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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 20, 2004

SCOUTING RENSSELAER

Must keep homeice advantage: What kinds of odds do you think you could have gotten in early October if you'd bet that on Feb. 19, Rensselaer would have a better record in ECAC road games (6-3-0) than in home games (5-3-1)? Keep in mind that the Engineers went 0-9-2 in conference road games last season before sweeping a pair of playoff games at Union.

Obviously, the homeice losses to Yale and St. Lawrence are among the biggest disappointments of the Engineers' season. However, if they can beat Cornell (again) and Colgate (finally, after two losses), they know they'll begin the final week of the season alone in second place in the ECAC.

Cruel irony?: The Engineers went 296 minutes without an equal-strength goal (discounting overtime and empty-netters). They then scored three in two nights and now must face the ECAC's top defensive team, against whom they've scored all of one equal-strength goal in the last four meetings of the teams and just four in the last nine meetings.

"Well," Economakos said while showing a measure of surprise, "it's nice to get going on the 5-on-5. And we're not really looking at it like, 'oh, we're going to be back to the drawing board on the 5-on-5 (against them)'. We just know that every time you play Cornell, it doesn't matter if it's 5-on-5, 4-on-4, power play, shorthanded - any goal is huge. It's going to be a tight, tough, low-scoring game."

"Sometimes games come down to special teams and if this one does, so be it," said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen.

Advantage, RPI?: The Engineers so frustrated the Big Red in RPI's earlier 2-0 victory, might the Engineers enjoy an advantage tonight?

"I don't think so," says sophomore right winger Kirk MacDonald. "They're a well-coached team and they're going to be well-prepared and come at us hard with a new different game plan and be at their best. So, we're going to have to battle and hopefully, have a good outcome."

"They're real consistent," Fridgen said of the Big Red. "They're a very hard-working team and they work their systems to a 'T'."

Who's hot: Leading score Kevin Croxton (13-18-31) is on an eight-game scoring streak during which he has 10 points (4-6-10). MacDonald has been just as hot, 3-8-11 over nine games. Defenseman Brad Farynuk is 1-8-9 over his previous eight games, Economakos is 1-4-5 in five games and freshman center Oren Eizenman is 1-3-4 over a current three-game scoring streak. Defenseman Scott Basiuk is 5-3-8 over his past eight.

SCOUTING CORNELL

Do Big Red have a big memory?: Back when Rensselaer beat the Big Red 2-0 at Lynah Rink, the Engineers frustrated the Big Red and coach Mike Schafer.

The Engineers tied them up in the neutral zone and held them to 22 shots on goal, just eight of the quality variety.

"We kept the vast majority of their shots wide, or from deep in the circles," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen.

During their 1-5-1 rough stretch, the Big Red totaled just six goals.

Things have gotten back to normal, says coach Mike Schafer, because the Big Red have gotten back to "commitment."

"Two weeks ago," he said after last week's win over Yale gave the Red a four-game winning streak, "we said we were going to concentrate on how we were playing and what we are going to do and really commit ourselves."

Frustration: That's been pretty much a constant for most of the season for the Big Red. When almost-prohibitive favorite Harvard struggled from the start, and it became evident that the Crimson were not going to turn their season around, it was figured that the Big Red would then ascend to their third straight regular-season title.

Like most ECAC teams, though, the Big Red not only had a pronounced losing streak and an offensive slump.

Overall, at 12-7-6, Cornell has won less than half its games despite allowing just 1.40 goals per game.

Who's hot: It's strictly short term in this category for all the Red. Scoring leader Matt Moulsen (15-15-30) has 3 goals-2 assists-5 points over his past three four games and freshman RW Byron Bitz has six assists during that time. Right winger Shane Hynes is 2-3-5 over his past two games, while LWs Mike Knoepfli and Cam Abbott are each 1-2-3 over the past four games. Senior center Ryan Vesce, whose production has tailed off this year, has scored one goal in each of the past two outings after missing several outings with an injury.

'We can hold the lead': Cornell is 8-0-0 when leading after one period (13 games have been tied after one) and is 11-0-0 when leading after two periods.

Notes: His four assists in the Princeton win earned Bitz the ECAC's Rookie of the Week award. The Corman Park, Sask. Native is third in scoring among ECAC freshmen. ... The Big Red do not have a shorthanded goal this season. ... Vesce had 126 career points in 126 games. ... The Red were guilty of just one penalty in the 2-1 victory over Yale. That decision evened Cornell's record in one-goal games to 5-5. ... With the victory over Princeton last Friday (13th), the Big Red are an amazing 11-1-0 in games played on the superstitious date.