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Gentleman Jim

Despite a personal scoring drought, RPI center Jim Henkel remains upbeat and focused on the goal at

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, November 30, 2001

TROY - Jim Henkel tries to keep his frustration manageable.

Preparing to play rival Union Saturday night likely has helped.

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior center has scored just one goal this season - an empty-netter - but has had as many quality scoring chances as team scoring leaders Marc Cavosie, Matt Murley and Nolan Graham. Yet his other 23 shots on goal - he's third on the team behind Cavosie and Murley - have been turned away.

Henkel has watched goalies Michael Ayers of New Hampshire, Minnesota-Duluth's Rob Anderson, Peter Aubry of Mercyhurst and Mike Fraser of Iona make dazzling saves, robbing him of at least a half-dozen goals.

Henkel would love to score - who wouldn't? - but his main concern is winning games. His biggest robberies came in victories - Mercyhurst and Iona - but Anderson's save in Duluth cost the Engineers at least a chance to win in overtime in a game they lost, 6-5.

"I don't really look at numbers," he said. "I just try to do my best to help us win."

"I can't really get too down," he continued. "The way I look at it is, I'm getting the opportunities and I just have to hope that they'll continue to come and eventually the seal will break and I'll be all right."

Henkel became used to being denied repeatedly last season.

"Look at the beginning of last year," he said. "I had the assist at BU (season opener at Boston University), then I went seven games without a point. Then we played Union here and I had the two points and everything opened up."

Henkel, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound Hazlet, N.J., native, scored only two goals in 54 games over his first two RPI seasons, but was called upon to help with scoring last season. He delivered with 30 points, including 11 goals, and was perhaps the Engineers' hottest player late in the season.

Some would say the pressure to score - he has just the one goal and five points in eight games - may be getting to him.

"I'm not forcing as much as I was last year," Henkel said. "I think I felt a little more pressure last year to put the puck in the net than I do this year. My role's changed a little bit. I'm asked to take a lot more face-offs and I'm just focusing more on that aspect of the game and the defensive side of the game."

"Once the defensive side gets there, the offensive side will pick up."

Maybe, but Aubry gloved Henkel's chip shot from two feet away.

Henkel took a running start down the left slot and had a nice screen to work with, but Aubry somehow got his stick over in time.

Anderson literally threw his arm in the air to deflect away a sure goal from 15 feet away, then just got his skate to the left post in time when Henkel tried to sneak in a 20-footer on the short side.

Fraser closed his 5-hole just in time to deny Henkel's bid from six feet.

Henkel just smiled - sort of.

"Hey, I'm getting chances," he said. "I can't be too upset with myself right now. The only thing is, I have to bear down and make sure I put it through the net instead of just getting it into the net."

Earlier, Henkel played on a line with Eric Cavosie and Chris Migliore, neither of whom is considered a goal-scorer (six career goals between them in 125 games).

Now, he's alongside two more offensively skilled wingers - sophomore Ryan Shields, who has eight goals in 40 games, and impressive freshman Nick Economakos.

That will likely make Henkel's third line more productive offensively, yet he says line matchups aren't the key factor.

"We have a lot of guys on this team who are skilled, whether or not they're classified as skilled, or as goal-scorers," he said. "If they weren't skilled, they wouldn't be here. We have some very talented players in the locker room."

"I've had skilled wingers all along," he continued. "We're just not putting the puck in the net. We're getting our opportunities, myself, Eric. We've had plenty of opportunities, shorthanded, power play ... they're not going in and eventually they will."

"They're (goals) going to come," Henkel said.