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Engineers Get Unexpected Glory

By Buzz Gray

Albany Times Union, March 15, 2002

LAKE PLACID - This time the comeback is on the other foot. This time it was RPI delivering the 11th-hour heartbreak.

And it couldn't have been sweeter.

Back-to-back goals within 88 seconds wiped out what looked like a secure Dartmouth lead and gave the Engineers a 2-1 victory in the preliminary game of the 41st ECAC Hockey Championships at Olympic Arena Thursday night.

RPI, which had been burned twice by Dartmouth comebacks this season, moves on to meet top seed Cornell in one of tonight's semifinal games at 7:30. Second seed Clarkson meets No. 3 Harvard in the other.

"A nightmare just turned into a dream," RPI coach Dan Fridgen said after his Enginers (19-12-4) pulled a victory out of the closing minutes.

Scott Basiuk's unassisted goal with 68 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner for RPI.

"The puck came off the boards. I just one-timed it and tried to put it on net," Basiuk said. "I never expect to score goals."

The sophomore defenseman ripped a slap shot from the left point, just inside the blue line. It was a screamer which eluded Dartmouth goalie Darren Gastrock to the far side.

Less than two minutes earlier, co-captain Matt Murley had tied the game with a sharpshooter's precision from the right circle.

"I saw the empty net and just buried it," Murley said of his 22nd goal of the season.

The two quick goals stunned the fourth seeded Big Green (14-13-5) which had grown accustomed to being on the other side of such games. Dartmouth scored three goals in the final 3:26 to beat RPI in Troy earlier this season. Then they did it again six days later in Hanover, N.H., when they rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final minutes to salvage a 2-2 tie.

"There's a little redemption here," Fridgen said. "This is also the team which ended our season last year."

Dartmouth defeated RPI in last season's playoffs and had compiled a four-game unbeaten streak against the Engineers until Thursday night.

"Sometimes it comes down to a few breaks," Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said. "Tonight we didn't get them."

The Big Green dominated the early portion of the game. And, when Chris Baldwin broke a 0-0 standoff with a goal at 10:59 of the final period, Dartmouth had the look of a winner.

"This hasn't been an easy season," Murley said. "We've overcome a lot of adversity."

The streaking Engineers, who are 12-3-2 in their last 17 games, came into the tournament as the No.5 seed and have climbed into the Top 15 in both national polls. But, for long periods of Thursday's contest, their offense was smothered by Dartmouth's blanket defense.

Nathan Marsters was a major reason the Engineers survived a 17-shot onslaught by the Big Green in the first period. Dartmouth's forwards swarmed the RPI goalie, peppering him with one shot after another.

Somehow, Marsters kept them all out of the goal and the game scoreless. RPI, meanwhile, managed only five shots on the Dartmouth goal in the first 20 minutes.

"I had confidence in our guys," Marsters said. "I knew if I took care of my job, they would take care of theirs."