: Senior center-right winger Barr has been slumping lately. For Saturday's game, Fridgen put him on a line with (at the time) the two top-scoring wingers on the team, Croxton on the right and Nick Economakos on the left.

It was partly to get Barr (4-7-11 on the season, scoreless his past four games, without a goal in eight) going again.

"It shifted some responsibility to the younger players and they handled it very well," Fridgen said. "And obviously we got a little stale, as far as the lines were concerned. And Benny plays real well with Nick, Croxy plays real well with Nick, so I just thought, I'd make that move."

Notes: The Engineers had dropped their three previous home-ice matches with Harvard ... Brown will try to sweep the Engineers for the first time since the 1995-96 season on Feb. 14. Friday night's victory was just the Bears' third in their last 16 tries (3-10-3) against Rensselaer. ... Power play was 1-for-15 for the weekend, and now has four goals in its last 36 chances - 11.1 percent. ... Slumping senior winger Ryan Shields (1-3-4) was scratched for both games and has sat for four of the last six games. ... Percentage-wise, RPI's 4-3-1 record is still fourth-best in the ECAC. ... Both Union games are next on the slate, Friday at Houston Field House, Saturday at Union's Achilles Center. Then it's road games with Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth and Vermont.