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RPI Lacking Finishing Touch

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, December 3, 2001

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's defense has improved immensely since the first month of the hockey season.

Ready for the bad news?

Just as suddenly, the offense, filling nets earlier, is now struggling to score goals.

The Engineers have put in just 11 in their past five games. While RPI has won three of those games and lost only one, two of those victories came over teams from the weaker Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

And the sudden scoring slump is why favored Rensselaer had to settle for a 1-1 tie with Union Saturday night.

The Engineers easily could have - should have - won the game. How much it will hurt them in the ECAC standings later remains to be seen.

Over their first four games, the Engineers (now 4-4-1) scored 19 goals. Yet they're creating as many scoring chances as they did back then. That doubles the frustration.

"Execution, finishing our chances ... has to improve," says coach Dan Fridgen.

"Our new system is really working well. We're getting a lot of chances, we're just not capitalizing like we were in the beginning of the year," said Matt Murley, whose seventh goal of the season was all the Engineers could muster against Union.

"I'm sure it'll come as long as we keep working on it," Murley said, "and we'll keep working on it in practice."

"We just have to work on our execution," said Eric Cavosie, who shot high (over the crossbar) on one excellent chance Saturday night and low (into Union goalie Brandon Snee's pads) on another.

Cavosie, still scoreless on the season, isn't deterred.

"I'm already looking forward to next weekend (Yale and Princeton at home)," he said.

"We're all working hard in the offensive zone," said third-line center Jim Henkel. "My line's getting a ton of chances. I have two great linemates (Ryan Shields, Nick Economakos) who like to go in, work the boards. I get involved, getting shots.

"You can see it, time after time after time," Henkel continued. "Nolan (Graham's) line, Marc (Cavosie) get great opportunities. Guys are moving, working the boards ... It's just not going in the net right now.

"They're going to start going our way," Henkel promised.

The other factor Saturday night continues to be perplexing.

While it's impossible to maintain a high intensity level for 60 minutes, RPI's lapses - though not lengthy or pronounced - were more palpable than Union's.

Rensselaer is 1-2-2 in its last five meetings with Union, the Dutchmen being a clear underdog in each.

Generally, the Engineers still don't match the Dutchmen in the start-to-finish intensity. They'll have to address that before the return matchup at Union's Achilles Rink on Jan. 16 or they'll come up short again.

Fridgen spoke to that indirectly when he mentioned that on many of Brandon Snee's 33 saves, the Engineers simply "hit him with the puck" and that RPI forwards could have worked harder to sustain scoring chances and get second-chance bids.

"With a goaltender like (Snee)," Fridgen said, "you've got to get some traffic in front of him, you've got to re-direct pucks and do a better job as far as the rebounds are concerned with the second and third efforts."

To their good fortune, the Engineers have low-scoring defense-oriented teams, Yale and Princeton, coming to Houston Field House next week.

And with Dartmouth being upset by Vermont and other contenders and Clarkson, Cornell and Harvard each being held to a tie by an underdog opponent, the sting of Saturday's tie is lessened a bit.

The Engineers carry a 1-1-1 ECAC record into next weekend's action. Clarkson is 3-0-2, Cornell 4-1-1, Harvard 4-2-2 and Dartmouth 3-2-1.