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RPI's Fridgen Set to Pass Harkness

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, February 6, 2004

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coach Dan Fridgen could be passing a hockey legend this weekend. But that isnít what heís think about.

Fridgenís focus is on moving up in the ECAC standings.

Fridgen could move past Ned Harkness into second place on the RPI all-time coachesí win list this weekend if the Engineers sweep their North Country rivals. The Engineers (8-5-1 ECAC, 14-10-2 overall) host St. Lawrence (5-8-1, 9-15-4) tonight at 7 at Houston Field House, and then take on Clarkson in Saturdayís Big Red Freakout at 7 p.m.

In his 10th season as RPIís head coach, Fridgen has a 175-149-30 record. Harkness, who will be at the Field House on Saturday when RPI honors the 1954 team that won the NCAA title, had a 176-96-7 record from 1949-63. Mike Addesa is RPIís all-time wins leader with 186. "Thatís the furthest from my mind, at this point," Fridgen said about passing Harkness. "And Iím more concentrated on the team than anything else, and I think thatís the way it should be, especially when weíve got a huge home weekend coming up, a lot of the alumni are in town to honor the í54 NCAA championship team and we have two worthy opponents that we have to be prepared for."

Fridgen is proud of what he has accomplished in his decade as head coach.

"Itís just not myself," Fridgen said. "Itís got to do with the kind of players Iíve had over the 10 years, and the commitment theyíve made to carrying on the tradition that we have of being successful."

A weekend sweep not only would move Fridgen up the schoolís coaching list, it could also move the Engineers into a top-four spot in the ECAC standings. The top four teams earn a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament.

The Engineers are in fifth place, which would mean home ice for the first round of the tournament. They are one point behind Dartmouth for fourth place, two behind third-place Yale, three behind second-place Colgate and four behind leagueleading Brown.

"It means weíve done a good job of staying in the hunt," Fridgen said. "We need to continue to do that."

The Engineers must avoid blowing leads late in the third period, like they did over the weekend at Dartmouth and Vermont.

RPI saw a 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 Dartmouth win last Friday. At Vermont the next night, the Catamounts rallied for two late goals to tie the score, 2-2. The Engineers won, 3-2, in overtime.

"We played pretty good in Dartmouth, we just didnít play for a full 60 minutes and that came back to bite us," said forward Kevin Croxton, RPIís leading scorer.

Killer instinct

Union had its biggest offensive output of the season last Saturday in its 7-0 win over Dartmouth.

More importantly, the Dutchmen developed a killer instinct. They scored five goals in the second period, the first three of which came on the power play, and never relented.

The Dutchmen hope to continue that this weekend when they host Clarkson tonight at 7 and St. Lawrence at 7 Saturday at Frank L. Messa Rink at Achilles Center.

Union learned a lesson about putting an opponent away when it had the chance against Sacred Heart two weeks ago. The Dutchmen blew a 2-0 lead and nearly lost, but rallied for a 4-3 overtime win.

"We talked about it," Union coach Nate Leaman said. "We talked about that a lot after the Sacred Heart game, about how the score was 2-0, and they didnít have a shot in the second period and we started passing up our shots. We had a three-onone, and we passed up the shot there. Then we had a couple of other shots that we tried to make pretty plays instead of shooting the puck."

"We talked about it during that game and after that game, that when you have a team down, no matter who it is, you have to go and bury them. I thought the guys did a real good job of that against Dartmouth. They kept shooting pucks, and kept going to the net hard and we did bury them."