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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 13, 2004


Road challenge: Rensselaer has looked forward to this trip for weeks. Even with Harvard struggling, this will be a demanding weekend for the Engineers.

For the third-level goal of just being at home for the first round of the playoffs, the Engineers don't need anything this weekend but to stay in the race for a Top 4 finish and first-round bye, they'll need some points.

At 9-6-1 in ECAC play, the 15-11-2 Engineers are tied for third place with Dartmouth (7-4-5) and Cornell (8-5-3).

It's a bit of cruel irony for them. They've already won four ECAC road games this season, four more than they won last year (0-9-2) but to get a Top 4 berth, they'll need to win at least two more. They finish the season at Princeton and Yale after home games with Cornell and Colgate next week.

"Yeah, but that's what good teams do, win on the road," said senior center Ben Barr. "If we want to consider ourselves a good team, we're going to have to and steal a few the next couple weeks. Hopefully, we can get off on the right foot (tonight)."

Fellow co-captain Scott Basiuk agreed.

"To be a top team, you've got to win on the road, that's just common sense," he said. "We definitely have to split (the four). If we can get the Harvard game, then we can go into Brown with some confidence."

First faceoff focus: After a pair of final-minutes collapses at Dartmouth (a 4-3 loss) and at Vermont (a 3-2 OT win) two weeks ago, Rensselaer had problems at the outset of games last week.

The Engineers came out flat against St. Lawrence and eventually lost 3-2, they were over-emotional and visibly tight against Clarkson but overcame that for a 4-2 victory.

Head coach Dan Fridgen has challenged his players to be mentally ready.

"Any athlete who competes at a very high level - which I consider this level to be - needs to find a way to be ready for a hockey game," Fridgen said. "That's mental preparation."

"You've got to ready yourself," Basiuk said. "That's what guys have to do a little more maybe. We need to talk about personal focus, get guys going right off the bat. Maybe (some) have to go a little harder in pre-game warm-ups, or maybe sit around and mentally prepare a little better. I don't know what some guys' routines are but (some) are going to have to change because we have to get back to when we were starting games off well."

"It's not good to (continually) spot teams one or two goals to start the game," Basiuk said. "If that's what it takes to get you going, you're in the game. That's not how it's done at this level."

"I'm not going to be a cheerleader," Fridgen said. "I've told them, I'm not going to be the guy with the pom-poms on in the lockerroom saying, 'let's go Red.' It comes down to competition, competing and winning the one-on-one battles, and to do that you have to be mentally tough and prepared to engage in those kinds of situations."


Not a memorable season: Don't write the Crimson out of the late-round ECAC playoffs picture yet but their regular season has been a major disappointment for the consensus preseason favorites. They've fallen from a No. 6 spot in national polls early in the season to having just a 9-12-1 overall record.

Since beating nationally-ranked UMass 5-3 on Dec. 13, Crimson have gone 3-8-1 overall and they've lost five of their past eight ECAC games.

"I've tried everything in my trick bag to get us going," said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni. "We just can't put anything back-to-back."

Defensemen not helping much: One of the Crimson's many strengths was thought to be the offensive contributions their defensemen could make. It hasn't worked out nearly as well this season as it has in past years, though. When All-American defenseman Noah Welch assisted on Cavanagh's goal Monday night, it was just his 10th point (4-6-10) of the season. Smith has just six (2-4-6). When Welch and Smith both scored to key the comeback at Yale, it marked the first time Harvard got more than one goal from a defenseman in a game.