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RPI Can't Dwell About What Could Have Been

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 25, 2002

TROY - Well, now the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers know just how big is the hole they dug themselves earlier this hockey season.

The giveaway points - especially at home - in so many tight losses and ties just may mean the Engineers will have to open the ECAC playoffs on the road.

To avoid that unpleasant fate, the Engineers first are going to have to overcome a natural human trait of browbeating themselves.

The Engineers won six straight prior to Friday night's 2-1 loss at Brown and were 8-1-2 in their previous 11 games.

When they look at the standings today, though, the Engineers (9-8-2 in ECAC play) will see: a three-way tie for second place at 23 points; Brown and Colgate tied for fifth with 22 points; and themselves in seventh with 21. And the Engineers will no doubt relive their home ice ties with Union and Brown, their one-goal loss at Union, the home ice loss to Princeton and the loss and tie vs. Dartmouth, having led in the third period of each.

As stated, it's only human nature to do so. They have until Friday at 7 p.m., when regular-season champion Cornell (15-3-2, 19-6-1) invades Houston Field House. Then Saturday night, the 15-11-4 Engineers could have the opportunity to move past Colgate when the Red Raiders (10-8-2, 14-15-2) come to the Field House.

But to climb as high as fifth and earn the fifth and final first-round home ice berth, RPI will have to win both games, then hope Brown loses at either Princeton or Yale.

Yale is currently tied with St. Lawrence for 10th place in the loop and must get at least one victory next week to earn the 10th and final playoff berth. Hopefully, for RPI and its fans, that fact can help the Bulldogs get past Brown.

On the other hand, Cornell won't need its game at Houston on Friday night; if the Engineers can display the same fire and passion they did at Harvard this past Friday, they should do all right.

Rensselaer clicked in all cylinders in the 5-1 victory at Harvard, frustrating the Crimson with solid play in all three zones. Jim Henkel sparked the triumph with two goals and Nathan Marsters had 32 saves.

It was expected that the Engineers couldn't match their intensity the next night at Brown and they couldn't match the Bears' fire early on either. But Rensselaer played well enough to win and dominated the Bears over the final 25 minutes.

One bad defensive breakdown led to Brown's second goal however, and the difference in the outcome was a matter of inches on third-period close-range shots by Andrew McPherson and Nolan Graham, and a first-period save by Bears goalie Yann Danis on Marc Cavosie's semi-breakaway.

McPherson just missed lifting the puck over Danis' pads from just outside the crease and Graham's wrister glanced off the goalpost.

"I feel I let the team down tonight," Cavosie said, "I had the breakaway (Danis just did close off the post) and a couple of 2-on-1s that we should have capitalized on."

"A bounce here and there was the difference in the hockey game," coach Dan Fridgen said.

The Engineers know they can put their past lost opportunities behind them and sweep next weekend.

"Well, we're definitely not going to go into next weekend hoping to win just one game (regardless)," Graham said. "We're at home, we're a good home team and we've played very well lately."

"It doesn't matter where we finish," McPherson said. "We're winning. We're going to Lake Placid (for the playoffs' Final Five)."

"We just need to win two more," Henkel said. "We just won six straight."

Frustration: To date, the ECAC's top four teams - Cornell, Clarkson, Dartmouth and Harvard - have gone 14-4-4 against Union, Princeton and Brown.

As noted, RPI was a thunderously disappointing 1-3-2 against those teams.

Murley ranks 11th-all-time: Murley's goal and assist on Friday night gave him 166 career points (70 goals-96 assists), good for 11th place on RPI's all-time career scoring list.

To score 18 more points and go past Mark Jooris (183) into the Top 10, Murley will need the Engineers to be successful in the postseason.

'We can dream': It's highly unlikely, but RPI can still finish as high as third and avoid the semifinals play-in game at Lake Placid. Of course, the Engineers have to win their two, get some help from either Princeton or Yale against Brown and then - this gets really pipedream-like - have visiting Harvard get swept by Yale and Princeton, and Dartmouth lost to both (at) St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

History favors Engineers: Since 1990, RPI has not failed to reach the ECAC semifinals two straight years. They missed last year, losing their first-round series at Dartmouth.