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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, January 24, 2004

Scouting RPI

Letdown watch: Tonight's matchup has a big possible letdown factor for the Engineers. Coming off a huge victory at Cornell, returning home to play an Atlantic Hockey team with a losing record will certainly challenge RPI's motivation.

However, having their 12-game winning streak against Atlantic Hockey teams snapped with 4-4 tie versus Connecticut, then having the unbeaten string stopped in a 3-2 loss to Mercyhurst, should keep the Engineers focused.

"We never put much thought in that (streak)," said co-captain Ben Barr. "We have to come out with the same kind of intensity as we had last week at Cornell. That's what good teams do no matter who they're playing."

No pregame talk about the loss to Mercyhurst?

"We're not going to talk about any of that," Barr reiterated. "We're just going to go out and play the (strong defensive) game we've been playing the past few weeks and put the puck in the net. If we go out and play our game, we're going to be tough to beat no matter who we're playing."

Still, Barr didn't totally discount the letdown factor.

"Every game is huge," he said, "and we have to make sure we don't let any games get away from us. Same effort night in, night out, I think we'll be fine."

"At this point of the season," says head coach Dan Fridgen, "where focus and sustaining that focus for 60 full minutes is so important ... I think we should be at the point where no matter who the opponent is, we have to make sure everybody is taking care of his responsibility for the team to be successful, otherwise we're not going to be successful."

Who's hot: Sophomore right winger Kirk MacDonald has 11 points (7-4-11) in his past 11 games. ... Kevin Croxton, also a sophomore right winger, is 3-5-8 in his past nine games. ... Prior to the Cornell game last week, sophomore Nick Economakos had 10 points (4-6-10) in 10 games. ... Sophomore defenseman Brad Farynuk has four assists in his last games and junior defenseman Matt McNeely is 1-3-4 in his past four. ... Senior defenseman Scott Basiuk is 3-4-7 over his past nine outings.

Notes: Rensselaer isn't the most talented offensive team and certainly not among the quickest. So, it's got to be plain old hard work that has enabled the Engineers to be awarded so many more power plays this season than their opponents (146-115). On average, RPI gets 6.3 power plays each night while being shorthanded 5.0 times. ... The Engineers have played with the lead 33.4 percent of the time. Within ECAC play, though, the numbers are striking. Rensselaer has held the lead 42.1 percent of the time, played behind just 20.6 percent of the time. That translates into victories and if the Engineers can keep those numbers, they could be among the four teams with first-round byes for the ECAC playoffs. ... Rensselaer is 7-3-1 in Saturday this season, 5-3-1 on Friday and 0-3-0 on other days.

Scouting Sacred Heart

Long time between victories: Sacred Heart has not won a hockey game since before Thanksgiving, a 2-1 decision over Holy Cross on Nov. 25. Since then the Pioneers are 0-6-3.

Struggling: Other than a 6-0 loss at nationally-ranked Maine, Sacred Heart's efforts of late have defined frustration. In those other six games, the Pioneers have a pair of 2-2 ties and four one-goal defeats. Their recent 5-4 loss to Canisius came with 1:10 remaining in overtime.

"We've been going through a real tough stretch here," said head coach Shaun Hannah. "Our power play had not been clicking. Our (defensemen's) play off the rush has really been struggling."

Still, Hannah says the Pioneers are trying to keep their heads up.

"Morale is strong," he said. "We've got a young group and they're energized. They know they'd take some lumps this year. But we've got some good leadership and they keep the guys focused."

Goaltending sharp: Except for lopsided losses to Maine and Colgate (7-2), the Pioneers have allowed three or fewer goals in 10 of their 12 most recent games. Junior goalie Kevin LaPointe gets most of the credit, Hannah says.

"Our defensemen have been working hard," he said, "but we've getting excellent goaltending from our junior, Kevin LaPointe. He's been carrying a heavy load."

Who's hot: Sophomore center Rocco Molinaro has two goals and four assists during the past four games. ... Senior junior left winger Marc-Andre Fournier has three goals in his past two outings and right winger Garrett Larson is 1-2-3 in the past two games. Senior defenseman Konn Hawkes has the longest skein, 1-7-8 over the past seven games. Hawkes has played in 16 games and has 10 assists.

Who's not: Leading scorer, RW Mike Reagen (7-6-13) has just one point in his past five games.

Some improvement: The Sacred Heart power play actually has produced four goals in its last 22 chances after getting just 10 goals in its first 91 tries.

Notes: One of the biggest victories in Sacred Heart history, a 5-3 victory at Cornell on Nov. 4, 2000, was posted by a Pioneers' unit that wasn't much more successful than this one. That team finished sixth overall in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at 11-10-5, lost in the first round of the conference playoffs and went 14-12-5 overall. ... The Pioneers have played opponents even through the first period this season but have been outscored 25-15 in both the second and third stanzas.