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Absent Zip, RPI Plays Flat Game

Engineers Missing Key Players, Out with Colds

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, December 9, 2001

TROY - If the RPI hockey team was looking for an early Christmas present, they didn't find it inside Houston Field House Saturday night.

Hoping to take back-to-back ECAC victories into the Christmas break, the Engineers dropped a 4-2 decision to Princeton in front of 3,131 fans at the field house.

Princeton, which had been outscored 18-5 in the third period this season, scored a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes to break a 2-2 tie and win for only the fourth time in 13 games (4-6-0 ECAC).

"It didn't seem like we had the zip that we normally have," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen. "I think last night's game (a 4-2 win over Yale) took a lot out of us. We played a very up-tempo type of game. We were hoping we would feed off the energy of last night, but unfortunately we didn't get it done tonight."

They also played for the second consecutive game without star forward Matt Murley, one of several players who have been battling the flu in recent weeks. His case turned out to be more severe than most of his teammates.

"We haven't had too many two-game weekends so far ... and I'm not sure if we were fully prepared for that," said senior defenseman Steve Munn, the co-captain along with Murley. "A lot of guys have been sick. We had a tough battle last night with Yale. We obviously miss Murley. Any time he's out of the lineup it hurts us because he's one of the best players in the nation."

The Engineers' sloppy play in the first half of the second period got them into a 2-0 hole when David Del Monte scored on a breakaway at 3:20 after a turnover in the RPI offensive zone. Goalie Nathan Marsters stopped two more Princeton rushes before first-year defenseman Luc Paquin's backhander eluded him at 10:04.

Fridgen then called a timeout, and his message seemed to get across. Less than a minute later, Jim Vickers picked up the puck in front of the net off a pass from Ryan Shields and wristed it past goalie Dave Stathos to cut the lead in half.

RPI got the equalizer with only 22 seconds left in the second period on an unusual power play after seven minor penalties were called on the teams on the same play. Jim Henkel fired in a rebound off a Carson Butterwick shot to tie the score.

Princeton came out and took it to RPI in the early moments of the third period. Trevor Beaney blasted a shot from near the left circle high into the right corner of the net only 1:19 into the final stanza for what proved to be the game-winner.

The Engineers attempted to fight back, but a costly penalty led to a power-play goal by Del Monte, and the Engineers (5-5-1, 2-2-1 ECAC) were never able to recover. It was only the fifth goal in 58 tries on the power play for the Tigers this season.

Neither team was able to score in the first period as they traded fruitless power plays.

This was only the second time all season that Princeton was able to score more than two goals, as they won in Troy for the second time in the past three seasons.

"It kind of stopped us short whey they got that (third) goal," Munn said. "We have all these games in hand against teams in the ECAC, and we need to make up ground there. It's a setback tonight, but we're not gonna dwell on it. We're not gonna beat ourselves up about it."