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In the Crease

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 5, 2004

SCOUTING RPI

'You can't lose, right': The Engineers have been hearing flat-out statements like that one. Fans and observers are suggesting that there's no way the last-place Tigers can possibly win two games here.

"We just can't listen to all that," said co-captain Scott Basiuk. "We know that we're the favorites, but it really doesn't mean anything. They're going to come in here loose, looking to knock us off."

"We want to jump on them early," Basiuk said. "First period, that's the key." Rensselaer is 14-2-2 when scoring first.

Co-Captain Ben Barr said that Princeton is quite aware of what the 11th-seeded Engineers did to No. 6 Union in last year's first round.

"We did it to a team last year, where we were underdogs against Union and we came in and won," Barr said. "Once the regular season is over, slates are wiped clean. Teams like (Princeton), too, are looking for redemption. I know we were pumped (last postseason) to have a chance to redeem ourselves for the poor play we had during the year. I'm sure Princeton's going to be looking to do the same thing, kind of make something of their season."

It was also mentioned that Princeton, with a 3-26-2 overall record, beat RPI once and tied the Engineers last season.

"Yeah, guys definitely realize that if we don't come with our 'A' game, they will have just as good a chance of winning as we will."

Still, the Engineers must guard against the obvious danger of letting their focus wander, perhaps looking ahead to Dartmouth next week.

"It can definitely happen," Barr said. "I'm not going to say I haven't thought of (Dartmouth). I think we have guys who've been around long enough to know anything can happen in the playoffs."

'Yes we can': Each time Rensselaer was in a position to win a fourth straight game this season, the Engineers were beaten - by one goal each time (New Hampshire, Colgate, Cornell).

Is the team good enough to put together four straight, or six of seven, to win the tournament?

"We all believe we are capable of doing it," Barr said. "We just have to take it one game at a time."

"We've been saving it for now, for the playoffs," said senior goalie Nathan Marsters.

Who's hot: Freshman center Oren Eizenman and his linemates are the hottest Engineers. Eizenman has two goals and four assists in his past two games and is 2-6-8 over his past six games. Leading scorer Kevin Croxton (16-21-37) is 7-9-16 in his last 12 games and 3-3-6 in his past three outings. Left winger Ryan Shields is 3-3-6 during his past six outings, as is defenseman Scott Basiuk. Defenseman Brad Farynuk is 1-5-6 over his past six games and sophomore right winger Kirk MacDonald is 2-2-4 in his past five. Three of left winger Vic Pereira's five goals have come within the past four games. Marsters has stopped 188 of the past 194 shots he's faced over six games (4-2-0).

SCOUTING PRINCETON

'At least we're healthy': With the exception of junior center Mike Patton - arguably Princeton's best player who's out for the season - the Tigers are healthier than they've been since November. Virtually every other Princeton player is at or near 100 percent physically.

What can the Tigers hope to do?: Do the Tigers have any chance in this series? The obvious answer is no. But on the other hand, it's only been a little over one year since Princeton had RPI's number. The 2002-03 Tigers, a weaker team than this year's bunch, went 2-0-1 against the Engineers.

Princeton coach Len Quesnelle can also point out to his club that in their earlier 6-4 loss at Houston Field House, the Tigers outscored the Engineers, 3-0, over a 7-minute span from late in the second period until early in the third.

In their 5-1 loss to RPI last week, the Tigers trailed just 2-1 after two periods and came within inches (a clear by RPI defenseman Keith MCWilliams in the crease) of tying the score.

Also, the Tigers won more ECAC games (5) than last year's RPI team (4). And that team won a playoff series at Union.

"Obviously, we have a very difficult task," Quesnelle said. "But we'll be there, hopefully we'll be at our best and we'll see what happens."

Coming up short: The Tigers nearly ended their long, painful losing streak in the season finale against Union last weekend, losing 3-2 in overtime.

They outshot the Dutchmen 12-1 in the third period but that '1' was a big one - Jonathan Poirier's goal which have Union a 2-1 lead with 7:35 remaining.

The Tigers tied things on Dustin Sproat's goal with just 58 seconds remaining and seemed to have the momentum in overtime but Union dominated the extra session and won on a goal by defenseman Brent Booth with 35 seconds remaining.

Who's hot: Center Patrick Neundorfer is the only Tiger who could qualify as hot with three points in his past three games. He had a pair of goals in the Tigers' 4-3 victory at Houston Field House last season. Kevin Westgarth's goal in last week's 5-1 loss to RPI gave him four points (1-3-4) in four games at the time. His goal came 18 seconds after Kevin Croxton had given RPI a 1-0 lead 3:42 into the contest.

Notes: The Tigers have been defeated in 50 of their past 60 games (8-50-2) dating back to their two losses at RPI in the 2002 ECAC playoffs. ...Princeton met the Engineers in the 2002 quarterfinals at Houston Field House. They led 2-1 midway through the second period of Game 1 before losing, 5-3. The Engineers romped in Game 2, 6-0. ... The injured Patton is the Tigers' current leader in career scoring vs. RPI with six points (3-3-6). Neil Stevenson-Moore is second (2-3-5). ... Third- and fourth-line centers Sproat and Ian McNally scored the Tigers' goals against Union. Princeton has met RPI in the playoffs seven times, losing the game or series each time.