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RPI-Dartmouth Set for Showdown

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, March 10, 2004

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's playoff series at Dartmouth this weekend is a tough one to predict. Fifth seeds vs. fourth seeds often are.

A couple of the other series that will determine who meet at Pepsi Arena March 19-20 for the semifinals and championship game are also tough to preview. The league championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament is still wide open.

Here's a look at each quarterfinal matchup.

No. 5 Rensselaer (21-13-2) at No. 4 Dartmouth (12-8-9): The Engineers came so close to gaining the fourth seed, which would have meant this series would have been at Houston Field House. No such luck.

To advance to the ECAC Championship weekend, the Engineers are going to have to win two games where they are 0-6-1 in their last seven appearances - Dartmouth's Thompson Arena.

Don't think Rensselaer is a big underdog in this series, though.

The Engineers seemed to be struggling to score goals at most points of the season but in reality, they led the ECAC in scoring with 3.14 goals per game.

At 20.5 percent efficiency, the Engineers' power play is second only to Brown's. The Engineers' total of 44 power-play goals, however, is nine more than any other team scored.

Dartmouth, meanwhile, is the ECAC's most penalized team.

Rensselaer was not up to par in its two-game sweep of Princeton, or in its last home appearances during the season (one-goal losses to Cornell and Colgate).

The Engineers were 2-6-1 against the other top five teams and 0-1-1 vs. Dartmouth. They also had the league's best road record in conference games at 8-3-0. If they're at their best, they'll prevail.

- Rensselaer, 2 games to 1

No. 6 Harvard (14-14-3) at No. 3 Brown (15-9-5): The Brown Bears slumped badly at the end of the regular season,

Limping home in third place after having their first-ever regular-season title well within grasp.

The Bears did win both games with Harvard, however, and have beaten them in three of the past four meetings.

If the week off helped the weary Bears get back to their level of one month ago, they'll use the home ice advantage to win this series.

If talent-laden Harvard is motivated by its puzzlingly poor season; if veteran Crimson big guns Tyler Kolarik, Tim Pettit, Noah Welch, Tom Cavanagh, Dennis Packard, Denny Smith and Rob Fried control the series, Harvard will prevail. And once the Crimson get to Albany, their mediocre regular-season records (10-10-2, 12-14-3) will be totally meaningless.

- Harvard, 2 games to 1

No. 10 St. Lawrence (13-19-3) at No. 1 Colgate (19-10-5): The Saints won only 11 games during the season and are

Clearly the least-talented of the eight remaining teams. They claim the league's leading scorer in Rich Peverley (16 goals-25 assists-41 points) and his line of T.J. Trevelyan (23-16-39) and John Zeiler (8-27-35) was the league's highest. The Saints don't have much else, though.

Colgate was the surprise team in the ECAC this season and was the only league team other than RPI to average better than three goals per game (3.04).

The Red Raiders, led by sophomore left winger Jon Smyth (21-18-39), center-RW Adam Mitchell (13-18-31) and center Kyle Wilson (13-17-30) - have the best scoring balance among three and four forward lines and much better defensive corps than was believed when they were picked by media and coaches to finish seventh in the league.

They are where they are because the Raiders were unbeaten - 7-0-1 - against the other top five teams - Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and RPI.

However, the Saints did beat the Red Raiders once - handily at 5-1 - swept RPI and were a respectable 5-7-2 against the other seven quarterfinalists, though they won just two road games.

Colgate sweeps, but the games will be close.

- Colgate, 2 games to 0

No. 9 Clarkson (15-16-5) at No. 1 Cornell (15-8-6): The two longtime rivals tied (2-2) at Clarkson, then Cornell won at home to end the season. Discounting a 6-1 blowout of weak Princeton, the Big Red went through a 12-game stretch (5-6-1) in which they scored a total of 15 goals.

If that slump is over, they'll win with their rugged defensive style.

If not, the Golden Knights could steal the series.

Keep this in mind: after going 29-1-1 at home during the previous two seasons, the Big Red were only 6-5-5 at home, despite winning their last four home games. Rensselaer, Dartmouth and Colgate all won at Lynah Rink.

Cornell isn't the team that it was last season and in 2001-02. It's doubtful Clarkson can beat them twice in Ithaca, though.

- Cornell, 2 games to 1

Princeton axes Quesnelle: Princeton's valiant play in its first-round defeat at Rensselaer was not enough to save four-year coach Len Quesnelle, who was fired by the university on Monday.

The firing comes after back-to-back last-place finishes for the Tigers, who won just eight of their past 64 games (8-60-4).

Quesnelle's four-year record at the school was 29-84-11.

"Len has been a very loyal member of the Princeton hockey program and the Princeton athletic department for many years," said Princeton Athletic Director Gary D. Walters.

"It's never easy to make a decision like this, but we felt it was necessary for a changer," Walters said. "We thank (Len) for his service and wish him the best."

Quesnelle, a former Tigers player, spent 12 years as an assistant coach under Don Cahoon.

Economakos honored: Junior left winger Nick Economakos was the only RPI player to score a goal in both playoff victories last week and the ECAC took notice, naming him its Player of the Week.

The Lockport, Ill. Native enjoyed a five-point weekend, assisting on two goals in addition to his game-winning goal on Friday, then adding a goal and an assist in Game 2 on Saturday night.

Economakos has nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points this season and is third on the Engineers' scoring list and only leading scorer Kevin Croxton (18-21-39) has more assists than Economakos.

"I'd been having trouble putting the puck in the net," Economakos said. "But (assistant coach) George Morrison helped me and I felt good out there (over the weekend)."